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Rediff.com  » Cricket » 'Tendulkar has lost his fighting abilities'

'Tendulkar has lost his fighting abilities'

January 10, 2007 11:49 IST

Readers' responses to The naked and the dead feature:

It is SPOT ON. I feel we r saying this day only because of our seniors (namely Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar and VVS Laxman). Please make no mistake. I am a big fan of Dravid but I feel he let us down both in the batting front and captaincy. A couple of his decisions or atrocious at the best.

1. Where is the need to play Munaf when he is not fully fit.

2. Why does he not bring in Tendulkar to have a crack at SA in the second innings.

It is a very well known fact that Anil Kumble is not a great turner and so could not use the rough outside the leg stump as other leg spinners do. Then why persist with him alone.

And as far as Tendulkar goes, I think it is time the team management do tell him that he should not see himself as the savior of the team but one amongst 11. This is not the first time he batted so badly in the second innings.

With my short memory I can think of the innings against Pakistan (when Saurav Ganguly was the captain) when our famed batting line up has fallen like 10 pins, and against England in the last Test and NOW.  I tear my head to understand why these guys have to play like that.  Atleast the pitch is not so bad (as Dinesh Karthik and the SA batsmen have proved) to bat.

I strongly feel these guys have to forget the fear of failure (as Sanjay Manjrekar has famously said which lead to an uproar) and play according to the game situation (they can learn this from the way Karthik played).  I am sure these people would have been putting 100% of their time to analyze what went wrong.  Hope they identify what all other can see with a naked eye.

Hopefully there won't be any fullsome changes for the next series but certain tinkering is the need of the hour.

I could not find where to vent all these feelings. Thought this as one of the sensible place to do so.

Thanks.

Viswa

As usual, a fantastic piece. Great analysis of each player's performance. Hope someone in BCCI and the Selection Committee read this and take note of the points mentioned by you. I must admit, no cricket series is complete without your article. Each one a gem. Keep it up, prem!

Regards

Raghu Raman

Whenever I see this Guy "Greg Chappell" speaking, the Indian Team performance goes to zero.

After the debacle in one day series and start of first test in SA, there were no comments to be heard from this guy. Then we saw team winning the test.

Then immediatley, this guy again started speaking and performance of team went to zero again.

Regards

Deepak

Just to tell you that I enjoyed reading your analysis,'The Naked & the Dead'.Well, I look forward to reading your follow up article.If you ask me, I would say, get rid of 'Dead Wood'and get rid of Greg Chappell. Here is what I said on 28 Nov 2006.And it holds good even today!!

Indian Cricket Here is what one should do.

1.Sack Greg Chappel as Coach immediately.
2.Appoint KAPIL DEV as coach. He may be reluctant but he would agree if the BCCI makes a sincere request by way of an appeal.
3.Get back GANGULY as Captain.Well,I am no friend of Ganguly and I had sought his scalp when he was not performing.Times have changed and under the present conditions/circumstances when the morale of the Indian Cricket team has been badly mauled & bruised;thanks to Greg Chappel the Trojan Horse, Ganguly would arrest & reverse the tide.Greg Chappel has done an excellent job in unsettling the Indian Team,which not long ago was a winning combination and a formidable force to recon,only second to the Australians;but now reduced to a third rate,nay,an eighth rate team.
4.It is time to rest Sachin Tendulkar & Virender Sehwagh and infuse new blood.
5.Get kumble to play till the world cup.
6.Retain Rahul Dravid-he is a good,cool cricketer; but no good as a Captain. GANGULY may be cocky but it is his aggression on the field that is now needed.Having said that, Ganguly also needs to perform and perform well. He has to lead from the front,like RICKY PONTING.

Regards,

Colonel Rajan

Nice analysis. A point regarding Jimmy Amarnath. Your piece (the ganguly analysis part) suggests that Jimmy had a risen like a phoenix after the 5 ducks against the WI in india and excelled later aganist the Pakis and Windies, when in fact those performances preceeded before the world cup and not after!.

