OPINION

The Future of Indian Cricket

January 20, 2008
Angshuman Hazra

I could not believe my ears when I heard Maninder Singh defending Yuvraj Singh in the face of questions raised on his form and fitness in a tele-discussion on dropping Rahul Dravid and Sourav Ganguly from the one day side.

Upon being reminded of Yuvraj Singh’s inability to last long in any of his Australian outings Maninder argued that Yuvraj is mostly getting dismissed through slip catches in the first class matches; however since Yuvraj bats at number four / five in ODIs & T20s there will be no slips when he comes in and he should score! Whether that comment was more insulting to Ponting’s captaincy or Yuvraj’s batting ability is for you to decide.

I have long been supporting the cause of picking only those players in ODIs who are either good batsmen or good bowlers depending on their trade but who necessarily have the accepted ‘plus’-es called good ground fielding and deft running between wickets. The philosophy is more rigidly applicable to T20 teams.

I have always believed that Rahul Dravid and Sourav Ganguly should have retired from ODIs just after the 2007 world cup. Both are very good batsmen. But unlike Sachin Tendulkar the Lords 1996 twins do not have quick feet; they are neither skilled ground fielders nor quick runners between wickets. They are not going to contribute that little extra to the team in normal ODI / T20 conditions where we need slip fielders (Dravid’s specific plus) for only 10-15 overs and part time seam bowlers (Ganguly’s specific plus) only in overcast conditions. This means they are susceptible to finger pointing and selection hazards even if they do not perform in 2 or 3 games. You don’t want to see players of their calibre facing it.

However Australia is a place where the Golden generation boys’ batting assumes greater importance than that of the next generation of batsmen simply because the men hold their performances in these shores while the boys have been unable to do so. It happened during the 2003 tour and it has happened this time too in Test matches. I see no reason for that not happening in ODIs unless the matter is as simple as explained by Maninder.

These two ex-captains should have deserved serious thought from selectors just as the right, experienced horses for the course. There are horses by the dozen for Indian courses but the away courses have not yet been happy for the colts. The benching of the senior pros could be postponed by one series in this context.

Moreover, the specific ‘plus’-es of Dravid and Ganguly (and even Laxman’s catching, for that matter) come into play so much more in Australian conditions.

Let us ignore that all. Now we go to their ‘minus’-es, i.e. lack of the commonly accepted pluses. Since both were dropped after a very short run of failure in ODIs and don’t look likely to be considered for a re-admission we can safely attribute their dismissal to their minus-es which can no more be improved unlike form.

Surely we can then safely assume the chosen few for the ODI side for the tri-series to have those ‘plus’-es.

Let us check up on the facts with the names in the announced squad. We will call them the ‘Future Guys’. Bowlers first.


S Sreesanth
Speciality: bowler
Plus: Virtually None - not much batting, was not impressive in the outfield in the last series he played, is coming back from injury

RP Singh
Speciality: bowler
Plus: Virtually None - not much batting, not the quickest outfielder.

Ishant Sharma
Speciality: bowler
Plus: None - No batting at all, quick legs but lousy outfielder.

Piyush Chawla
Speciality: bowler
Plus: batting has never clicked in international matches, but a good outfielder.

Irfan Pathan:
Speciality: bowler
Plus: Has developed into a very good outfielder, good runner between wickets
Plus 2:. Very capable with the bat

Praveen Kumar is unknown to me. Harbhajan is an adequate selection displaying some plusses for his lower order batting and decent outfielding in ODIs.

The batsmen’s list: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (capt & wk), Sachin Tendulkar, Yuvraj Singh, Virender Sehwag, Dinesh Karthik, Robin Uthappa, Gautam Gambhir, Suresh Raina, Rohit Sharma.

All the batsmen are good outfielders, and most are good runners between wickets. Some are excellent catchers.

So even if the omission of Ganguly & Dravid looks unjustified if we look at the bowlers, it looks less debatable when we see the people they are competing with. If some of these guys can perform like a Ganguly or Dravid in his prime over the upcoming tri-series they would be justifying the selectors’ faith in them as the ‘Future Guys’. They would have then rightfully ousted the two iconic batsmen from the ODI squad simply by being better than them.

What if they do not live up to it? It has already happened once, and the same Ganguly was at the centre of it.

We will all be watching. We have been hearing this ‘blooding youngsters’ theme for sometime now. We have seen how our youngsters can be relentless in 20 over games some months back. And we have also seen in the very next ODI series against Australia how they start looking like amateurs in longer games. We have seen confirmation of it in the ongoing Test series.

We remember that these same ‘Future Guys’ fielded incompetently and batted poorly for first half of the ODI series at home against Australia. That they won two matches out of seven. That the 1st win came from the bats of Sachin & Ganguly, the second from the bats of their bowlers and they wasted the platform to win a third that was laid by – who else – Sachin and Ganguly.

It is not the fault of the ‘Future Guys’ themselves. Many of them are talented, agile and intense (enough for T20s) but have not yet acquired the stamina required for long games. Moreover Sourav and Rahul are greats – and to replace such people you must develop their successors over a period of time. You can’t just select their replacements in the hope that you will be as lucky as the guy that picked the two of them for the same trip 12 years back. The system they came up from did not ensure Sourav and Dravid were excellent by the time they played in the national team – they just turned out that way. Are we living in the hope that such players will just emerge out of nowhere?

