Kadambari Murali questions BCCI’s rationale behind choosing the tri-series squad from which Dravid and Ganguly have been left out. Check out graphicscricket Updated: Jan 22, 2008 03:10 IST
Every time you think Indian cricket is following a plan and making substantial gains, something stupid comes along and messes up that image of hope. On Sunday, even as the Indian Test squad in Perth was preparing to go out and celebrate their win in the third Test, came the big dampener: The news that the one-day squad had been announced in India and Rahul Dravid and Sourav Ganguly's names didn't figure in the list.
The reason? The Indian selectors, wise men all, were looking ahead to building a team for the future and they believed that Ganguly and Dravid were too old for this version of the game. The format would apparently tire them out and young legs were the order of the day. There were also some reports of a really bizarre argument: The grounds in Australia being so large, the older players' arms would tire sooner in throwing the ball from the ropes. If this is true, it's the kind of rubbishy logic that is given to justify anything and everything.
Australia are the one-day world champions. Undisputed. Just have a look at the Australian Test squad — most of who will also feature in the one-dayers. Symonds is nearly 33, pace spearhead Lee is 31, his partner Stuart Clark is a year older. Michael Clarke is 27, Hussey nearly 33, Ponting 33, Gilchrist and Hayden both 36, Hogg is 37 and Rodgers, who made his Test debut in Perth, is 30. The baby of the squad? Shaun Tait, at just short of 25.
Dravid incidentally, is acknowledged as one of the finest slip fielders in the world and while Ganguly's ground fielding has come under the scanner, the value he brings to the team with the bat and often, at vital times with the ball, cannot be discounted. This is all without even bringing in the case of VVS Laxman, who was dumped from the one-day squad a few years ago and has never returned. Given how Laxman plays against Australia, how can he not be considered an asset?
The worst part of all this is that it could perhaps be justified if the young players who replaced these stalwarts had justified the faith placed in them, but they haven't really.
Twenty20 success does not a player make, except perhaps in India, where no one seemed to care that the over-the-top celebrations that the T20 Cup engendered was followed by a comprehensive thrashing in the ODI series at home against Australia. Dravid, Ganguly and Tendulkar are all among the top five one-day performers of the year for India (along with Yuvraj and Dhoni). Look at the players who are being looked at as young replacements for the duration, Robin Uthappa, Rohit Sharma, Dinesh Karthik and Gautam Gambhir.
Of these, only Gambhir has done decently enough, with 634 runs in 21 games at 35.22. Uthappa has 509 in 20 at 29.94, Karthik 287 in 16 at 26.09 and Sharma's played three and has 61 runs at 20.33.
Meanwhile, Virender Sehwag had 66 First Class runs in 5 innings this season before his selection for the Test side. However, he is considered to be the ‘X’ factor which justifies his selection for the ODI squad. Even if you pick up the criteria of domestic performance being rewarded, well, Gambhir has done superbly (730 runs in five games at 91.25), but in the five Ranji games they have played, both Uthappa (188 at 26.85) and Sharma (191 at 27.28), have failed.
Where are these men?
And why is Mohammad Kaif, considered among India's best fielders and someone who had a very good one-day season before he was inexplicably made to be in and out of the XI and then axed, not being given a chance? He has 687 runs in eight games at 57.25 (Raina, who's been picked, has 683 in eight at 48.78).
Then, there's the peculiar case of Badrinath, who was picked in the squad, not played and then dropped. He has 659 in seven Ranji games at 65.9 (and 888 in the first-class season so far). Finally, there's Parthiv Patel. Patel has 615 runs in seven Ranji games at 51.25. In fact, he has had an incredible first-class season overall, garnering 963 runs to be second only to Aakash Chopra (1029 runs) in the first-class run getters list this season.
Chopra's strike-rate obviously means he will not be considered for one-day selection (though a phenomenal season means he pushes for a Test recall in a Test heavy year), but Patel has no such issue. So why isn't he being given a chance to come back instead of Karthik? Plus, he's only 22.
Earning your stripes
No one disputes the need for a vision for the future, but it must be born of a system that is fair and transparent. Unfortunately, we seem to be given different yardsticks for different players at different times. And with the BCCI's new policy of announcing the squad in a press release, there is no one to answer these questions.
Michael Hussey maintains that the main reason for his appetite for runs was the fact that he waited so long to earn the right to wear the baggy green. He was 30 when he made his international debut and he's spent the past three years or so making up for lost time.
An India cap is precious and should be treated as such.