Anyways the disappointment of the current team in SA is cheifly due to Sehwag and SRT. Sehwag is done at No.1 other than playing on home wickets, he shouldn't be considered. I, a mighty ST fan, is really pissed off with the way he f...ed the game up. OK, if dravid is incapable of taking on the bowlers, doesn't mean that ST match him and then some.  I suspect there may be some politics involved, especially when guys of high caliber deliberately look like novices playing silly spin or his elbow is troubling or he's done with. India expects 100's from him not 40's or 50's or worst, gifting the game by way of contrived batsmanship. I hope he get's a strong message.

The guys are representing a country which should be above everything else.

Sincerely

Shaq

Thoroughly enjoyed your column. Am an avid cricket follower now based in Brazil which does not have any touch with cricket – soccer being the religion out here. Am deeply concerned like every other Indian at the state of Indian cricket as it stands now with the World cup round the corner these are ominous signs. I think the selectors needs to take some tough decisions – there is no way that people like Virendra Sehwag can be continued to take their places in the team for granted. If we could shut the door on Saurav Ganguly – arguably the most successful Indian captain till date (pardon me for going on a Bong trip) there is no reason why the same treatment should not be meted out to these people.

I am sure there are more eager and hungry cricketers who want to don the India colours and take pride in playing for this country rather than the so called super stars who only believe in making hay while the sun shines – in terms of endorsing umpteen products for commercials.

It is also a very sad state of affairs for Sachin Tendulkar – a true champion that India has produced but who today is struggling to hold on to his brilliance. I don`t know whether the Champion has it in him to emerge from this slump but it is indeed is very sad to see him struggle like this. We still have so much fond memories of him striking terrors at the heart of the bowlers and those copy book off drives that it is very difficult for us to see him in this state. I think that the writing is on the wall now and the Little Master should draw on his huge resource of talent and experience to have one last tango at the World Cup and then walk away into the sunset.

Look forward to the second part of your article on Wednesday.

Best Regds

Kaushik

The analysis is a bit premature simply because we have had great debuts in the last many years from people like Kaif, Raina, Balaji, Pathan, Nehra, Munaf and Parthiv Patel. So lets wait and see how far Sreesanth and Karthik go. The big story will be when these guys can be consistent.

And it is also important to understand that matches are lost not because some people were out of form but because those who were batting well, threw it away. From that perspective the biggest culprits were Jaffer (Durban), Dhoni (Durban)and Ganguly(Cape Town) - each of them played horrendous shots at critical junctures when they clearly knew how important it was for them to stay at the wicket.

And lets not forget Asad Rauf  in this whole analysis. When 5 decisions go against your best batsmen (2 Dravid, 2 Sachin 1 Karthick) and 3 in favour of the opposing team (Prince, Kallis, Pollock) it is a bit difficult to say what would have happenned had there been a proper umpire in the series - Could easily have been 3-0 in favour of India.  Funny how eager we all are to bash and smash our own team instead of recognizing that this was easily the most successful team to have ever visited South Africa !

Sharad Tyagi

I am an avid cricket fan and use to play at the national level once upon a time. It was disheartning to see our team perish after the way we started in the first test. But it wasnt shocking at all. We tend to get carried away with each win and forget that its been less of a team effort and more of individual brilliance, which has taken us through most of the times. And thats when we forget the mediocrity that lies in between, which has been plaguing the team. Unlike the Aussies, we tend to put our heroes on a pedestal and dont punish then when they tend to falter once too often. When players like Steve Waugh, Mark Waugh, Mark Taylor can be dropped from the Australian team, why cant we make Sehwag, tendulkar accountable for each atrocious innings that they play.

With all due respect to Tendulkar, he doesnt even seem like a patch of what he use to be. Good innings come few and far in between and failures have become very very common. And his innings in the last test defied logic and common sense.

Sehwag, besides his technique needs to get his brain checked. Rahul Dravid has had a rare failure and we all know he will come back stronger. Bowling looks good but not brilliant.

With the world cup so close,its too late to make drastic changes. What one can hope is that this tour will give them a jolt(not too sure about it though, we have had many like this) but the current team doesnt paint a good picture of the future.

For love of the game, I hope we will be able to change things around but with the aussies playing the way they do, its highly unlikely that we will be able to win the cup. I am just being realistic!!!

Regards

Ruchika

You should send this to the Indian Team. I was quite shocked to see the  way Sachin Tendulkar had played in the second innings of the last test.

