Why? While Sachin can murder any bowler on any given day, he does not bat consistently and instead plays his natural attacking game and cannot be depended upon like Gavaskar or Steve Waugh. Gavaskar on the other hand also played his natural waiting game which, however, suited the team's requirements and played like that day after day after day, on difficult pitches, in hostile conditions, against the best pace bowlers in their homelands.
An analysis into the root of the problem: This is one problem that we keep on dishing out as an excuse for our poor performance abroad. Like every problem, there has to be a solution to it. We have tried out several alternatives. But are these alternatives attacking the root of the issue? Ever since we played in the gully, every player just wants to bat. 'Mere ko batting de na' - Thats perhaps the most often spoken statement in gully cricket - the breeding ground for Indian cricketers. How many people actually volunteer to bowl?
People do so just because you can not bat unless someone else bowls. Then how the hell can we expect a world-class pace bowler.
We talk about having cricket academies, which we do. But to what extent does it address the problem stated above. We talk about having fast pitches, but this problem is even before players get to that stage. Which gully cricket match is actually played on a pitch? It's only the exclusive few who are found by mere accident that get into an institution, where cricket is played on the pitch.
So how can such an issue be addressed? The last occasion when this mentality was marginally altered, was when Kapil Dev established himself as a world-class bowler. But then that was merely an accident. There has to be some institutionalized process by which this mentality can be changed.
I do not have a solution to offer, but then the argument still stands. Has the BCCI ever tried to attack this issue?
We need to start thinking of attacking this 'batting' syndrome upfront.
The media can play an important role in this process. They need to bring more glamour to the business of bowling.
Also, the cricket format played at the domestic level can be altered to encourage bowlers, although I can not instantaneously think of one.
Well, so the point I am trying to make is that the problem is not unsolvable, the way it has been made to look. Just that you need to have some scratching of the head to be done. Infact, ideas could be invited from readers for a format which would be more encouraging for bowlers.
Guess I have made my point. Any ideas?
Prem Panicker responds: I am not sure there is much the BCCI can do about how gully cricket is played, frankly. Having said that, there is plenty the board can actually do. Firstly, it can start an academy.
No, I am not forgetting one already exists -- merely, I remember the background, as well. When the BCCI was told by then sports minister Dhindsa to shape up or ship out, it produced what it called a vision document. Enshrined in it, was the concept of a cricket academy. It then started one, in Bangalore, borrowing on the facilities of the KSCA and the Sports Authority of India. It held ONE camp -- of 14 days duration, during which it did its damndest to ruin the careers of both Murali Karthik and Harbhajan Singh. Then it went into limbo.
In September of 2001, Mr Dalmiya defeated Mr Muthaiah in the board elections and became president. Within 24 hours, he had sacked the head of the academy, and the coaches, and installed Sunil Gavaskar as the new chief of the academy. For one entire year, the academy did nothing -- no camp, no coaching, no nothing. Then, Gavaskar resigned as academy chief, citing pressure of other work as the reason for his inability to do the job. The BCCI has not even appointed a replacement. So, on paper, we have an academy, which satisfies the government. In actual fact, we have nothing.
Meanwhile, other countries use our facilities to produce bowlers, and to fine tune them -- interestingly, McGrath, Gillespie and others from Australia; Ntini and Klusener from South Africa; and the entire lot of seam bowlers from Sri Lanka, to mention just a few examples, have at various times come down to Chennai, to the MRF Pace Academy, for practise. All of them were sponsored by their respective boards.
Till date, our own board has not bothered to send its pace bowlers, budding or practising, to the academy under its aegis -- those who do go, go on their own steam.
There was an era when cricket was largely amateur -- people came up on their own, with little or no help from the system. Today, it is all system. Nations like South Africa and Australia, that have well-defined systems in place to take talent when young and develop it, do consistently well. Other nations, like England, which haven't been doing so well but are now keen to improve, have been increasingly adopting this model. Meanwhile, nations like the West Indies, Pakistan, and India are now struggling to replace their ageing stars.