We hope the concerned people – the selectors, the board members, all that are party to this young team theory - have studied the reasons of failure of the earlier ‘Team building for the future’ effort ahead of the 2007 world cup. We hope they have ensured that the youngsters included in the sequel to the big flop are adequately groomed. If not then I’m afraid the whole exercise, even when done with best of intentions, can look like one big and dangerous experiment quite resembling a conspiracy against the seniors to replace them with inferior players. Just as it did the last time.

Suresh Raina has already faced one such ‘battle with oldies’ in his first stint with the national team. It may not be good for people like him if they are to be declared losers in this ‘war’ the second time round. The missile, however, has been launched now.

The future of Indian cricket will look healthy if the Future Guys achieve the double bill of performing well right throughout the series. However if they do not then people representing the BCCI selection process should accept their inability to develop (as against ‘select’) replacements for the older generation in public and ask the rich board of India to arrange a detailed training for them from Cricket Australia.

Meanwhile, the effect this selection has on the team morale ahead of the Adelaide cruncher remains to be seen. I would have no doubts on the effect if Dhoni was also the Test captain. However Kumble’s absence from the ODI side should help calm down the dressing room infinitely.

PS: Let’s give the selection guys, at least one of them, some relief. Vengsarkar picked and backed Ishant Sharma all through and must be complimented for the way he identified this boy’s gift of natural bounce and accuracy.

Angshuman Hazra is working in the Oil & Gas engineering sector at Kolkata. The principal 'fuel' in his life is cricket, though. He blogs on the game here, and some day he hopes to learn living with the fact that the stuff inside his cranium has dimensions other than 22 yards.
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The Future of Indian Cricket

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Author: Angshuman Hazra

 

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#1
Prem
January 20, 2008
07:57 AM

A sense of balance and perspective is what most writers in India lack. These very same writers will be critizing the board when all our players retire together. I dont for one, understand the concept of senior, junio etc. If ur good enough..then age doesn not matter. before you make such irresponsible articles.please pull me up dravid and gangulys last few scores.Next time when you write a piece,make sure its objective not ur cheap favourism and regoinalistic nonsense.

#2
Chandra
January 20, 2008
08:54 AM


Too early to judge Yuvraj Singh. RD used to go through this pain for 3-4 years (Test to ODI).

Anghsuman: However Australia is a place where the Golden generation boys' batting assumes greater importance than that of the next generation of batsmen simply because the men hold their performances in these shores while the boys have been unable to do so.

Chandra: Sourav has an average of 21 runs per match in Australia. His recent average (10 matches) is 25. No reason to retain him


Your analysis of the bowlers is invalid. Let us benchmark them with bowlers of other international teams as well as players available within the country before coming up with subjective comments

#3
Angshuman Hazra
URL
January 20, 2008
09:07 AM

A sense of balance and perspective is what some readers in India lack. These very same readers would say 'Gambhir cannot give opening partnerships like Ganguly' after a few days without bothering to know Gambhir was short changed by the setup. If they had better sense they would understand that the post does not question the omission of Dravid and Ganguly but the lack of homework and planning that needs to go in order to back it up.



I guess you have missed a line in this post: "I have always believed that Rahul Dravid and Sourav Ganguly should have retired from ODIs just after the 2007 world cup." Everyone knows, dear Prem, that Dravid averaged sub 10 in his last 10 matches and deserved to be dropped.



But are you saying he does not deserve to be included back just because he failed in 10 matches played in the midst of his bad patch? That way no one is ever going to come back. Or is it because he is old? But you again just said 'age does not matter'. Then what are you saying for God's sake besides propagating unfounded malice? This post only explores the other reasons that may adversely affect Dravid's & Ganguly's selection, and how the 'new team' has so far not proven good enough to keep them out on primary sklls alone.



If you are going by last scores / form then Yuvraj now isn't good enough to play domestic cricket. And Yuvraj has had at least 3 or 4 phases in his career so far where his last scores have read like Dravid's. By your logic he shouldn't be seen near a cricket ground for the next 25 years.



Regionalism in asking a few questions with the names Sourav and Dravid in it, uh? Boy, if you had gone past the 3rd chapter of your class 6 geography book you would be surprised to know that they come from two states called Bengal and Karnataka, and those are roughly 1000 kms apart.



As for the figures for Ganguly - he averages 30 since Jul 2007. The coresponding averages for Uthappa & Gambhir in similar number of matches are 32 and 30, respectively. I'll tell you more - the latter two have better strike rates and are hence better figures. What does that prove? That they have been groomed by the BCCI as Sourav's replacements?

I bet you'll now want to look into Ganguly's last 5 scores - and come back to call ME names for being partisan & writing with an agenda. I know not where you hail from, Prem, nor am I interested but stop judging everyone from Bengal by seeing news channels showing street protests for Ganguly omission. THAT is regionalism, just like some of those protests.