Probably we (all the folks connected to Cricket) are really afraid  to declare "the emperor..."...

Compare it the way  Lara had played against Pakis...

thanks and Best Regards

Vishy

Completely and totally agree. Sachin, Dravid were the wreckers in-chief. Dravid does not think out of the box. Sachin not getting to bowl in thefinal innings when shaun pollock comes to bat. Sachin's slowing down (he has done it 3 times at least if not more). a shame to see an embarassment. And then dravid does not have the guts to take things into his own hands.

no plan b is sehwag fails, no harbhajan when sehwag or munaf could have been dropped. Hell, dravid should be laid to rest and some one else made the captain.

Srinivas J

Liked your article on the positives from the otherwise disastrous SA tour.

However, I wish you wouldn't mollycoddle Sachin by referencing to a "couple of good knocks". The man has 6 knocks over 50 in the last two (I repeat, two) years. He had one big double hundred – against Bangladesh. Most of the half centuries came in India, four of them against SL, Pak and a toothless WI. The only 50 which was of any repute was the one in the SA series, even there he fizzled away when a big knock was there for the getting. Granted, there were others like Dravid who had bad series' themselves, but Sachin has been playing this way for the last two years.

I have known and respected you as a writer willing to call a spade a spade about the Indian cricket team, uncommon at least amongst Indian writers. Maybe you should be the first one to suggest that Sachin consider hanging up his boots or the selectors consider giving Sachin a well-deserved rest/ retirement.

Also wanted to point out one factual error. If memory serves me right, Jimmy Amarnath had those great knocks in Pakistan and the Caribbean before the 83 World Cup and the WI tour to India (when he made 1 run in 6 innings), and not after. Amarnath still obviously had a few more years left in him when he made those ducks but just wanted to call something out I saw.

Regards

Krish

Could you please ask our Dear Prime Minister to learn something from Sree, Kartick and other youngsters. Tell him that he must learn to be aggressive, talk from the position of strength, try not to divide the country for political gains or to please Govinda's mom.

Cricket:  It's TIME that we DROP Sehwag for sometime and give some kind of hint to Sachin that he is next in turn.  It might also be a good idea to have a youngster as a wise caption, so that he can be groomed.  I definitely would like to see Kartik, Yuvraj included in the playing eleven, meaning doing away with Sehwag and possibily keeping either Sachin or Laxman on bench for some games.  I admit that Laxman has been unlucky at times.

Bowling: we must find couple of more Sree's, so that incase of injury we have enough bench strength.

Keeping:  It would be a good idea to have two playing keepers, one as a specialist keeper, other as a batsman, with secondary duty as a spare keeper.

Mahendra Sapa, PMP

I am a good admirer of all your articles.  i like the balanced and non-caustic comments you give.

You have to share your share of opinion on the way Sachin is batting these days. Like the popular media you have taken a neutral path of not criticizing him.  Is it out of respect?

Looking forward to your good work.

Regards

Ram, Zurich, Switzerland.

As a long time die hard optimist of Indian cricket, I have time and again refused to be weighed down by the atrocious performances turned in by the team and I refuse to give up this time too. When the team turns out for its next outing, I would be rooting for them with as much vigour and belief as I have always done. However, I know that your next article in the series will be lay the deficiencies threadbare and because I get the feeling they would have more to do with attitude than skill, they will be much harder to digest and overcome.

Any defeat leaves you gutted, but so far as the ones that rankle go, this one leaves a particularly bitter taste in the mouth. Repeatedly, chances were created to ground the opposition to dust, and just as repeatedly, they were blown away. Much has been written about how South Africa were the hungrier team after Wanderers, but all their hunger would have amounted to nothing if only we had grabbed what we ourselves had created. As a seasoned observer and writer of the game, you will analyze the slips in much more detail and effect than I can, but I am sure you know what I mean.

Repeated scrutinities will be made of the Dravid-Tendulkar answers to the questions that Harris had to ask of them, and every such scrutiny will fail to find a reason why they let history slip through their very competent fingers when someone who is not only light years behind them in terms of achievements, but also uncertain of his place in the team, showed that the will to take the fight to the opposition can achieve what all the skill in the world cannot. Sport writers all over the world have repeated ad nauseam that victory is achieved by winning the small battles, and when India's best lost the battle to a rookie, the war was effectively (and ignominiously, for Indian fans) over.