As you say, it is not impossible. But it does require commitment from the administrators of the game -- and sadly, that commitment is nowhere in evidence.
Is it possible to prepare and maintain pitches with good bounce and pace on climatic conditions that prevail in places like Chennai etc....? And did Gavaskar get to play on fast bouncy tracks to have such a record against West Indian fast bowlers?
Prem Panicker responds: About preparing fast pitches in places like Chennai, yes, certainly. I'd judge from your name that you are from that part of the world. If yes, next time you are there you should check out the MRF Academy. Without importing either soil or soil experts, without any kind of fuss at all, they prepared, and possess, three tracks -- a dead one, a decent Test type track with pace and bounce, and a lightning quick track of the kind you would find in Perth. Again, I remember when I was in college, Guru Nanak College, which was close to my home and where I occasionally went to practise (incidentally, that was when a young Robin Singh had just landed on the scene) was extremely quick. You could also check out the groundsman at the MAC -- a man with close to 30 years experience, an institution in himself, and a guy who can (and has) produce, on that ground, any kind of track you care to name.
As to the other, the comparison doesn't apply, for two reasons. Firstly, Gavaskar learnt his art at a time when matting wickets -- with their accelerated pace and bounce -- were prevalent at the college and university levels. Secondly, the players of his generation went through a more leisurely schedule -- they had time, thus, to go back to domestic cricket, to work on shortcomings as they came up. The classic example is Mohinder Amarnath, actually -- made to look a complete dummy by the West Indian quicks, he then went on to be rated the best player of pace of his generation.
And that brings up one further point -- then, if you didn't spend time and effort on your game, you were out -- and since matches and tours were not as frequent as they are today, a bad trot could have a huge impact on your privy purse. Today, one tour follows another in such bewildering succession, that it no longer matters -- players keep telling themselves that sooner or later something will click, and they will get a decent score, and can live off it for the next few failures.
I cant help but agree with what Theuns Botha says. This problem dates back in time when we were struck by the 'developing team' syndrome. There are absolutely noplayers in India with attitude. (infact, you still have those gentlemen pace bowlers who will were full-sleeve shirts, all buttoned up, ready to serve the opposition with a full meal.) At that point of time, had the Mumbai team been made the national side, I am sure they would have performed better. Because, they have a sense of pride. They may not be superstars but that zeal is there.
But the issue still remains. Indians lack the guts to experiment. We will still have the 11 best players in the middle, rather than the best team. And we will continue to lose. After all we are a 'developing' nation.
Firstly, let me tell you that, myself, like most of cricket-loving Indians are extremely sick of the sponsorship fight going on between BCCI and ICC. A bit of relief this time that the players are relieved from intervening now.. That the BCCI has decided to back the players completely is indeed a really heartening news. Too much of money flow in any system would lead to so much corruption and confusion... which is what is happening in cricket also. It all happened after India hosted the 1996 World Cup and almost all the magazines wrote with so much awe how much money India made out of it. People of no other country are so mad on cricket like Indians, that, even ticket sales in Indian grounds can be comparable to a first-day Shah Rukh Khan movie ticket sales.. Not many tickets are sold in the counter!! Beyond a point, no product can be sold just because it is being endorsed by a cricketer. I remember some opinion poll, in which less than 20% people said that they buy a product because of a cricketer endorsing it.. This would mean that, immaterial of whether a cricketer endorses a product.. its selling value would be based on the most important criterion: Its performance, as heard from friends and relatives, and the company's credibility in general. Apart from that, the advertising money that a company decides to spend would anyway be spent, using movie stars or handsome/beautiful models. So, everyone has been hugely caught in a virtual net.. thinking that Indians buy a lot of product watching TV during World Cup and other important tournament (like ICC Championship). The only beneficiaries were cricketers.. now ICC wants a huge share of it, directly or indirectly, to fill its coffin. Even though I am an ardent cricket fan, liking to watch even Pak Vs Zim matches, I never go by the stars who endorse the products.
