In the world of cricket, all corrective actions, especially those that follow a particularly disastrous tour, always run the risk of being labeled reactionary and vindictive. So the way the players have reacted to the BCCI decision to rest the seniors and blood the juniors in the forthcoming series against relatively inexperienced Bangladesh is hardly surprising.
Four years ago, after India reached the World Cup final in 2003 and lost to Australia, now chief selector Dilip Vengsarkar had said: "I would love to see India achieve the status that Australia enjoys where the team doesn't even miss the likes of Steve Waugh, Shane Warne, Jason Gillespie.''
Now, if the replacements for the seniors are not tried and tested in a relatively easy series like Bangladesh, where else? How will we achieve that status which Vengsarkar had talked of in 2003? Will they be thrown in during the tour of England in July-August, or against Australia in December-January!
Bangladesh may have shocked strong sides like India and South Africa on their off days, but they still have miles to go in Tests. Youngsters should be tried now, and not in really tough series that are scheduled later. If we exclude Bangladesh's record against Zimbabwe, then the side, now coached by Dav Whatmore, has managed just one draw in all their tests against other Test playing countries! That means 35 losses in 36 tries -- a loss percentage of 97, which would have been cent percent but for a draw against the West Indies.
As the apex cricketing body, there's nothing wrong in the BCCI suggestion that the selectors look for some fresh legs and faces. The selection committee, too, is not entirely obligated to follow BCCI's suggestions and is entitled to take the players it feels can win the series.
Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, VVS Laxman, Rahul Dravid and Yuvraj Singh continue to be the core of the Indian Test side. Their presence should guarantee a win against Bangladesh, which is yet to prove its mettle in the longer version. But then it will also leave no scope for an aspiring youngster to leave his mark.
Rest vs Endorsements
Unfortunately, in the present atmosphere of lack of mutual trust, any attempt to rest the seniors can easily be linked to the seniors' unease over new endorsement clauses. Srikkanth recently wrote that a similar situation occurred 18 years ago when BCCI wanted him to ''dump the seniors,'' who were demanding graded payments.
There could be truth in what Srikkanth says, but today the situation is substantially different, at least in one major way: the idea to rest the seniors is not related not just to the issue of endorsements or graded payments but also has to do with their performances.
For a billion Indians, the World Cup is the most significant piece of silverware in the world and all the hype and public expectations are generally geared towards winning it more than anything else. In fact, ex-players and World Cup winners like Srikkanth too have had a big role in generating this hype every four years. The very appointment of a foreign coach two years back and his thrust on experimentations were geared towards this very objective.
But when the moment of reckoning arrived, seniority and experience were given precedence over youth (Raina was left out of the team while Dinesh Karthik and Sreesanth did not get to play in the Cup at all).
Logically, if some seniors have had their chances and failed, the juniors too deserve to showcase their skills. And what better series than Bangladesh where the pressure is likely to be far less due to the new found respect for the team.
Resting is not Sacking
Unfortunately, resting a player is often misconstrued as sacking in India. Rather it should be treated as a well thought out response to a major failure and an appropriate test of the calibre of the young guns.
The present situation is very different from that of 1989 that Srikkanth is portraying. "Resting the seniors" would not have been possible in the Pakistan series of 1989. Had Srikkanth listened to Dungarpur, it would have spelt disaster for India. The team that went to Pakistan was a tremendous mix of relatively inexperienced ones like Manjrekar (Just five Tests old), Sachin Tendulkar (into his first series), and experienced ones like Azhar, Kapil, Shastri and Sidhu, which helped India draw the four-Test series 0-0. Everybody expected India to lose 0-3 or 0-4 against a world-beating bowling attack that boasted of Imran, Waqar, Wasim and Abdul Qadir. Srikkanth failed utterly in the series, scoring just 97 runs in seven innings.
New cricket manager Ravi Shastri knows the importance of grooming youngsters. Who can forget his three wickets off one over in Wellington when he was suddenly drafted for India duty as an 18-year-old. And the rest is history. Just think if Tendulkar had been chosen to represent India as a 22-year-old, and not as a young lad of 16! It was their youth that made all the difference in their fantastic records.
It's little uncomfortable to see ex-players like Wasim Akram and Gordon Greenidge hold forth on the virtues of persisting with seniors and even on the endorsement issues, which clearly is none of their concern. Their own boards and teams seem to be in disarray after the exit of Inzamam and Brian Lara and could definitely use some sound advice to put their houses in order.