There will be post-mortems, and one hopes they will be done with positive intent and intelligent execution. One can only pray what has worked for Zaheer will work for Pathan, Raina and Kaif too. One thing that the selectors can immediately do is replace Sehwag with Saurav in the ODI team. Ganguly's ODI record and indeed, his overall game means he should not have been dropped from the ODI team in the first place. Sehwag has never been anything like the gale force in one dayers as he has been in Tests and this is the chance to make amends by reversing the decision to play Sehwag and not Ganguly. With Yuvraj back in the side (and back in form too), the nucleus should be settled. The other player I'd like to see make a last effort to get back is Nehra - when fit, he has been a spanner in many works - England will vouch for that.

Finally, the WC is far too close and too important an event to take bold gambles with untested players - our best hopes lie with the regulars finding enough motivation to avenge the humiliation dished out by the Aussies in 2003. Given the form that Punter, Hussey, Clark(e) and the rest of the merry marauders have been in, I know its like asking a broken raft to conquer a raging ocean, but it has been done before. Hope, or in this case, the raft, floats.

Piyush Gupta, Amsterdam.

Agree with your analysis. The people included indeed are 'finds' of the tour. Before your piece on Wednesday I would urge you to consider analysing a certain Sachin Tendulkar's contribution this series and the past several actually. For the last several years this person has been promising high but delivering very little. When was the last time he hit a hundred? I understand that even on this tour he's had some good outings, but what good is a 50 if it could not be converted to a 100 especially from the likes of Tendulkar? He's supposed to be our key guy demolishing attacks, causing fear in the ranks of the opposition and helping carry morale for the team. Instead what he did on that final day in Cape Town is simply shameful. In my opinion he single handedly lost that session and the test and series for us.

The next question is then what do we do with him? Should we send him packing as well to the domestic cricket and ask him to find his lost form & temparament? Certainly he does not deserve the ignominy of such an act for then we would not have shown any maturity. I suspect the time he has been taking off from frontline cricket has been of his device though on the pretext of injury. It may not be a bad idea for someone to suggest to him that it was high time he concentrated on only ONE form of the game. I think it is too late for him to perform the way he has in the past in both forms of cricket. And as with most legends would want to exit on a high. I am sure he would like to quit as well on a winning note, an opportunity for which is just right round the corner - The World Cup. He should play only limited games in the series that is to follow against the West Indies and Sri Lanka and tell himself, that the World Cup outing will be his last and he has to do whatever he can to make sure he makes his place in the Indian side count and lead the country to another win! 23 years is high time a country has waited and it would be a pity if we were never to win it inspite of having arguably one of the best batsmen the world of cricket has ever produced amongst our midst.

Also is it time for someone younger and with the ability to think out of the box to captain India. Perhaps a Yuvraj Singh? Ganguly, Tendulkar, Dravid, Laxman and Kumble are all going to be gone in the next couple of years. With these guys around in the team it is perhaps time to groom a younger guy that can be incharge for the next several years. I think it is extremely necessary to think ahead and start a succession plan.

But then does the Board know anything of such things? I believe it was run by a baniya in the past(and I apologise if that sounds like a discriminating slur), now its run by a neta. God alone can help an organisation that has no professional managers at the helm!

Alright, that was my 2 cents. Thanks for listening.

Raghu Kulkarni, Apple Valley, MN.

First of all, thanks for such a timely article on the recent performance of Indian Cricket team in South Africa. I must say that you have every  judiciously justified your opinions and highlighted the positives out of this series .

Reiterating the notable performances, although Dinesh Kartik did not have enough opportunities to show his talent in the series, still he managed to display his potential, something that must be honored for the betterment of out cricket team. Sourav Ganguly has undoubtedly made a good comeback and proven that there is still some cricket left in him, and given the opportunity without any dirty politics, he still has the ability to pull out some difficult matches for India. Sreesanth is definitely the most promising find in this series, alongwith Zaheer Khan who has again shown to our selectors that it would be unfair to keep him out of the team. However, I feel that although Wasim Jaffer has scored a ton in the series, he still has some way to go to establish himself as a stable opener. Ofcourse I agree with you that he must be given a stable opening partner, who can stick with him and share the opening load.