In my opinion, most cricketers are very bad while they appear on TV endorsing products.. They look very funny... I seriously wish someone say all the sponsors to spend some money on doing surveys as to whether it is really worth to spend so much on cricketers and cricket and sometimes getting a very negative feeling from the Indian public (e.g, South African Airlines... it had no business with India, spoilt whatever future ties possible, when it created furore over Sahara, thereby jeopardising India's participation in ICC C T). Already cricket is messed up by selectors, board members, ICC's policies, umpires, referees and spectators. Let the corporate world, who, if they want, can do a professional messing around, not enter into the chaos.
Prem Panicker responds: Would you say the syndrome is typical of a country that lacks heroes in other fields? I don't know, top sportsmen endorse products everywhere, in every country. In India it happens to be cricketers because they are the most visible; in the US you have the superstar athletes, and the likes of Tiger Woods; in Australia, 'Thorpedo' is doing fair to middling... I think it's always been this way, that products chose beautiful women and superstar sportsmen to be their public face, perhaps because from the days of ancient Greece on, we have worshipped female beauty and male athletic prowess.
Actually, a friend of mine, sometime back, did come up with an interesting thought. We were driving along a stretch of Mumbai which was ugly, to say the least. On both sides of the road -- and right in the middle of that ugliness -- were these enormous hoardings, featuring various film stars and cricketers.
That was when my friend got to thinking -- and her argument was, if visibility is the name of the game, why does a company assume that sticking a star's face is the only means to that end? Why, she asked, can't a company take up say a stretch of road, clean it up, and beautify it, provide amenities like say restrooms, benches, little parks, et al, and stick its brand name all over that stretch? People passing by, and people using those amenities, were far more likely, she argued, to remember that brand. And ultimately, everyone benefits.
She has a point. But sponsors have multi-million ad budgets to get rid of -- and sticking star faces on billboards is the easier, if less imaginative, way of spending that money I guess.
I was reading your discussions. I have something to say about the World Cup team. Regarding Kumble, he doesnt have good overseas records and moreover he has not been match winner for quite sometime in ODIs. He is no good with bat also. So he can be dropped from World Cup 15. Even Srinath doesnt have good overseas records in ODIs. But nowadays he seems to be bowling well . He deserves to be in the 15 in spite of his fielding and running between the wickets, because we need 4 seamers in SA.
The other seamers would be Zaheer Khan, Agarkar. I dont prefer Nehra, because he is not a good fielder and he is also not consistent with his bowling. We have to go for Rakesh Patel, Youhanan or Mohanty ( who can swing the ball a little bit). Actually we need 4 seamers in the playing 11 itself. Harbhajan Singh or Murali Karthik for spinners. Pathiv Patel for wicket keeping. Laxman has to be dropped because he is not a one day player. Yuvaraj and Kaif in the squad but only one of them in the playing 11. We need not take Yuvaraj and Kaif for granted for all matches in spite of their good fielding. Dinesh mongia can be considered, because he is a good batter with reasonable fielding abilities. Bangar has to be in the 15, because he can be the 4th seamer. Is Murali Karthik in the squad of 30 ?
So the playing 15 would be:
Sehwag, Tendulkar, Ganguly, Dravid, Kaif, Yuvaraj, Mongia, Bangar, Parthiv Patel, Agarkar, Srinath, Zaheer Khan, Harbhajan, Murali Karthik, new comer (rakesh patel or gambhir etc).
A typical playing 11 would be
Sehwag, Tendulkar, Ganguly, Dravid, Kaif, Bangar, Parthiv, Agarkar, Srinath, Zaheer, Harbhajan or Sehwag, Tendulkar, Ganguly, Dravid, Kaif, Bangar, Parthiv, Agarkar, Srinath, Zaheer, Murali Karthik or Sehwag, Tendulkar, Ganguly, Dravid, Yuvaraj, Bangar, Parthiv, Agarkar, Srinath, Zaheer, Harbhajan or Sehwag, Tendulkar, Ganguly, Dravid, Yuvaraj, Bangar, Parthiv, Agarkar, Srinath, Zaheer, Murali Karthik
Of course when there are injuries then some sacrifice has to be made regarding seamers or batsmen. Similarily on some occasions one seamer can be removed and an additional batsman can come in. In matches with lesser teams (Zimbabwe, Holland) Dravid himself can keep wickets though I prefer Parthiv Patel keeping for all matches instead of Dravid. Also I prefer 4 seamers and one spinner for all matches.
