Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Indian Cricket and English Football

As I write this, England, the financial powerhouse of Football, are going to take on Slovenia in a do-or-die game in few hours time. A favorable result in this game would guarantee them a ... no not a world cup...but a place in last 16. With all those stars (or are they) of EPL they are struggling to make it past first hurdle in an EASY group. They were touted as a force to reckon with after Spain and Brazil. This article draws parallel between Indian Cricket team and English Football team. My only wish is these fears don't come true. We have already been flabbergasted in last two Twenty20 world cups by lesser teams of which we were supposedly masters before the advent of the Great Indian Tamasha. The only soothing fact is that the IPL is after this world cup.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Junior Senior debate in Indian Cricket

Almost a decade ago India were mauled by Australia and Pakistan in the then annual tri nation fixture in Australia. Parallel to that India U-19 team led by Mohammad Kaif won the world cup. The senior Indian team was able to win only one match in whole series. Former Pakistan keeper Moin Khan said that Indians lacked 'gutso' apart from Sachin Tendulkar and Ajay Jadeja. As far as I remember that team included Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman and Sourav Ganguly. Srinath was also in that team.

A year later these stalwarts along with some fresh blood (Harbhajan Singh) stopped Aussie juggernaut in a historic test series. Two years later they reached the finals of ODI world cup. I cited these because these examples just go to show even the best took time to settle. VVS Laxman made his debut in 1997 but became reliable as a batsman only in 2001. Harbhajan Singh came into picture in 1998. Again he became a permanent face only in 2001. Yuvraj Singh was the part of that world cup winning team in 2000. He made his debut in late 2000, became an important player only in 2002. Even Gautam Gambhir is in India colors since 2004 but could cement his place only 2 years back.

Not everyone can be as good as Sachin, Dravid or Dhoni to cement his place after one or two series. The standard of domestic cricket is so low that players find it difficult to make the cut to highest echelon. That is why I believe, we should be patient with youngsters. Of course there will be disappointments like we had with Hemang Badani and Ajit Agarkar but given the current state of domestic cricket we have to live with it. Stop vitriol against Vijays, Jadejas, Rohits, Virats, Ishants etc. Some of them will fail but we can have better players from this pool itself. Virat has improved a lot since I saw him first in 2008 IPL.

More importantly the selectors should stop tormenting these players. Choosing players based on IPL performances should be stopped. Also, a young player should be told clearly of expectations from him and reason for sidelining him. Mohammad Kaif was sidelined without any proper reason. Dinesh Karthik is not a team member but a stop gap arrangement. Whosoever gets injured from 1-7 he is called as replacement. How can a player improve if he is not played regularly? Sudeep Tyagi was made to carry drinks for so many matches and then sidelined after one failure. Ojha, Mishra and Chwla are all talented but by rotating them unnecessarily you are denting their confidence. One more thing is to choose horses for courses. While Mishra looks good for longer version of the game, Ojha is better as far as shorter version is concerned. Similarly, Tyagi, Ishant and Sreeshanth look to be test material. Don't play them in ODIs and T20s and then discard them on the basis of their performances in those formats. Similarly Nehra, Praveen RP, Dinda can be tried in shorter formats. ZAK looks good for all formats except the shortest. It is high time now that someone other than Yuvraj is tried in test team. May be Virat Kohli or Cheteshwar Pujara should be given chances.

Please stop this unnecessary junior-senior debate. The seniors were juniors themselves and had their own shortcomings during their young days and they are not going to play forever. Sensible selections based on strengths and weaknesses of players will go a long way in making India the strongest cricket nation.