Sunday, January 15, 2012

The Dream is Dead

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Upstart young Australians wiped the floor with India's batsmen in three tests. Bowlers with less than 50 tests of combined experience looted the vast Indian batting riches in broad daylight for three tests. Every ounce of experience, wisdom and skill that India's one-time fantastic batting line-up put up against these bowlers seem to come down to a tame, unhappy LBW. Sachin didn't agree, but we agreed and perhaps the whole of India mutely agreed that even if he were to be given a reprieve, the elusive 100th century was not going to be found at Perth.

Most telling was Nari Contractor's comment that Sachin was getting out LBW to a routine inswinger, Dravid bowled to a straight fast ball and Laxman and Sehwag were unable to line their bat up against a ball moving towards the slips. In their heyday, these veterans would have blunted such a line of attack and out-persevered the bowlers to fatigue and despair. So we don't believe, Australia have discovered a new formula to blunt Laxman, Dravid and Sachin. This can't be anything but the ravages of age and injury. They might still score centuries against Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and New Zealand at home. But the dream is over against disciplined fast bowling on helpful or unhelpful pitches.

Most recently, the formula came good in Durban. They would have batted 2 days routinely and provided their very normal bowling attack, enough runs to pressure the opposition into making mistakes. India won many tests overseas with that formula and even won a couple of series in England that way.

But it's not working anymore. The bowling seems to have some more bite to it than usual, but the batting simply doesn't exist. Seniors who would normally be around to guide the young Sehwag or Raina score a debut century, are now hiding behind fans' defense that others are not scoring enough runs to cover their failures. We supported the seniors when Harbhajan saved India the blushes in the first test against Australia in Bangalore a couple of summers ago. The rot had begun to set in then perhaps, but our romantic obsession with immortality blurred the facts.

The selectors were pragmatic enough to blood Cheteshwar Pujara. Unfortunately, he got injured at the wrong time. It's probably worth giving credit to the selectors that had he been playing all this while, we may have one senior less in this team. So, the seniors are perhaps not to blame that they are still playing. But should they force the hand of the selectors by voluntarily announcing their retirement, given that at least two of them have not been pulling their weight in the team by batting enough time and runs?

My colleague feels that the poor performance is a direct result of the disrespect shown by Sachin to the test format. I tend to agree that he disrespected the format by choosing to play IPL and not setting himself up for the contest against England by going to the West Indies. But Dravid and Laxman didn't follow that route. Yet they have been laid low. Dravid probably summoned his last gasp of energy and wisdom to shine in England. It appears that he is unable to do that anymore. The rush is over and the tank is now empty. Unfortunately, for Laxman, his lack of modern levels of fitness has probably caught up with him. The invaluable fifties and face-saving runs that he routinely scored are not coming anymore.

We had a decade of the best that Indian cricket has ever been. No stretch of time in Indian cricket can come close to the levels of performance that we saw from 2001 to 2011. We might never see it again in the future. Maybe this truth is evident to everyone and therefore they want it last for a little while longer. The time to let go is close. Vishwanath, Vengsarkar, Kapil Dev and Mohinder didn't know when it was time for them to leave the stage with their heads held high. They all faced the ignominy of being dropped. I hope Laxman and Dravid don't lose their dignity by being dropped, instead of calling time themselves. It's clear that Sachin will leave when he sees fit. We hope that he chooses it carefully, so that his legacy is not smeared by accusations of selfishness.


Bala said...

Well ! The seniors will retire now..Not because they cant fight it anymore. But they have nothing to keep them going anymore. I am sure they hung in there with hopes to make one try to achieve that elusive series win in Australia. After all , did Dravid not relinquish the captaincy on his own even after a series win in England ? Did the seniors not decide not to take part in the T20 team? I just don't believe they are staying on to make few extra bucks for their retirement. Well! They tried their best for that extra bit!Let us not dump our fallen heroes for Godsake !!

Golandaaz said...

Well said Bala! It is not for lack of intent and these failures should not be an invitation to trash their careers...

