Saturday, November 12, 2011

Time for the Next Gen

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In the Irani trophy in 1978, Dilip Vengsarkar smashed 151 against a bowling line-up that included Prasanna and Chandrashekar. Yet the selectors persisted in ignoring the obvious and named the spin quartet to tour Pakistan. Zaheer Abbas and Javed Miandad confirmed what Vengsarkar had already shown. The quartet was plundered in the test series. The Indian selectors missed a trick then and as a result the quartet had to retire under a cloud after a few more tests against a Packer-weakened West Indies. But they knew and the public knew that it was time.

India faces a similar challenge today. The batting stalwarts in the team deserve their places. Sachin, Dravid and Laxman routinely put in solid performances and make India a great test side. The recent clinical second innings batting performance against the West Indies showed what experience and skill is all about.

Yet something doesn't seem quite right with the Indian test team. It lacks a buzz, freshness and excitement that is the hallmark of good sides. Battle hardened as India's batsman are, England still steamrolled them.

India's benches don't yet have the riches to replace these three greats. Heck, they haven't found anyone decent enough to replace Sourav Ganguly. Yet, it feels like it's time to give it a go. Rohit Sharma re-introduced himself with two back to back centuries in the on-going Ranji Trophy. He has corrected his temperament to back up his talent with hunger. It's time to blood him. Virat Kohli's defining innings must be the one day century he cracked against England in Cardiff. After a woeful test and one day series, he dug deep and connected. He has an Australian quality of doggedness and resilience that Indian batsmen (with due respect to Laxman) have not had. If not for his unfortunate injury, Pujara might have been a regular in the test side and the experiments with Raina/Yuvraj would have ceased.

This is not a piece that is against Tendulkar, Dravid or Laxman. Much like many people are now less interested in listening to Lata Mangeshkar and want more of the newer singers, this is a clamor for something different. A time comes when the old must give way to the new. A good solid, batting performance may get us the draw and an odd win, but it feels like men playing against boys.

India may not win immediately with these new players. These players may not even be the answer, much like Pravin Amre and Kambli faded. But it feels like it's time to ring in the new. Australia's team is new. Sending a team of old stalwarts with a view to crush a team that is rebuilding may seem like a great idea, but it could fail and we might see a repeat of 1978/79.

P.S. Irfan Pathan picked up 8 wickets including a five for in the match against MP. Looks like he is back!!!


Sashank said...

I posted this on the last post on this blog - it applies here too I feel.

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.

Golandaaz said...

Shashak, the difference is that you are willing to forgive the England debacle and I am not. That is the source of our difference. Everything else about team building, winning,greatness of the current bunch is all understandable.

I think the England tour is not a one-off. Its a telling indicator of the mindset of these 3. They have become just 'players' in Dhoni's team. Playing for themselves.Yes India will win far more matches with these guys in the team than Kohli, and co.However it is in India's advantage that we iron out the very chinks you point out in Kohli and Rohit now rather than when they are older. A more resoponsible bunch would have exerted more influence on the preparations for the England tour. The seniors gave us the #1 ranking and they lost it and behaved like 'victims'. Typical worker-bee mentality. They do not deserve a chance to reclaim the #1 ranking and frankly I think they have no desire to. If they did. SRT would not have flirted with Federrer instead of helping India win Test matches in the WI

We need to move on....but we won't. They will meet the same fate as that of Bedi, Chandra, Prasanna and Venkat...After 78 they were all individual worker-bees. Not a team.

Also, I just have a feeling; I have always had it that India will do better without SRT. He seems to hold the team back in ways I can't explain but comes out every now and then....Ian Bell runout comes as one example.

Sashank said...

Wait... Ian Bell runout? How is that related to Sachin in anyway? Bell makes amateurish mistake. Dhoni decides to let him off. Sachin nowhere in the picture. And even if he did influence enough to make Dhoni let Bell return, I really doubt if it would have changed the scoreline of the series.

Only thing is - having showed a decent level of understanding of cricket in your writing, you're sullying it by using phrases like - "Playing for themselves". You're talking about the likes of Dravid & Tendulkar who have probably been the most disciplined players from our country. They've shown up for practice and then on the match day diligently for nearly two-thirds of every year for a better part of their lives. You talk about attitude shown by Sachin in the England tour saying his mindset was not to win and then deride him for skipping the WI tour. For all his prowess, he has chosen to rest so as to be fully fit for the England tour. Also, he gave the opportunity for Kohli to come in and get some experience at the top level. I think he has given both the things you wanted by skipping that tour - 1. Be rested for England. 2. Give youngsters a chance. So, maybe you should reanalyze the crass statement you like to repeat i.e. "flirting with Federer". The fact that the England tour did not turn out as he planned is the beauty of sport. Everyone cannot win always.

In any case, let's just agree to disagree. I guess we'll never see eye-to-eye on this subject. I for one am going to sit back and enjoy the twilight years of these three legends rather call for their heads to roll.

Vidooshak said...

Good approach Sashank. Agree to disagree.

Vidooshak said...

I wish Cricinfo writers would see why some readers (such as me) would be excused for being annoyed. They make excuses for Roebuck (tormented soul, etc.) even though he is about to be charged with a crime, and want to throw Kumble under the bus for a perceived "conflict of interest". Morality should not be confused and I am constantly underwhelmed by the cricinfo stable. If we use a standard of behavior as a whip for one individual, then we should be consistent and whip Roebuck too for a higher crime. Otherwise, we should simply say nothing.

Golandaaz said...

Why is it crass for me to say it when it is not crass for SRT to do it. He exhausted himself by playing in the IPL, then said he wanted to spend time with the family but went flirting with federer instead of helping his county win test matches in west indies

And you are upset with me for saying it the way it is?

Golandaaz said...

Also my definition of 'playing for themselves' is simple

The value of continuing to play has more benefit to the legacies of the seniors than to India's long term prospects

I do not mean that they are not team players. And for all their dedicating they get paid well no one is doing the hard work out of charity or goodness of their hearts.