If Murali Karthik is not picked up then I dont know who we can put in his place.
It is time for Indian fans to give up on cricket and take up on some other sports. Don't they get tired of this over-rated, overpaid and under achieving gods who don't have any accountability and responsibility. Like everything else in this country, the sports is also ruled by corrupt administrators and corrupt players. Generally the players who get picked up to play in the national level or state level are either those who have political influence or sons of rich people. More talented players from lower classes hardly get picked up unless they have talent matching to the levels ofl of Tendulkars or Kamblis.
Even for me it is hard to give up on cricket because our country is sport starved. That is because there is encouragement only for cricket. They destroyed our hockey. Here is the real team that should be picked up for cricket for their grittiness and dedication:
1. Milkha Singh
3. Sunil Gavaskar
4. Kapil Dev
5. Leander Paes
6. Mahesh Bhupathi
7. Narayana Murthy (yes Infosys)
8. Kiran Bedi
9. Shabana Azmi
These are the few. But there are so many of such people.It does not matter that they are old or know the game but they have the spirit. By looking at the way the Indian team is performing, I realized that any one can play.
I was a die hard cricket fan and remember getting up early in the morning(Live telecast and satellite channels were unheard of then) listening to cricket commentary on Radio whether the match is played in NZ or Australia. I used to remain awake listening to the commentary of test matches being played in England and West Indies irrespective whether India was one of the team involved.
In the last few years I have become a bitter critic of this game called cricket. Just like one tends to erase unwanted information from your computer hard disk to save space by pressing ctlr+alt+delete, I have consciously been deleting all information /statistics in my memory on cricket to fill it up with more important information.
I would squarely blame the media and sponsors for making demi gods of these ordinary mortals the so called stars to sell their products, increase the recall value of their products and increase viewer ship and readership. During the 1999 world cup I use to have hearty laugh after reading articles and statements made by columnist, cricket officials and players that India can win the world cup. Some of my friends even went to the extent of calling me unpatriotic when I said that India lacks a match winning bowling attack, killer instinct and either Australia or Pakistan will win the cup and India will not even reach the semis. The match fixing episodes further proved my point and it was the last nail in the coffin as far as my fading interest in the game was concerned.
The so called stars one can make out from the body language on the field, the cricket officials who run the show ably supported by the media and sponsors are taking the gullible public for a ride. To take the crickets fever to its peak a lot of hype around the players and India's chances to win the cup has been created. The low level of commitments shown by the players and commercialization of the game makes even more remote that India stands any chance to be in the top six teams in the coming world cup. It's a tragedy that a great nation like ours cannot cheer for any other sport but for cricket which is played in roughly only 25 countries in the world.
Our administrators will not learn any lessons. Our coaches, captain and star players will blame the weather, pitch, umpiring for our pathetic spineless displays overseas.
The administrators will not bother to have lively pitches in India nor will they have any plan in place to spot budding talents and invest in them to train them to become world class players. We as a nation love mediocracy and that is the reason for the falling standards in all spheres of life. Under the prevailing circumstances the best thing for people like me is to keep away from this madness called cricket and wish the entire enthusiast best of luck.
My prediction it will be a miracle if any team other than Australia wins the world cup.
You had no answer for Pushpak's analytical invective. So, you backed out saying that you would leave it to the readers to answer...didn't you?
Come on Prem we need a rebuttal from you...do not chicken out. We are so divided that we will never unite. Rise above the occasion and give the team the support it needs.
