Thursday, October 25, 2007

Ian Chappell v/s Ian Botham

Here is some stuff on one of the most high-profile but lessser-remembered match-ups off the field...

Two ways of looking at it:
- It sad that two great cricketers should still harbour grudges against an incident that happened three decades ago..
- On the other hand, something like this today would certainly spice up the game.. ;-).. How abt Sreesanth getting into the act with some Australians later this year Down Under ????.. On seconds though, Sree will always give about 6 inches and 60 odd pounds in a physical match-up with the Aussies (and that does not include guys like Hayden n Symonds), so he is better off not attempting it :)

Saturday, October 20, 2007

The need for change !!!

A lot has happened since that euphoric night of 24th September. The country first witnessed an unparalleled, and almost obscene, victory celebration in which politicans outdid each other, first in announcing cash prizes for the Men in Blue and then in trying to hog the limelight in the aftermath of the win. Oh, and not to forget the outcry it evoked from the rest of the sporting fraternity, and quite rightly so !!! (read my take on that). Then, in a mere five days after the win, the boys were back on the field, and that too in a gruelling 7 match ODI series against the World Champs (in the 50 over version). Given all that, I am not suprised that we ended second best.

Quite a few things have changed over the past month or so. And one man, in particular, would agree more than anyone else. From occupying the hottest seat in Indian public life (even the PM I suspect has a easier time) to suddenly finding no seat amongst the first eleven, life has changed dramatically for Rahul Dravid. I suspect there are two main factors behind this slide. The first are the doubts in Dravid's own mind. He is too classy a player even in ODIs to not be considered in any starting line-up (in tests of course he remains our best batsman and I pray that he does not carry over his current form to the tests against Pakistan and in Australia later). So he just has to get over the demons in his head and clear his mind. But he is not helped at all by the silly and outrageous cries from the public to drop the senior brigade from the team (which is the second factor). People have got so carried away by the T20 win that a fundamental difference between the 20 over and 50 over format seems to have been overlooked. In a 50 over game, there is always need for experience on several fronts: in seeing off the first 10 overs, gauging what is a competitive score if you are batting first, in juggling your bowlers as per the demands etc etc. So you still need the old heads on the field in the 50 overs. Sachin Tendulkar has been our highest scorer in the recent ODIs, followed by Sourav Ganguly (while Gambhir and Karthik have struggled) and that should put the case to rest. But while dropping all three is not the answer, neither is playing all three. This is where we are not doing a good job of change management. We have five major players in the evening of their careers (including Laxman and Kumble) and hence the need for a smooth transition is critical. A similar thing happened with Australia in 1984 when Greg Chappell, Rod Marsh and Dennis Lillie all said goodbye in the same test. For about 4 years after that, Australia were close to being the worst team in the world (dont believe me, then sample this; England beat them in the 85 and 86-87 Ashes, New Zealand beat them in 85-86 in Australia, and had it not been for the weather, we would have also beaten them 2-0 in the 85-86 series Down Under). But then the 1987 World Cup victory happened, and Aussie cricket has not looked back since. We dont have the robustness of the Aussie system to bounce back that well, and hence if the five of them leave at once, it will set us back a long time atleast in the Tests. Which is why I firmly believe that Sachin, Dravid and Ganguly should henceforth, never play in the same ODI. Having only the two will give one extra place in the batting order and there are quite a few knocking at the door (Rohit Sharma, Manoj Tiwary, Cheteshwar Pujara etc). Not to mention the positive effect the infusion of youth will have in the field. And I am sure that some amongst them would be good enough to make the transition to test matches as and when the big five call it a day.

The way forward is neither one extreme nor the other. As with most other things in life, the truth lies somewhere in between. How well we understand that will determine where Indian cricket goes from here.