Although I doubt if they will retire and in my view they should have been forced out after England

Vidoo, I am not saying that SRT's poor performance has got anything to do with his skipping the WI tour. Rather it reveals a mindset.That IPL is more important than a test match for your country. And many things have to have gone wrong for a Sachin Tendulkar to think that he can get away with it. There was not even a whimper of criticism. It means so many other decisions of priority of IPL over Tests have happened behind the scenes.

To me the road ahead has to start with the answer to the question, does the BCCI want tests to survive whether they are a money making proposition or not

Bala said...

I agree with you about the IPL. The notion that " There is room for all 3 formats of the game" is Bullshit!After all Test cricket is not the same after the advent of ODIs.That is the reason we see so many result matches. So my word of advice to our fellow indians is if you still want to brag about our cricketing might we better take the startegy like "Test cricket is boring! IPL is the coolest thing!" " Who in their right minds will play a game for 8 hours a day and 5 days in a week ??"

Vaibhav Sharma said...

Yes you are right the time has come for laxman and Dravid to call it a day! But we should salute the seniors for playing even at the age of 39 when most players are commentators or administrators. They took India to the top of the world and its time to shift the responsibility to the younger lot whether they can do it or not.

Vidooshak said...

Bala and Gol -

I think all three formats need to stay. The trend though is increasingly going to be towards specialized teams for each format. Tendulkar, Sehwag, Gambhir, Dhoni, Zaheer, Ishant and Kohli have thus far managed to stay relevant for all three (tho Tendulkar doesn't do T20 internationals). What Kohli and some others' struggles are perhaps (not sure) telling us is that as much talent as one may have, it may be time to make some choices.

Vidooshak said...

Vaibhav -

The saluting has happened several times over. Unfortunately, now there is a risk that they overstay. For Indian cricket's sake and their own sake, I hope they recognize the writing on the wall. I hope Bala is right and they have internalized the fact that there is nothing to keep them going anymore. I hope they don't manufacture events to justify keeping going.

Golandaaz said...

The event to allow for the extension has already been 'manufactured' Eng and Australia's return series in India.

My prediction is that the seniors aren't going to retire till they lose at home as well

Bala said...

One more thing is we are all assuming that the seniors are overstaying their welcome while the administrators are eagerly waiting for them to hangup their boots! We dont even know whether there was/is any succession plan. You are proposing that we should revamp the team totally with youngsters and just give them the incubatory period of 2 years or so without bothering for the results. It just does not work that way ! Our cricket crazy fans take the bus and reach Dhoni's village to stone his house moment the results stop coming.Remember Dravid was dropped unceremoniously from the ODI team and was recalled in occasions later in panic. He had to stop this nonsense by announcing his retirement. Our country want results !! And may be the seniors were asked to stay on simply because they were the only hope we had.

Golandaaz said...

India has lost 7 in a row and no ones house has been stoned. Please bala don't tell me Indians do not understand the concept of rebuilding. You are insulting their intelligence.

We all grew up following cricket in the 80s knowing that with the team we had we could not win all the time and appreciated the effort of our players win or lose

Bottom line is the bcci and the players over estimated the endurance of the seniors and are placing unreasonable expectations from the youngsters.

From what I remember none of the greats were any better or worse than kohli, yadav or Rohit sharma

Prabu said...

Words like "hanging on" are strong words to use on people who have served with distinction and passion. You guys are conveniently forgetting that none of the young batsmen has cemented the one battng spot available or grabbed on to chances available in West Indies when a lot of the seniors were missing.
It all sounds nice and easy to criticize a player who misses a series against a team like West Indies but you are forgetting the fact that there was a spot created for a junior guy to go and claim the spot and create pressure on these players. Forget about claim, not one of them has even created pressure.

If I built a company with my sweat for 20 years, it will be too difficult to leave it someone's hands who does not show the ability to take charge. Except Pujara, no young batsman has taken charge.