Prem Panicker responds: Sure I backed out, and I intend to stay out. If someone does an analytical piece and the response is for his mailbox to be flooded with reams of accusations of bias, invective (analytical, or of the "fifth estate whore" variety, why would he ever bother, ever again? As far as team performance goes, I don't think the reason they are playing badly is because of what I write in response to a reader, so I don't even have that reason for enduring uncalled for abuse.This whole furore started with a piece I wrote, in which I made many points. The whole was transformed into a "biased, motivated" article against one player. Cool -- I'll keep my "biases" to myself thank you, you guys carry on. And um, before you or other readers read "petulance" into this response, let me make one thing very clear -- my only feeling is a kind of resigned amusement; I know now that this argument will go on and on and on, and meanwhile, the fate of Ganguly, or any of the others for that matter, will be decided on the basis of what they will -- and can -- do out there.
What's up with you Prem. It is obvious that you are hell bent on removing Ganguly from his captaincy with your pretentious 'I love cricket more than thou' attitude. Let us be real and try to handle the issues one by one.
Our batting performance has been pathetic. But then...the Kiwis in their own backyard performed miserably too. The pitches are unplayable substandard pitches ....even the local press has criticized the curators for the mess. So why blame Ganguly? As for Sehwag (the little blaster), Tendulkar (the little master), Dravid (the wall) and Laxman....they have all failed to score.
None of the local batsmen, barring one, could make a decent score in the treacherous wickets......so why blame Ganguly?
Next, take a look at our bowling performance. Even our best bowlers are below average. With such bowling strength we cannot even expect to bowl out any second string Kiwi club team, let alone a full blooded test team. Let us face the facts..even if our batsmen came up with a somewhat decent score, we will not be able to bowl our opponents within that target. So what are you beating your gums about?
Finally, I must concur with Mr. Jhanjharia (not his abusive language though) that we Indians are so engrossed with our regional politics and squabbles that we will never rise above the occasion. Ganguly has indeed been our 'winningest captain'. Look at the number of tests he has captained and how many he has won. Numbers speak for themselves. The fact that we beat the mighty Australians ...the fact that we gave the English such a fight in their own backyard gives his ability as a captain a lot of mileage. Had it not been for his ability as a captain, what could we do with our rag-tag bowling attack? I have a lot of respect for Tendulkar, Dravid, Sehwag and others.
You talk about leading by example, but then what examples have the others set to be handed over the captain's job? At least, for Ganguly we can show the winning statistic.
You pretend to be a righteous cricket lover but actually behind the smoke and mirror you smack of parochialism. Anybody with a little bit of intelligence can see right through you. Stop that incessant banter and write some constructive stuff that will help the Indian team. As I write, India is about to loose the second one day match. Except Sehwag, all our stars have failed miserably....so why chew Ganguly out...after all, he did not ask his batsmen to get out for a penny. Panicker, stop your yellow journalism. It's time you made amends by writing some good articles that you are capable of. Thanks!
Prem Panicker responds: Now this is kind of wierd -- I was picking up letters in the order they landed in my mailbox, and responding to them. So I read this one -- and started responding. And then was struck by the thought that I'd read this name elsewhere, just now. Turns out, it was in the previous letter -- and there, you want me to rebut Mr Sarkar's contentions (which, if I were to attempt, would be 'yellow journalism'); whereas here you want me to stop talking of Ganguly. Consider it stopped. And I hope you now understand what I meant in the response to the earlier letter, about resigned amusement. Let's all go right along with our various personality cults. And a Very Happy New Year, to you and everyone else.
I agree with Rahul Gokhale's column asking readers not to waste their time on chats and discussions on cricket. I do have some weakness for cricket and sports where indians are involved. I do read Rediff.com, but with passage of time I have learnt to sift out the crap promoted by Prem Panicker & Co. In the last few days, it seems that some of the readers have tried in vain to ask Prem Panicker & Co. to cut off the crap.
I also feel like believing Prem Panicker's response that "....Rediff has managed to survive, for close to seven years now (despite all this crap)". It is kind of pain, but it seems that there is no way but to live with it.
I sincerely hope that Prem gets a very very good job ...in field other than cricket and sports.
Prem Panicker responds: Thank you for your good wishes, Sunil, and Happy New Year.