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Age is just a number

cricket Updated: Oct 08, 2007 12:55 IST
Kadambari Murali
Kadambari Murali
Hindustan Times
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Thirteen young Indians, with an average age of 26.4 (or thereabouts), faced a collective 723 deliveries in a two-week tournament that depended heavily on luck and came up trumps. It was great fun and even those of us who swore we wouldn't watch T20 cricket, loved it for the tamasha and the sheer joy of watching a rare India triumph.

On the basis of that punch-drunk fortnight, we, the media, fuelled by sensationalist statements from a bunch of ex-cricketers who seem to have forgotten that they themselves once played the game and, off-the-cuff remarks from BCCI officials who are not supposed to comment on player selection, have loudly demanded that three of our greatest players should gracefully fade into the sunset because they are too old to deliver in one-day cricket.

What utter tosh. At the moment, India are one match away from losing a seven match-series in double-quick time to the world champions - and whether we admit it or not, the Australians are undoubtedly the champs of both the regular formats of the game, those that allow quality teams a chance to fight back.

There is one line of thought that says that as India are losing to Australia anyway, they might as well lose with a bunch of juniors who are the future of the game in the country than with ageing stars who aren't really going anywhere.

But, taking a leaf from the Australian book, it's probably better if anyone who's replacing those same stars now or in the future really earns the right to fill some really big boots. And at the moment, with a couple of exceptions, it doesn't look like there's anyone near the same class.

Coming back to this age-business, what is interesting is that three of the Aussies, including their star opening act of Gilchrist and Hayden, are 35+, nine of their 15-member one-day international squad are 30+, while a 10th, Brad Haddin, will be 30 in two weeks time.

Another thought. The guy who battered India's attack in Hyderabad with a brutal 67-ball 89 (Symonds) is 32+ and perhaps knows how to channel/manage his temper better than the maverick 24-something (Sreesanth), whose wickets in this series have come at a price. While Sreesanth's aggro makes for great viewing and TRP ratings, it would probably look much better if he then remembered to do more damage with the ball as well (like the Aussies do).

So why do we have this obsession with age in India? Shouldn't how a player plays be the criteria for selection instead of anything else? Even going by that criteria (performance), over the last year or so, both Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly figure among India's top three batsmen for the season.

While Rahul Dravid doesn't, when you factor in the fact that he was a captain trying to maintain a balance and sanity in a team that wasn't doing too well in the one-day arena and a coach who was a mixed bag and the stress would have been incredible, he's done well enough averaging 35+ in over 40 games in this period.

So let's just hang on a bit before rushing to proclaim, "Their time has come" or any other similarly shrill war cry. As a people, we need to learn to treat our players, those that have given us so many moments of joy over the years and those who will probably do so in the years ahead, with dignity and grace. Give them a break.