#4
Chandra
January 20, 2008
11:40 AM

Angshuman: If you are going by last scores / form then Yuvraj now isn't good enough to play domestic cricket. And Yuvraj has had at least 3 or 4 phases in his career so far where his last scores have read like Dravid's. By your logic he shouldn't be seen near a cricket ground for the next 25 years.

Chandra: Yuv's averages during the last few matches (10) is twice that Ganguly's 50. His average in Aus is also twice that of Sourav (39.5).

#5
Chandra
January 20, 2008
11:46 AM


However Australia is a place where the Golden generation boys' batting assumes greater importance than that of the next generation of batsmen simply because the men hold their performances in these shores while the boys have been unable to do so


Chandra: Even rahul dravid has done poorly in australia at 33 per match

#6
Jonny Currymuncha
January 21, 2008
03:37 PM

You all need to show a little faith in your selectors who face the unenviable task of replacing Tendulkar, Ganguly, Laxman and Dravid within a few years. I think they have a nice balance here by exposing a few youngsters to a tough tournament against two top teams while keeping a few of the veterans around to guide them.

More important is how India manage their emerging fast bowlers. That spell by Sharma was fantastic bowling against the two best batsmen in the world. Anyone reading the record books would be unimpressed but anyone who saw it will never forget it. On any other day he would have bagged five wickets in an hour. Talent like that must be nurtured.

The other is Irfan Pathan. It took Andrew Symonds 18 months to secure his spot in the Australian Test team, and Pathan deserves that sort of patience. He can become the sort of world-class all-rounder that you build a team around.

Combine those two with Dhoni, Sreesanth and Harbajhan and you have the core of a great team for 10 years to come.

If you want to criticise your selectors you should be asking why it took until the third match for India to put their best team against Australia.

#7
lomi
URL
January 22, 2008
02:07 AM

I am generally very happy with the selection of indian odi team except that I would like to see it continue.

Patience guys patience. Dravid ganguly did score near tons or tons in their debut tests but they too struggled fr the next 2 yrs before establishin themselves. It was only the 1999 odi series with nzl tat dravid became a permanent in odis.

Ganguly, accordin to me is still struggling to keep his test place fr 12 years. Can u imagine a player strugglin to maintain his place in a side fr 12 yrs. No doubt he was the 2nd best odi batsman after sachin and at times (like 2000-2002) he was the best odi player in idnia.

But ganguly has aged and he is not riping with age, ( same goes fr other two sachin and dravid). Basically we can follow ring policy. One top player per series. If its sachin in australian series. It cud be ganguly in the upcomin SA series. Then it cud be dravid if we gonna visit say England. Basically we need one of the three in odi team and definitely not all three.

So sachin fans dont go overboard. I think its time to drop him fr the next home odi series in SA. He has failed too long in odis fr continuing (to be precise five years from 2003-2008). Yaa he has scored tons but even ravi shastri used to score runs in odis. Its not the runs u score its how u score. I am sorry to say sachin is a extra baggage in the team in this perspective. So my verdict DADA fr home odi SA series. Drop sachin and dravid fr tat series.

Ofcourse these three guzurs (old fellows) can continue in test side but i seriously doubt does Dada deserve more test chances? I wud select dravid, sachin, laxman and yuvraj as our middle order.

#8
lomi
URL
January 22, 2008
02:15 AM

Also where is Mohd kaif in this all young hype. Why is he not in the team of specialist fielders (if u like to call it). Lets face it Kaif was and is and will be the best fielder india has ever produced. If SA can use jonty as a pure specialist fielder in a team even with all their super fiedlers.

A pathetic downtrodden fiedlin team called Indian cant afford one specialist fielder. I wud play him juz fr his spirit and fielding. Definitely he is a better pressure batsman than all the stupid youngsters I have seen. He was and is 1000 times better than suresh raina in pure batting skills(if caste is more important than talent).

Let alone raina, even players like gambhir, uthappa, rohit sharma, dinesh karthick havent achieved even 10% of wat kaif achieved in his first 1 year. Then why this hypocrisy frm selectors. BASt**** is the word I have fr this selection team and in this Indian management of cricket team called BCCI.

Is prasad a tearaway fast bowler (let alone fast blwoing he cud even bowl medium pace) has any right to talk abt indias first and probably will be only tearaway fast bowler called Munaf Patel.

This nautanki called prasad is advising him. Guess wat Gada ( donkey) is advising goda (horse) how to
run? I cannot stop laughin at idnian boards decision to select prasad as fast bowlin coach. Guess wat he cud be the slow bowlin coach than fast bowling becaus tats wat he specialized on.

Also is media downright stupid in not even askin one question abt kaif's non selection and still bothered abt Dada and wall. This is favouritism, casteism.

#9
commonsense
January 23, 2008
09:28 PM

Arrey Lomi,

You know about nautankis? Cool! They are fun. Lot of colorful tamaasha...

#10
Chandra
January 24, 2008
01:39 AM

Lomi

I agree with your analysis. Kaif has been quite unlucky. But he had many opportunities too. In my view the three most unlucky players are S Badrinath, PP Ojha and Murali Karthik.

rgds

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