It’s not often that Sachin Tendulkar comments on cricket, mostly what you get from him is the odd remark about his batting records or a non-committal response on his retirement plans. On other issues, he maintains dignified silence. This is why his observations on team selection and the yardstick for assessing players are significant.
Put in simple terms, Sachin’s point is: Runs alone don’t tell you how good a player is, what matters more is temperament and the ability to handle pressure. There are numerous cases of domestic kings who, when promoted to the next level, failed miserably.
Much before Sachin, Sunil Gavaskar said the same thing. In his book too what counts is temperament, not scores or technique. For Gavaskar, a batsman passes the test only if he makes tough runs on unfriendly wickets.
The important part of Sachin’s comment is not what he said --- more interesting is the result if this essential eligibility criterion (of temperament being a better indicator of quality than runs) is applied to players on the fringes of the India team
Would Suresh Raina deserve selection if judged on this criterion? Raina first played for India eight years ago and despite 174 ODI appearances and 17 Tests seems to be headed nowhere. He is a terrific one-day player but his weakness against pace is so glaring that Ranji captains push two fielders back on the leg side and throw the ball to a quick bowler as he walks out.
Rohit Sharma is another who would struggle to pass the test. Rohit averages more than 60 in first-class but, like Raina, is slotted as a one-day expert.
Virat Kohli is the only young player who meets the standards. He moved quickly from domestic cricket to Tests, and smoothly adjusted gears.
The upcoming season will decide whether Shikhar Dhawan, Cheteshwar Pujara and Murali Vijay clear the Gavaskar-Tendulkar test.
The writer is a Delhi Daredevils official.