The second season of the Indian Premier League is a good seven months away, so it is hard to understand why Hyderabad announced that VVS Laxman had been stripped of captaincy and was being replaced by Adam Gilchrist.
India are due to play Australia in a Test series in a few days time and this news is demoralising. Hyderabad are entitled to make a change in their team, but the timing of the announcement is strange. Gilchrist’s elevation while sacking an India icon on the eve of a crucial series defies logic. Hyderabad have a new chief executive officer, thankfully he is not an Aussie, else screams of conspiracy would have been made.
Laxman has not been part of the one-day squad for a couple of seasons now, so the announcement could have been made before the one-day series against England, which starts in mid-November. It is not that Gilchrist’s captaincy was spectacular as Hyderabad hardly won a match under him.
Hopefully, this affront will spur Laxman to produce his best, which he usually does against the Australians. There's not been much of hue and cry about the change in captaincy. That's because everybody was preoccupied with writing epitaphs of the senior players.
Sourav Ganguly is invariably the fall guy when it comes to asking for changes. He and Laxman are perennially on trial despite their record and it speaks volumes of their temperament that they keep churning out runs amidst all this pressure.
It was baffling why Ganguly was not at the training camp in Bangalore while those who failed in the Irani Cup were there. Who selected the guys for the camp? The old committee? Also, who is the physio of the team? Why is he not being consulted about the fitness of players while someone at the NCA is giving fitness certificates?
Classy centuries by Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli in the warm up game against the Australians will no doubt put a lot of pressure on the middle order to keep their spots in the remaining two Tests.
There are also S. Badrinath and Yuvraj Singh waiting in the wings. The seniors will be spurred by the double challenge of playing against the best team in the world as well as maintaining their places in the team. They will take heart from the fact that against the full-strength Aussie attack, the youngsters got tons. So with a bit of luck, they should also be able to do well.
It's a pity the umpire referral system will not be used in this series. The Indians came off second-best in this system in Sri Lanka but that was simply because they had not got the hang of it and used it more with emotion than cricketing sense. This can happen when a team is not doing well and is under pressure.
On pitches that would help spin, the system would have been a big help in defusing potential explosive situations. Not many walk these days and that can lead to frustration if the reprieved player goes on to play a match-winning innings. That’s why Anil Kumble is unlikely to agree to a pact about taking a fielder's word for catches taken close to the ground.
When a team is desperate to win, these pacts go out of the window, as was evident a few months ago, and in any case it's strange logic to accept that a player, who stays when he knows he is out, is going to be honest about catches he has taken near the turf.