Thursday, October 04, 2007

Replacing Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid

I hope all and sundry would have now realized that T20 was a different format altogether. That is a format that relies heavily on talent and that was the reason why India and Pakistan, the two most talented teams in world cricket made the finals. The moment the game lengthens, apart from talent, temperament comes to the fore. That is one area where we are lagging behind by a long shot.

After the first two ODIs, the question of playing Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid has come to the fore yet again. It’s a clear case of not being able to plan well for a series as big as this. A good example would be to look at the opponents India is playing. Matthew Hayden, Adam Gilchrist and Ricky Ponting aren’t exactly spring chickens. They seem to be perfectly fitting into a side. That is because there is a clear plan. And players like Michael Clarke seem ready to take over from them after they have left.

The reason they can is because they have the weight of runs behind them. Not just on the account of being young or having performed well in a T20 world cup. India had just the right people to succeed the big three. Virender Sehwag, Yuvraj Singh and Mohammed Kaif were doing well. Today we have Sehwag out of the team and Kaif out of the selectors’ minds. Yuvraj had a good 2006, so looks like the only certainty.

One reads reports and sees some ex-cricketers on the tele making it seem as if it’s the fault of Ganguly, Tendulkar and Dravid that they youngsters are not being allowed into the team. It is quite the opposite. Just because the likes of Suresh Raina and Venugopal Rao fell flat on their faces did the old brigade walk back in, and stayed put as they were performing. One needs to turn the clock back to 1996 when two youngsters announced their arrival. Rahul Dravid and Sourav Ganguly. They did not have a pig-headed coach backing them to keep out some players and neither did they have a chairman of selectors subservient to the coach. They walked into the team on the account of their performances and consistency only. They did not knock on the doors; they smashed the doors and made India not miss the likes of Mohammed Azharuddin, Navjot Sidhu, Ajay Jadeja etc.

The current crop of Robin Uthappa, Rohit Sharma, Gautam Gambhir need to do the same. A 40 odd score in the odd match is not really enough. They need to do well consistently, as the older brigade had done when they were young. They did not have the country’s media pushing their case, quite the opposite, actually. They need to look at Mahendra Singh Dhoni. He smashed the door and made the India cap his own when there were Parthiv Patel and Ajay Ratra, as young as him if not younger, in the reckoning. The yardstick for team selection needs to be performance alone.

Turn the clock back to the just concluded series against England. India won all 3 ODIs where the old firm scored 100+ for the first wicket. The top 5 scorers for the series had Ian Bell leading, followed by Sachin, Yuvraj, Paul Collingwood and Sourav Ganguly. Tendulkar scored 4 fifties and Ganguly scored 3 of them. It is true that we need young players, but what is more important is that we need young players capable of replacing these performers.

Appointing a young captain is not the panacea that India needs to win the 2011 world cup. India needs to have a pool of 20 cricketers who can call the place rightfully theirs. And the best way to groom them is by making them push out the big three on weight of their performances alone, and not because they are all turning 35 next year. That would prove the temperament of the young brigade. Else, the die is cast.

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