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The land of opportunity?

Filed under: Sports by Hari
Posted on Thu, Nov 10, 2005 at 17:06 IST (last updated: Sun, May 24, 2009 @ 19:21 IST)

When people, including the expert cricket commentators, euphorically start singing praises to the attitude, professionalism and aggression of the current Indian team and shower plaudits on the selectors for the infusion of young blood into the team as though all these are something totally new, I think they miss a point. While all their enthusiasm has a solid basis, the point is that, these things haven't cropped up all of a sudden out of thin air. After all, what we're seeing now is the result of quality hard work, fundamental changes in attitude and selection policy: all of which began some years ago. It's difficult to find an exact point where things started changing, but I think the era of true professionalism began when John Wright took over as coach of the Indian team. And it was under Ganguly that we found that edge of aggression that was missing in Indian cricket for a long time. It has been slow but steady progress and while attitudes have been changing, they haven't changed in a day. The process has to go on till we can challenge the best teams in the world.


In analysing the recent successes of Indian cricket, let me begin with the selectors. I think they showed great courage in infusing young, untested players into the Indian team in this series. They might seem like gambles which have paid off in a big way, but I guess we shouldn't really be surprised at the success of these moves. After all, the selectors haven't really gambled in the dark. On the contrary, the players who've made it into the current team have been part of this changing system. This can be best seen in their attitude, professionalism and aggression which the system has brought about.

Secondly, I think we need to put all these successes into the correct perspective. The signs are indeed encouraging that we have so many young players jostling for places in the team with seniors. True, we have won five out of six matches now with these new players contributing, but India has always been a strong side at home in One Day cricket with the exception of the last couple of years. Besides we've always been good at bilateral series, while triangular tournaments have been our biggest problem. And, as Geoffrey Boycott recently commented on Star Sports, we have yet to see how well these young players adapt to the longer variety of the game, stronger opposition and playing overseas under different, sometimes difficult conditions. So there are still a lot of things left to prove for this new bunch.

On the positive side, I think that the key difference between Indian teams of the past and the current team has not been just the young blood in the Indian team, but the number of players now fighting to make the team. There seems to be an endless crop of young fast bowlers emerging from the ranks. While there have always been "youngsters waiting in the wings", the difference now is that the talent pool seems to be much larger as well as richer. Today these players no longer seem afraid of International cricket. They want to belong there. They do not go by reputation and they are more assertive and aggressive. Eight or ten years ago, it was hard to look beyond Javagal Srinath for a quality fast bowler. Today we have plenty of young fast bowlers and many of them can bowl in the 140 km/hr range to boot. Fielding has hit another high point in Indian cricket and it's no longer just one or two of them who're carrying the team. The situation now is that we have eleven decent fielders and three or four who are outstanding. And last, but not least, wicket-keeping standards have improved tremendously in the last few years. No longer do we have to look at make-shift arrangements and compromise on the quality of wicket-keeping just to include another batsman. Sure, Dhoni and Dinesh Karthik aren't perfect, but they are miles ahead of the likes of Deep Dasgupta and Parthiv Patel (who started well, but really deteriorated alarmingly before he was dropped) and their batting is better too.

So Indian Cricket indeed is indeed the land of opportunity. What's really different now is that the current players are grabbing their opportunities with both hands. They understand that the price of opportunity is performance and can be nothing else. The new trend I see is that the selectors are willing to give more players more opportunities, but they aren't going to wait for ten or fifteen matches for a particular player to prove himself. And this doesn't go just for the "new" players - it goes for the senior players as well. The new mantra is - or should be - "five or six chances at most - and then you're out if you don't show any signs of performance." And that, in my mind, is really the biggest difference in Indian cricket today.

Picture courtesy: uk.sports.yahoo.com

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