Now that they have lost in the place where they really wanted to win, I think they will hang up their boots. The least we can do is use words carefully and not throw shit at them.....

Golandaaz said...

That SRT skipped WI to create a spot for a youngster is an unverifiable claim.

What is known is that he played the IPL and asked that he be excluded from the WI tour so he could spend time with his family.

There is no criticism. After having played so long with such distinction he is entitled to some time off.

I have a legitimate question though....why not use the IPL to spend time with the family.

And please, SRT, Rahul and VVS however great haven't built a company. They are simply high performing employees who; if they do not align to the company's vision have to let go. There are to be no sentiments here. If the vision is to rebuild with youth; then if SRT is left stranded on 99 100s so be it.

I also do not understand the statement that the youngsters are not ready. that's besides the point. Heck even I am ready to be able to deliver 7 test losses in a row. The benchmark set here is not exactly a challenge to anyone is it?

When SRT,VVS and RD delivered India the #1 ranking they were given all the accolades, all the adulation and rightly so. So when they are delivering loses why should we keep giving them accolades "from retrospective effect".

Prabu said...

He might have asked his IPL employers and been declined while his Test cricket employers agreed to it. You and I do not know the background to this. The compulsion to play in the IPL may not have been internal - looking at the fact that 4-5 players did the same thing, you could almost say it was external compulsions.

I'm sorry you think employees don't take pride in the company they helped build. I don't have to own a company to build it - I can build it as an employee. If every employee is viewed as a disposable resource, good luck building a company that lasts any amount of time.....And since when did SRT/RD/VVS have a different vision to the Indian team from their so called employers? I thought the fact that they put in their 100% towards helping the team is their job. Whether India won or not, you cannot doubt their intent....and if you do, then you are being unreasonable.

With respect to accolades and adulation - yeah, they did get it, but that doesn't mean you disrespect them when they fail.

As to the youngsters, my point is that they didn't grab their chances and create pressure on SRT/VVS/RD. And, you are assigning all blame on the three of them for the 7 losses which doesn't seem right either. You act as though the youngsters would wave a magical wand and win us all these games. A 4-0 loss in England with a dilapidated team against a bowling attack that was close to brilliant was not sufficient reason to call it quits. They may very well now, but unless fundamental issues with our bowling is not addressed, we are not going to do any better.

Golandaaz said...

Tough to engage in this conversation if you keep accusing me of 'disrespecting' the seniors. I don't believe asking for their ouster is disrespecting their past achievements.

Also I not suggesting the juniors would have won. They would have done as well as the seniors 7 losses

Vidooshak said...

Prabhu -

Whether we agree or not, the seniors are indeed hanging on. Because, based on their immediate record over the last 13 tests (starting with the West Indies tour), it's hard to find a reason that would suggest that they would turn things around and restore India to a higher ranking. The question of winning is not yet on the table because a rebuild will involve some losses. Let's remember that India lost 3-0 in 1999 in Australia and then over the next decade turned it around. This was because they trusted the young group of RD, VVS and Ganguly to come good around SRT. We are at a similar place right now and if suggesting that SRT, VVS and RD leave is disrespectful, then so be it. If you think that selectors dropping them is less disrespectful, then so be it.

Prabu said...

Gol....articles like "Sachin to turn for Harris Shield" mean nothing but disrespect. The style and tone of various articles in your blog has been nothing but this for a while now. And it is not just SRT I am referring to but RD and VVS as well.

You have your right to criticize people's performance, no doubt, but you can do it without casting aspersions on people's integrity or intent. I am sure every one of us would expect nothing else from our friends and foes.

Golandaaz said...

I am not questioning the intent. Only the outcome.

Sachin's intentions are genuine; I just don't feel the need to state that in every post

The Harris Shield post is of course a comment on India going backwards in ODIs injecting a young successful team with a dash of age and creaking bones. Or do you think the seniors have attained God like status that it is a blasphemy to make fun of them

Relax Prabu, I have been Sachin's fan for a long time. Now I have retired and free to question his decisions,moves and outcomes