African Safari: The tour diary
Ashish Shukla - 23 October 2001
Lessons from the master
Indian cricket needs youngsters who are consistent and have a better
success rate than one match per 15 innings. Unfortunately, none of the
new faces seem to have the temperament that will do justice to their
The boys currently being tried out in one-day internationals do not
appear to have the necessary mental make-up to make it to the Test side.
Jacob Martin, Yuvraj Singh, Reetinder Singh Sodhi, Harvinder Singh and
Virender Sehwag are all set to return home after the tri-series is over.
Even match-winning performances against Kenya at Paarl on Wednesday, in
what is now essentially the semi-final of the Standard Bank triseries
competition, will not change that.
John Wright and Sourav Ganguly have backed these men for the past year.
Wright, in particular, is very impressed with Sodhi, as he is with
Mohammad Kaif, and praises them no end for the attitude they show in the
nets. But is attitude alone a guarantor for success in the international
Indian batting legend Sunil Gavaskar has strong views on the subject. He
says the youngsters must yearn for an Indian cap; it shouldn't come free
to them. Promotion to the highest level must be linked with performance.
For instance, Kaif, in 40-50 first-class innings, has only three
hundreds. A player like Martin, for instance, has 10-12 hundreds. Should
Kaif be given a precedence only because his attitude is favoured by the
people who matter?
"If attitude is the only key, then who needs cricketers?" asks Gavaskar.
"A battalion might as well do the job." As always, Sunny is crisp and
puts forward an argument which is difficult to refute.
Wright sought Gavaskar out for dinner before the game at East London,
and it appears that the two men had a frank talk on a variety of
subjects concerning Indian cricket, including the men who should make
the playing eleven.
"I can understand if someone playing forward is beaten by the movement
and edges the ball to the wicket-keeper or the slips," says Gavaskar.
"But if batsmen are pulling to mid-off and steering catches to point and
the cover region, they must be held accountable." It is why, he
stresses, that an India cap should not come cheap to anyone.
Gavaskar reels off the names of batsmen who have slogged at the domestic
level and then earned the national cap. People who have sweated for the
cap seem to value it more. "Look at somebody like Laxman. He has had
over 3,000 runs in domestic competition before he was recalled in his
Wright, who everyone agrees has moulded the Indian side into a composite
unit, wants Gavaskar to come and speak to the boys. The legendary
opener, though, is taking his time on the subject. "Frankly, I am more
comfortable with youngsters, in the under-19 age group, who are
flexible," says Gavaskar. The master batsman, who is now heading the
National Cricket Academy based in Bangalore, as well as Wright, are two
personalities connected with cricket in India who can make a lasting
contribution to the team in days to come.
As for the youngsters who will definitely be heading home, it is not
even worth hoping for a place in the Test side. There is a vacancy for
an opener now that Sadagopan Ramesh has ruled himself out; Hemang
Badani, too, will be missing from the middle order. Yet none of the
young cricketers mentioned in this column could aspire for a Test berth.
Yuvraj Singh comes closest to being given an extension on this tour, but
even that looks very remote at this juncture.
The theories of Wright and Gavaskar could be put to test on the subject
of Vinayak Mane. Mane is seen as a promising opener and one who might
still make it to the Indian team for the Test matches on this tour.
Wright has been making enquiries in India, and Gavaskar too has a
favourable impression of the youngster.
But, applying Gavaskar's theory, Mane shouldn't be given a break right
away in what is essentially a demanding tour. He must earn his cap.
"I stand by my opinion," says Gavaskar. "Perhaps it would be right to
blood him on a tour, say in England, where there are a couple of first-
class games and a youngster can ease himself in into the side."
African Safari - Other issues
04 Oct | 08 Oct | 15 Oct | 19 Oct | 22 Oct | 23 Oct | 29 Oct | 30 Oct | 03 Nov |
05 Nov | 13 Nov | 17 Nov | 21 Nov