Friday, November 4, 2011

Sachin's first Test that is one too many

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There is a lot India has to do in Test cricket just to stay in the same place; both figuratively and ranking-wise; starting with the home Test series against the West Indies.
The players may say all the right things when it comes to Test Cricket, but the priorities on display by everyone directly involved with the game, tell a different story. Except England, every country is managing Test cricket as if its a demising proposition. However, The most compelling cricket in recent weeks has been in the Test matches between Sri Lanka/Pakistan, Bangladesh/West Indies and to some extent between New Zealand/Zimbabwe. That of course is a matter of opinion. A matter of dwindling opinion, I might add.
So while the administrators are busy dressing up the game with new formats, chasing new money and new audiences, traditional cricket fans are starved for meaningful, contextual cricket. Since the 1983 World cup, there have been 7 more World Cups contested. 3 of them hosted by India. In the same period, West Indies have visited India only 3 times. Its lamentable. But as a fan, I will lap up whatever is on offer.

Test cricket is living off the monies made by circus cricket, but those formats are slaves to television executives. Test cricket on the other hand has been relatively untouched by modern theatrics and a India v West Indies Test series is certainly worth the wait.
India has mortgaged their Test status and ranking in the pursuit of making the IPL and Champions League viable. Their Test cricket outfit is in disarray. A situation brought on by design. Design driven in turn by the so called "market needs". But not all of India's frailties in the Test arena is due to constraining priorities. There is clearly a lack of talent. There is a dearth of good bowlers. Both the fast and the spin kind. With batting they haven't transitioned from the Saurav Ganguly era. Flirting with LOI stars, hey have wasted many Test Matches on Yuvraj Singh and Suresh Raina, when it is clear neither has the accumen to be Test class batsmen.
Then there is Sachin Tendulkar who is holding on to his place because he can. That he can still score centuries should neither be a surprise nor a justification not to call for his retirement. The question is are we giving Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma and Cheteshwar Pujara time to learn to score 100s like Sachin Tendulkar. Dilip Vengsarkar gave Sachin Tendulkar an early start. Sachin for his part is not similarly inclined. He will play for himself for a few Test Matches more; get all sorts of personal milestones and leave when it suits him.  
Sachin's failure to want to win in the West Indies; preferring to flirt with Roger Federrer instead; and his failure in England, ought to be triggers that call for his retirement. In a way he is a liability to the team, from the standpoint that he is preventing a younger man from getting time to make a mark. He himself was given that when he was 16; but he is far too self-consuming and self absorbed to return the favor. This series would have been ideal for India to move on from the Sachin era.
On the other hand, a 100 from him at the Kotla will make the fans come back to the stadium. For the short term it may be good for Test Cricket but I believe the first Test at the Kotla will be Sachin's first Test that is one too many.
Coming off a World Cup Finals loss to India in 1983, the West Indies had sent their fiercest team to India the same year. That 83 series remains the one of the best cricket a visiting team has played in India ever. India along with Australia are traditionally most formidable at home and India have not lost a series at home in  more than 7 years. This West Indies team however, if they attack well, can emulate the 1983 team with a surprise Test win. In a short series that may be enough.
India's batting will start slow but will eventually come good in the series to draw Test matches but it is the West Indies that have the bowling attack to put India into early trouble. If the West Indian batsman can learn to grind their way to 500+ scores, then I believe they have bowlers to spring a surprise and force a win and the series on the basis of that win.
And if India do lose, they ought to take a young Sachin-less side to Australia.


Sashank said...

I think you have a very warped view on what 'team-building' actually consists of. Everyone talks of making changes in the current team so that we'll be ready for some other series in the future - may it be the ODI World Cup or a test series Down Under. But, the selectors also have to make sure that every team they pick for a series is the best possible team to go up against the opposition.
On current form and ability - pick the best 5 batsmen in India and Sachin will be one among them. Heck, pick the best 5 in the world and he may still make it. On that merit alone do we need to judge his place in the team.
Further, in general, I doubt any player gives as much importance to personal milestones as the non-playing fans do. Anyone who claims that a sportsman plays for records have never probably played sports on at least a semi-professional level. The amount of training, practice, discipline and mental stress that goes into each game might not be worth a statistical number next to their name. It's more likely the passion and love for the game that keeps them going.
Virat, Pujara etc. will get their chance soon. They'll learn much from just sharing a dressing room with the seniors. As Dravid, Laxman & Sachin are phased out over the next couple of years - they can slowly become our test batting core. But, dropping an extremely talented and experienced player for someone who cannot face a bouncing ball with complete confidence will be foolhardy. Don't forget - when Sachin was 16, he was a batting prodigy with impeccable technique.

