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Experience versus youth

Each time the selectors sit down to pick a team the issue before them is not just to judge individual merit but balance experience and youth, writes Amrit Mathur.

india Updated: Dec 06, 2006 03:15 IST

Few weeks back when Rajesh Bishnoi, a junior Rajasthan player, scored a hundred against Delhi in a practice game, everyone was highly impressed. The knock helped him get into the Ranji squad but Rajesh’s debut was far from memorable — he made two zeroes, out first ball in both innings.

The case of UP’s Tanmay Srivastava — successful at the under-19 level — is only slightly different. In a Irani Trophy game, his first first-class game, Tanmay made just one.

Nobody doubts the talent Rajesh or Tanmay possess but these examples show how tricky selection is. Each time the selectors sit down to pick a team the issue before them is not just to judge individual merit but balance experience and youth. Logic suggests: Play safe, stick to your proven players. Intuition says: Take a chance and push young talent. The question that arises is: Whether to stay with known players or pick youth on potential?

Nobody has a clear answer. Some favour experience as it provides comfort, others gamble with youth because it promises hope. There is a catch, though — expected world-beaters can turn out to be duds.

Unable to reconcile these contradictory issues, selectors rely on instinct and in the process, quite often, go horribly wrong. There have been many instances where hopefuls had turned cold, of the next Kapil Devs and Gavaskars that never arrived.

Does anyone remember batting prospects (Ambati Rayudu, Amol Majumdar, Nikhil Haldipur) and quick bowlers (Yohannan, Kumaran, Joginder Sharma, Gagandeep, Ranadeb Bose, SS Paul, Dodda Ganesh, Debashish Mohanty, Avishkar Salvi)?

Despite these, youth remains attractive because of the energy they possess and an excitement about the unknown. Raina, though out of favour now, will return because he is the next Yuvraj — exciting with the bat, exceptional in the field. Moreover, he has an attitude unacquainted with fear.

Contrast this with the approach of a senior experienced pro who plays within himself, measures his chances carefully, and understands the importance of balancing team needs and personal interest. A new player will boldly go for the big shots when on 46 in the 49th over. A seasoned player will look for singles to reach his half-century.

The experience versus youngster debate also rages at the Ranji level. Delhi debated long before retaining Amit Bahndari and recalling Dahiya and Rahul Sanghvi.

UP supported their veterans (Rizwan Shamshad, Ashish Winston Zaidi and Gyanendra Pandey) though they have a conveyor belt throwing up talented under-19 players. Punjab purges their team every alternate year, this season Luv Ablish and Karan Goyal have made impressive starts.

In India, selectors always dither on the experience versus youth question. Yesterday, Sourav was a no-no with the selectors announcing that there was no looking back. Now, Sourav is going to South Africa.

Things are different in Australia: There is no debate Down Under, only current performance counts; age, experience and emotions are irrelevant. No wonder, the Aussies remain world champions.