The World Cup has come and gone. The Singer Cup too has been played. For
all Indian supporters, the performance of the Indian team has been
nothing to write home about in either of these tournaments. If there is
anything that has been consistent about the team, it is its
inconsistency. Thanks to some insipid batting by the so-called strong
batting lineup and even more insipid leadership of Azhar, the Indian
team, has rightly lived up to Gavaskar's description of it as 'paper
Save for Sachin and Sidhu in the batting department, and Kumble, Raju,
and to a lesser extent, Srinath, in the bowling department, the Indian
team has looked like every inch like a pampered set of individuals,
lacking all purpose and direction. These are not the ravings and
rantings of a frustrated Indian, but of someone who has all along
insisted that the Indian team is just a group of individuals lacking the
class and dedication to perform and win in the highest echelons of
Sri Lanka has shown what team spirit and combined effort can achieve.
For a team, whose class was doubted not too long ago, the men from the
Emerald Isle have shown that they are perfectly capable of achieving the
very best. On the other hand, India, has always rested on its laurels
and has never been adequately prepared top class adversaries on the
cricket field. The performances of the Indian team, in the World Cup,
showed that India can be outplayed fairly easily. If it was Sri Lanka
who swept aside India in the World Cup, it was the Pakistanis who showed
their prowess in the Singer Cup. Let us sportingly accept that Sri Lanka
and Pakistan have outplayed us, and we lacked the wherewithall to
withstand their onslaught.
If India needs to improve even an iota, there is a lot of cleaning up to
do. As a first thing, Azhar has to step down gracefully, NOW. He has had
his moments in international cricket, but he is definitely not upto it
anymore. A captain is expected to lead by example, and Azhar has failed
to set any sort of example. He has contrived to get himself out in the
most atrocious ways, just when the team was looking up to him for a good
performance. This reeks of nothing but irresponsibility. Mind you, I am
only talking of Azhar as a cricketer, and my statements are based only
on his on-field performances (or for that matter, the lack of the same).
I have no intention of mixing up his personal and cricketing lives.
This raises the next question, who is to lead India ? I have a couple of
suggestions in this regard.
1. Navjot Singh Sidhu - He has been one of the most consistent
performers for India, and yet has been the most under-rated cricketer in
the country. He has the requisite experience in international cricket
and has captained Punjab at the national level. He has always seemed to
be a cool and level-headed person on the field. Again, judge him, only
by his on-field demeanour and performance. Donot mix up his personal and
2. Sachin - The popular choice - I have great respect for Sachin's
abilities and have found him to be pretty cool-headed. What holds me
back in extending full support to him, is the fact that India is heavily
dependent on this little dynamite, and I have just that bit of fear,
that captaincy might prove to be a bit too much to ask of him. He
definitely is captaincy material, and has to be saved for the right
3. Manjrekar - This man would have been an automatic choice if he had
been more consistent in his performances. With his place in the team
being in question, Manjrekar has unfortunately lost out on the chance.
It is till not too late for him. If he can come up with some mind
boggling performances, he still stands a chance, slim though.
4. And last but not the least, the surprise - Anil Kumble. This is
another very consistent performer for India. He has shown that he is
India's main weapon in the bowling front, and has always answered the
call to perform. His experience as Karnataka captain, as well as his
stint with Northamptonshire have exposed him to the varieties and
vagaries of cricket. He has shown that he has a very level head, capable
of maintaining poise, even in the face of the worst adversity.
This settled, we now have to turn to the composition of the team. India
needs a very good opening pair, capable of giving us a good start, and
placing us on a good pedestal. Sidhu should be an automatic choice.
Personally, I donot want Sachin to open the innings. Times without
number, it has been proven that the Indian batting crumbles when Sachin
is gone. Let us have a specialist opener for the job. Vikram Rathore has
not been tested and he has to be given the break. I donot have much of
an idea about his technique and temperament, but we have to give him the
chance to prove himself. If he fails even after a good number of
chances, we have to think of alternatives. Names which come to my mind
1. M.V.Sridhar of Hyderabad
2. Sameer Dighe of Bombay
3. W.V.Raman of Tamil Nadu
4. Sujith Somasundar of Karnataka
RSCers could probably think of other options (maybe better ones ?!?!?!)
The one down slot has to be given to a batsman, capable of holding the
innings together. Manjrekar looks like the one to turn to, for the
moment. The four batsmen mentioned above could also be thought of in
this mould. Sameer Dighe would have to come up with more consistent
performances to really let the selectors plug for him.
Sachin has to come in at number 4, and that should be the place for him,
both in the longer and shorter versions of the game.
The next slot has to be opened for one of the following -
1. Rahul Dravid of Karnataka
2. Saurav Ganguly of Bengal
3. Vinod Kambli of Bombay
4. Ajay Jadeja of Haryana
5. V.V.S.Laxman of Hyderabad
Dravid's failures in the Singer Cup notwithstanding, he has to be given
some more chances to prove himself. Saurav, Kambli, and Laxman may have
to wait a while, but they should not be shunted out completely. Jadeja's
inconsistency is what worried me always.
For the number 6 spot, a few names come to my mind -
1. Diwakar Vasu of Tamil Nadu
2. Sunil Joshi of Karnataka
3. Syed Saba Karim of Bengal (formerly of Bihar)
4. Robin Singh of Tamil Nadu
5. Nayen Mongia
The bowling attack would have to consist of 5 players, from the
1. Javagal Srinath of Karnataka
2. Salil Ankola of Bombay
3. Paras Mhambrey of Bombay / Venkatesh Prasad of Karnataka / Abhey
Kuruvilla of Bombay
4. Anil Kumble of Karnataka
5. Venkatapathy Raju of Hyderabad
6. Narendra Hirwani of Madhya Pradesh
All the players mentioned above could form the core of the Indian team.
Based on whether we are playing the ODIs or the Tests, the composition
of the team could differ. A utility player like D.Vasu or Robin Singh or
Sunil Joshi could be included for the ODIs, at the expense of one of the
Let us learn from the Australian team of the eighties, which remained
undaunted even in the face of every kind of adversity, and is today the
mighty *** power in international cricket.
What I have suggested above, is not the panacea for the ills bogging the
Indian team, but possible attempts at solving some of the problems. With
players like Sidhu, Manjrekar, SRT (WOW !!!!), Kumble etc. providing the
experience, the others could combine their skills with those of the
veterans, to try and bring some amount of stability to Indian cricket.
But THE MOST IMPORTANT thing that will definitely change the course of
Indian cricket for the better, is a change in the attitude of the
officials manning Indian cricket. We will have to provide our bowlers
with better tracks to operate upon. Our batsmen will have to be groomed
on a variety of tracks, not the dead ones they accumulate their tons in
domestic cricket right now. If this can be handled in the right manner,
all is still not lost for Indian cricket. If we donot learn from our
mistakes now, it will not be long before we become the wooden spooners
of international cricket.
BCCI - ARE YOU LISTENING ??????