Golandaaz said...

I agree with your viewpoint in a general sense. However in the specific case of sachin I feel the benefits of moving on outweigh the value of his likely contributions to the team.

Thanks for speaking out though.

Sashank said...

Not to challenge you but can you list out the actual benefits for the team? Purely in how it'll help the team. Not how it'll help a youngster get more time to play.

Sachin bashing is fine when he deserves it. But I felt the call for him to leave the big stage was not too well thought out in your piece. I'm not exactly a Sachin fanatic and I only persist on this topic as I read this blog because I like the writing on here. So, if you're resorting to Sachin bashing just to get a few hits on your blog - I may consider moving on.

Golandaaz said...

Where am I bashing sachin? All I am suggesting is that it's time he leaves so that younger players get tme to mature at the highest stage. I am expecting the same thing from sachin that he himself was given when he was starting out.

Vidooshak said...

Kapil stayed in the team based on his performances and kept an untested, yet exciting prospect in Srinath out of the team. Srinath never would have touched the peaks that Kapil scaled, but at that moment in time. Kapil didn't merit sacking, yet his stay in the team delayed the inevitable exercise of developing, grooming and readying another bowler. Plus, the excitement of following a test match for Kapil had waned by the early nineties. I think Sachin is in a similar place. He deserves his place in the team based on this record, performance, hard work. But the excitement of wanting to watch or follow Sachin has waned because he is past his peak. Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli and Pujara offer something new and can regenerate the excitement. None of them will come close to Sachin in terms of his past performances and may take some time to get to his current level of performance, but it's time.

Golandaaz said...


Perhaps you said it better than me.

However, there is one aspect that is missing. Unlike me you are taking this rationally. For me, I can't get myself to look over the fact that Sachin, Rahul and VVS collectively were shamed in England. And there is no talk of accountability. Dravid's 3 100s fail to impress me.

If there is an indicator people needed to realize that their time is up, is the performance, attitude and behavior of the veterans after the world cup. If these 3 are not going to stand up and influence the game beyond the boundary; sorry your future value to India and the game is -ve.

Bedi, and co.were similarly shamed in Pakistan by a young Pakistani side and just like this bunch they refused to leave. History will repeat and these 3 will be party to seeing India degenerate as a Test side.

There was a #1 ranking to protect in England and these 3 did not have it in them to make a series of it. The time to look beyond Sachin is now. We owe him nothing and his numbers are par for the course and have been adequately applauded.

Sashank said...

I think one failed series in the last 3 or so years should not result in such knee-jerk reactions. It's very likely that these very 3 will be our saviors in Australia next month. Rohit Sharma is nowhere near deserving a test place. Kohli did his bit in ODIs but he still has some technical issues to iron out. Pujara makes the strongest case - he has a solid technique and temperament and is backed up by his domestic performances. But he is young and he's got lots of time yet.

And, I feel both of you are taking a flawed view on the concept of 'team-building'. We need the current team to keep winning rather than fret about how we fare 3 years down the line. Unlike ODIs where we may build for the WC, every test is important and significant. In this scenario, it is wiser to persist with the current team and give the next-gen chances when the old-guard is injured.

Especially in this T20 age where everyone is obsessed with instant gratification. Ans, unfortunately, this concept has permeated into the selectors' psyche too and not enough time is given to a player to grow into his boots. It can be seen in how the no. 6 for the test team oscillates between Raina & Yuvraj. Pushing Kohli or Pujara into this cauldron where every innings will become a discussion of - "if Sachin or Dravid was there" would do them more harm than good.