I believe in the next part of the post mortem, you will highlight the failures of the team, and the list is definitely going to be much longer. Rightly said, this series has shamelessly stripped the stars off their so called reputation of being "great" and shown to the world that there are miles to go for being a "great player" from a "good player". This surely goes for Sachin Tendulkar. I hardly remember when for the last time he had played a match saving or match winning knock for India. Given to defend a match or chase a total, Sachin has mostly been a failure (except the two majestic innings at Sharjah against Australia). On the other hand, while we look at players like Steve Waugh or Ricky Ponting, they have really played to their potentiality of being as "great". Sachin must seriously think of this now and understand that scoring hundreds and creating records in favorable conditions do not help the team a lot, he has to be more focussed to pull out victories for India in unfavorable situations, which he hardly has behind his name. I think there is nothing to mention about Sehwag, only saying that he now should be given time enough to spend with his family and not with the team. For Dravid, I am a quite fond of him as a batsman and I sincerely believe that poor form with the bat has made India suffer a lot in the series. Hope this is temporary only and he comes back gallantly in the forthcoming series.

Last but not the least, Indian Cricket Board must now sincerely think about tour Coach. Chappell must be having his own concepts of training and building the building the tam, but unfortunately that do not play for India. Players not having any fixed batting position in the team, constantly changing opening pair, futile drive to establish Pathan as an efficient allrounder (which eventually pushed him out of the team), not playing Harbhajan in the third match and so on, definitely not the best deal for Indian Cricket team. We need a coach who is more accustomed with the our conditions, who can understand the mentality of our players and also pay heed to the billions of Indian cricket lovers across the globe. As Sharad Pawar has already declared that Chappell will be the coach till 2007 World Cup, it doesn't seem much promising for India with hardly any chance to win the World Cup. To add to this, if our greats like Sachin again fail to bring much hope for India n the World Cup, he must be prepared to set the stage for his own glorious exit from the game. Its always best to retire when people ask "Why Now?" instead of when they ask "Why Not Now?".

These are all my opinion as a devout fan of cricket which might be true at some point and might not be at the others. I will be eagerly looking forward to your next articles on the failures.

Thanks & regards

Dipanjan Ray

That was good reading. The analysis was pretty simple. We don't really want glamour boys in the dressing room earning near a crore of rupees per year and make a mess of themselves in the middle. I guess all these guys need a break.

Look, Sachin is Sachin. No one would want to take his performance from him. Nor would anyone want to belittle Rahul Dravid. But what went wrong at SA? They seemed to have lost their way in the African Safari. Everyone talks about Sehwag's failures. Why was he persisted with despite these failures. If Ganguly and Lakshman had to remain off the dressing room because of performance, why was Vengsarkar willing to toe Dravid's line of playing Sehwag as an allrounder? And why was he sent to open the batting in the second innings? These are issues difficult to fathom.

It's bad if people lose their confidence and are clouded with doubt. If they are allowed to have a say in matters even when they are finding it difficult to lay their feet on the ground, we can only only have a disaster. The picture of Dravid and Tendulkar at the presentation ceremony after the third test says it all.

We don't want to support any particular player. We want to see India perform well; winning is important. What is more important is giving it all. It's a shame how we succeed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. And that too with Tendulkar, Dravid, Lakshman, Ganguly, Sehwag, Kumble etc. in the team. It's a shame.

Avijit Roy.

Thank you for the article "The naked and the dead". By and large I feel you hit it spot on, though probably the only person I would have included in your list of positives is Anil Kumble. On pitches (excepting the last one), which offered no help at all to spinners, he bowled with a lot of heart and did manage to get wickets too.

Beyond that, I was wondering if you could do an article on this new mantra that is being espoused by the selectors and former cricketers. i.e: the likes of Sehwag, et al need to go back to play Ranji cricket to regain their form.

