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Of schoolboy cricket

Filed under: Sports by Hari
Posted on Fri, Sep 23, 2005 at 10:03 IST (last updated: Sun, May 24, 2009 @ 19:23 IST)

India finally won a series outside the subcontinent after 19 long years! Wow! Great achievement, right? Big deal!

Sorry to sound cynical, but this series victory against a schoolboy Zimbabwean outfit (which had at most just three or four players of real international class) doesn't mean a thing even if that dubious record is now out of the way. To illustrate my point let's look at the manner of victory in the second test: a real struggle to bowl out a team that was standing on its last legs. Without Irfan Pathan's magnificent spells, India would probably struggled to bowl out Zimbabwe twice. Essentially, it was a one-man show with a burst of aggression every now and then from Zaheer Khan. Again, going back to the batting performance, was it really satisfactory? 366 all out after being 190 odd for just the loss of a wicket? Admittedly that score was enough in the final reckoning to win, but was it enough to prove a point? I don't think so. Then let's go back to the first test match and take a look at Ganguly's laboured, almost pathetic, century. It was enough to silence his critics for the moment, but was it enough to really justify that outburst against the coach? Ganguly's very defensiveness and his attitude speak volumes. The very fact that he spoke out so vehemently after his century goes to prove that he was essentially playing for himself, not for the team. He was playing to prove a point against his critics: not for the benefit of his team. Hence that extremely defensive style of play and a excrutiatingly slow run rate.

I really do think that for the benefit of Indian cricket, Ganguly should retire from international cricket honourably before he's chucked out like so many before him. If the history of Indian cricket should teach him anything it should teach him to quit while he's ahead (and even at this moment of victory, I seriously doubt whether he's ahead). He's had a very long and successful run as a captain and he should seek to end it on a winning note. He's had his chances and he's had a fairly successful career as a batsman. It's only going one way for him now: downhill, fast. Before everything starts falling apart, he should just withdraw respectably. It would also open up the team for a fresh set of youngsters to step in and prove their worth. For far too long, Ganguly has blocked his place in the team at the expense of fresh talented youngsters. For too long, there have not been enough chances given to the newcomers. For too long the batting positions have remained stagnant. This should change. The senior players should slowly make way for the next generation. It's now the era of the Yuvraj Singhs, the Virender Sehwags and the Mohammed Kaifs in Test Cricket. As I have already mentioned before in a previous article, whether they like it or not, the Gangulys, the Dravids and the Tendulkars will have to move aside at some point of time or the other. Time is running out slowly but surely on their careers. The sooner they step aside, the better for them and for Indian cricket.

Speaking of schoolboy cricket, the Bank Alfalah Series in Sri Lanka was another instance of why the ICC has got its priorities screwed up as far as quality cricket is concerned. Sorry, sir, but Bangladesh versus Sri Lanka is a mockery of International cricket. Bangladesh stood absolutely no chance against a strong Sri Lankan side playing at home. After the highs of the dramatic Ashes series, we are condemned to watch India make heavy weather of a weakened Zimbabwe team and a strong Sri Lanka professionally maul a pathetic Bangladesh. Do India or Sri Lanka really gain out of beating Zimbabwe and Bangladesh? Is there really any meaning or pride in playing such weak sides or is it just an exercise in boosting up individual and team records? All this makes me seriously think that a two-tier system of International cricket would be definitely worth implementing. At least we wouldn't have to watch such one-sided contests on a regular basis. Sadly I doubt whether the ICC would implement such a system because it would cut down on the number of series that can be played in a year and that would mean so much loss of revenue... that's the focal point of modern cricket and that one factor explains the current state of affairs so succintly.

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