Monday, November 12, 2007

The soap opera of appointments and rejections in Indian Cricket

When the news of Anil Kumble being appointed captain came in, it seemed like this old warrior has been given his due and has been given it very late in his career. There are two things that make one a little uneasy about this decision; firstly, that he has been given the job for three tests only against Pakistan and, secondly, Kumble was given this responsibility only after Sachin Tendulkar refused.

It is never easy to produce miracles in 3 matches. The last thing a national team needs is instability at the top. India does not have a coach and if one does not know who will captain the team against the best team in the world, it does not augur well for a national team. Yes, there have been reports, and Kumble has himself said in an interview that he thinks that he is not a stop-gap captain, but the plain fact is that Anil Kumble has been appointed for 3 test matches only. One does not know if Jumbo has been informally told that the appointment is till the Springboks visit India, but if he has been(that is what some media reports claim) why couldn’t the selectors and the board make it official that he is the skipper for three full series and not just three tests?

Very few things that the selectors and the board have done have been right. I just simply cannot understand these short term announcements. Appoint teams for 2 games, appoint captains for 3 tests or one series. It would be a jolly good idea to appoint selectors for 2 games and based on the performance of the selected players the selectors’ would be retained. I know that it is a preposterous idea, but that is the very same theory that the selectors seem to be following as far as team selection goes. And I do not understand why the selectors give in to media rhetoric.

Each and every time the team is about to be selected, and that is almost thrice a month these days, one wonders about what would the future of the senior batsmen be. But our batting does not seem to be the problem and certainly not the three seniors that have been targeted, but the bowlers. To elucidate, if one were to look at the Australia series and this series against Pakistan, whenever India has bowled 50 overs, they have conceded runs at the rate of 8.83 in the last 10 overs. That has usually been the difference in winning and losing. If the opposing team scores close to ninety runs in the last ten, it leaves the batsmen with a mountain to climb while chasing or it becomes extremely difficult to defend what the batsmen have put up.

Does this small fact not irk the selectors? Especially when we have a bowling coach? Somehow, the media is obsessed with big names. The selectors have needlessly fallen prey to the rhetoric. They have dropped Rahul Dravid needlessly just because he did not fare well against Australia (he has scored 823 runs at 37.4 in 31 ODIs in 2007). The other two batsmen that are being placed under needless scrutiny are Sachin Tendulkar (who has scored 1298 runs in 31 ODIs in 2007 at an average of 46.35) and Sourav Ganguly (who has scored 1235 runs in 31 ODIs at 45.74). The two Indian openers are numbers 2 and 3 in the highest scorers’ list in 2007. And in the top 10 run getters of 2007 there are 4 Indians and three of them in the top 4. The problem is clearly not our batting.

But then the selectors have only been giving in to rhetoric. They are trying to fix something that isn’t broken. And the thing that is mutilated is not been looked into at all. There are 3 things that need to be fixed in Indian cricket. 1) Give the captain a long rope; 2) Don’t touch the batting till the South Africa series gets over and fix the bowling quickly; 3) Get the board mandarins and the selectors to shut up and work for Indian cricket, and not try their best to give the media stories, get their faces on the tele and their columns in the papers.

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