Are they serious? Look at the calendar. There are barely one or two Ranji matches left before the semi-finals. If your team does not make it, and Delhi may not, Sehwag gets to play in one match, that's all. Even that would be ok, but given the Indian pitches and opposition bowlers, there is a good chance of him coming up with a good score and then what? He goes out to play the one-days against WI and SL and again comes a cropper. What then? No more Ranji matches left for him to work out his kinks. If the powers that be are really serious, they would organize their domestic calendars in such a way that all players get to a play a minimum number of matches at that level to work out their kinks and lack of confidence. You could say that many countries have similar calendars, particularly Australia wherein the international team rarely gets to play in the Pura cup, except that for the Aussies, the rest of the world pretty much are domestic teams, the way they swat them a round. We can make the argument of not needing to play in domestic competition when India gets to their level, not till then. As of now our next test series is against Bangladesh(whoopee) before we take on the English, meaning as far as the longer version of the game is concerned, between now and June, Sehwag and co, have virtually no match practice. We should know what results to expect from that.

Sincerely,

Ketan Dholakia

First off welcome Prem... Guess you have really been busy... missed your columns, there are only 3 others in your class (Dileep Premchandran, Christopher Martin Jenkins, and Harsha Bhogle being the others)...

Agree with most of your analysis of the 5 players you mentioned as positives... I would've added  Kumble in this column (unless you use the Australians as a benchmark), guess he was allowed an off day even though it happened to be such a critical day...

Sanjeev, New Jersey

I am glad India's disastrous tour of South Africa is finally over. Success and Defeat are part and parcel of every sport, but it is the manner in which our team played that boils my blood. It is now a given that whenever Team India takes an unassailable lead when playing tests overseas, they are sure to loose the following test. India's tour to Zimbabwe in '01, West Indies in '02, Down Under in 03/04 and the recently concluded tour in RSA bears testimony to this. In all these tours, we presented with a chance to win an overseas tour but ended up either losing or squaring the series. As has always been the case, there were huge celebrations after the team won the opening test. When are our much famed cricketers going to learn from past mistakes? Why does it happen time and again that the seriousness lasts only in patches in lieu of lasting till the end of the tour? The selection policy continues to baffle Indian cricket buffs. Like umpteen previous tours, this time also we had passengers in the recently concluded series. Harbhajan and Gambhir could have at least played the final test. Despite repeated failures, Sehwag continued to figure in the playing eleven. After the Durban drubbing, Sehwag should have made way for Gambhir. As per the skipper, Sehwag managed to cement his place in the last test because of his prowess as a spinner. So how come he only bowled one over in he second innings? Likewise Munaf Patel was carrying injury throughout the series and looked more like a twelfth man in the decider. Wasim Jaffer for his horrendous shot selection in the second innings at Durban should have been reprimanded. God alone knows what was the logic behind sending Karthik as an opener in the final test? Now that Karthik played very well, does it mean that we have found an opener and will begin our quest for another?

Indian cricketers are extremely selfish and most of them only play for the record book. VVS Laxman badly wanted a 50 in the first innings of the second test and with VRV Singh at the other end, took off for a single of the first ball of the over to reach the half century mark. How many other test cricketers would have done the same at the club level let alone at the international level? And in the second innings at Durban after being bowled by a Nel express, he reacted as if the ball kept low. The commentators of the likes of Sunil Gavaskar and Wasim Akram rightly took him to task.

And what about the little champion by the name of Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar? Sachin in my humble opinion would always be regarded as the best cricketer India ever produced. However the fact remains that Sachin is more of an entertainer than a true cricketer. When on song, SRT is a treat to watch and have on numerous occasions batted like a champion on all sorts of turf. However, Sachin has not delivered when it has mattered, he has not fired when we wanted him to, and he is just not the player for big occasion. Sure Sachin has scored loads of runs, centuries, is a champion batsman, a class act, but the bulk of runs have not helped India save let alone win tests. Sachin will never be remembered as a great finisher, a match winner or even a match saver. Yes, I would be grateful to him for entertaining with his strokeplay, for being an astute cricketer, thinker and being a humble and down-to-earth cricketer. He had a great cricketing brain and was a true gentleman. But I would never put my money on Sachin when the chips are down. This is the only quality Sachin has not possessed in his cricketing sojourn. And this one quality is something you just cannot ignore. It has eluded him from being a modern day great or the best in the business. Look at all the tests India have lost and you will notice that Sachin's contribution was virtually nothing. Forget winning, I would not put my money on Sachin when it comes to saving a test match. I know a lot of cricket lovers are not going to like reading my comments but spare a thought and check the record books first. Simply hailing SRT as the greatest just because he is from our soil is like turning a blind eye to reality. As a die-hard Indian cricket buff, sure I would want Sachin to be hailed as the Patriarch of modern cricket but I know my conscience won't allow.

Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath and Justin Langer have all gracefully retired. Going by the BCCI's selection process, the trio could have played for another five years or so as all our cricketer needs is one good performance in ten matches. Sachin might as well follow their footsteps and make way for youngsters. The appetite for runs is dying with each essay at the crease, the dominance is badly missing, the mind, body, feet are just not synchronizing. The least he can do is to quit one form of cricket and concentrate on either One Dayers or Tests. It is time for Sachin to realize that his time has also come and it is time to bid adieu. Indian Cricket and die-hard fans are not going to miss him any more. I seriously hope Sachin does not meet with the same fate as Kapil Dev did in the twilight of his career.

Regards,

Prasad Narayan

I think your thoughts are spot on.

I also thought Dravid,Sachin,VVS etc played one or two good knocks but thay are not new comers and needs to do more and after all I dont care even if anybody averaging 100 in series but did what we watched in second session of day 4 of last test.

Sports are meant for joyfull experiences for fans and people. We turn to cricket after experiencing whole day harakiris of corruptions, blasts news, scandal No:545 from party ABC, hearing a man saying yes he has killed all those little wonder kids without hint of sorrow etc etc and what we get is just series of painful experiences.

Why an established indian batsmans never ever try to score a single run on fourth or fifth day of test cricket is just bemusing and unknown fact.

Even bunch of zimbabwians, half of them new on each tour tries to put spirited performances whenever given chance. If this is to multinational or teretorial comercial companies BCCI and Ind Hockey will have to fight out for last place even if there are just two contenders.

From So many years now Sachin and Rahul are like Ram,Laxman.So different they are and teaches lessions of what you can be of should be.Still it is mesmerising for me that now a days watching sachin bat is very very painful. He has developed this habit of developing hydrogen like pressure situation when ever he comes to bat on day 5.I think he worries too much for wicket and goes miles deep in shelves.

How many tests there are that a team with little bit different mind set could have won easily, we dont only lose them but we never ever try to win when we suppose to lose.

Harsh ones in his column said that someone needs to remind Sehwag that no player is bigger than game itself, I think time has arrived to address all of them together that without this game all of them are just other ordinary Indian names that appear on utility bills.

I wish New Year to both of you and Good luck to Team India.

Kind regards

Mohan Jadeja, 'Mer'.Calgary,Canada

The Team can be divided into four grids...

1. The most experienced from whom our expectation levels are very high
2. The most experienced on whom we can't depend at crucial times
3. The come-back ones (reasonably experienced) who have done their home-work well and are serious about succeeding
4. The least experienced who strive hard to fair better to be reckoned in future too

In the backdrop of this, the last category has done extremely well - of course on a relative basis. The first category has done mediocre but nothing to write home about. The third category of players have done extremely well (having done their home-work well). The second category I have mentioned above are incorrigible.. not dependable; have been enjoying the place in the team on  sheer fluke they were doing well when the team was performing well; only verdict is to kick them out and try more of category 4 players.

Regards

Ramani Venkatraman

I live in England now, having moved here from Germany 3 years ago. Whilst in Germany, there was no cricket on TV so I followed it over the internet. I used to read your write ups, sweep the Cricinfo site, devour the HT articles – everything that came my way. It was gut wrenching not to able to see cricket on TV but the internet more than made up for it. More importantly, it gave me a lot of different perspectives as I was reading write ups from different people with different points of view. There was Cricinfo (very pragmatic, balanced and well research), yourself (same as Cricinfo – if a bit long winded at times), Times of India (polemic masala and totally irresponsible) etc. I especially enjoyed this when India toured Australia – I think it was 2002.

For years I had lived in Germany and seen my German mates brim with pride about their soccer team. This soccer team, in my view had average attributes as far as talent was concerned. What they had in good measure was a tremendous work ethic, respect for the game, respect for the German team jersey, general lack of ego, abundance of self belief and a simply incredible will to win. During that Aussie tour, I noticed these attributes in an Indian cricket team for the first time. I saw (or read !!!) Dravid stand up to the Aussies, I saw Tendulkar done in by the umpires and then come back and score a massive double hundred, Ganguly grit it out in the first test match….the list could go on. To top it all these guys had the talent as well and had finally managed to marry grit to ability. Finally, I had something to be proud of as far as team sport and India was concerned. Little did it matter that my German friends understood nothing about cricket – I felt good and I wanted to emulate the qualities shown by the cricket team in my day – to - day life. From a personal point of view it was a resounding reflection on what I could achieve in alien surroundings (believe me, Germany and India have nothing in common – not the food, not the weather, not the people, culture, humour….) if I grit my teeth, believed in myself and just stood up and delivered. I was driven by an Adam Gilchrist interview I read at Cricinfo where he admitted that that tour had been, by far, one of the toughest he had undergone. Respect for the strength of the Indians in a foreign and sometime hostile environment shone through the interview and romantic as it does sound on hindsight, I wanted to earn that similar respect of the bunch of competitive Germans I encountered in every walk of life.

Having moved to England now and delightfully swamped as I am with cricket on TV, I have seen things come a full circle since that Aussie tour. To me as a complete outsider to the Indian cricket team (as millions of others) this seems to be a team bereft of spirit, a team with a few individual performers and the rest unable to understand that 'power is nothing without control', a bunch of guys seemingly unable to walk the talk.

When I look back, I have moved ahead as a person since 2002 – to a large extent I have acquired the grit, the tenacity, the work ethic and the positive belief in myself. It is a minor tragedy that my heroes seem to have taken a different route. Maybe it's time for them to take a break and look up to people like me, the millions whom they have inspired in the past to take small steps which are admittedly small and totally insignificant for humanity, the world and the game of cricket but are infinitely huge and profound on an individual level. After all, if I/we can do it, surely so can they.

Regards

Malvinder Singh

Excellent selection , Men should be judged not by their talent in times of comfort, but by their grit in times of adversity. Your selection is a tribute to those,some of those who had to face humiliation like Dada and Zak,some who had to cool their heels playing domestic cricket for eternity like Jaffer,some who had to sit in the sidelines inspite of having fierce combative skills and talent like Sreesanth and Kartik. Role models for youngsters should be these people who had to face adversity and still had the fighting spirit and attitude, not Sachin and Sehwag who had infinite natural talent and everything given to them in a silver platter.

Regards

Parameswaran Hariharan

This may have been discussed earlier, but I wanted to point out the uncertainty part of the glorious game. We all, since the beginning know that among other sports cricket is perhaps one the most unpredictable game where on a day a player may score a century and in the next innings a duck. But how and why is to so uncertain?

If you look at the NBA or NFL, 'stars' perform greater than 90% of the time. When a Coby Bryant gets in the game, you know he will score a minimum of 20 points. When Terrel Owens plays for the Dallas Cowboys, you can EXPECT a minimum level of performance from the running back. This can extend to many other sports such as Athletics, Boxing etc.

Why not cricket? And that too why is it more uncertain when teams like India and Pakistan play the game. The only exception to the whole thing is Australia and they are almost robotic in their performance. McGrath at this age still 'puts' the ball on the spot. Is there anything that can be done psychologically to get the minimum you want from an Indian cricketer? Financially, we have improved leaps and bounds and there is a minor improvement in disciplining players (all the players that got a rude shock when they were recently dropped and were jolted back to their senses).

I am sure in your Wednesday analysis you will mention Sachin's game – or should I say, lack of a game. The master blaster's exposition will remain an enigma forever. While I can digest Sunny Gavaskar's world cup performance – some 50 something overs and 32 runs to show, I simply cannot understand why Sachin played the way he played in the 2nd innings of the 3rd test. And what happened to the wall?

On an opposite note, if you look at the overall statistics of Indian cricket history it seems (I may not be a 100% accurate here) that we have always been a Batting side and rarely a bowling side. Look at Venkatesh Prasad and Javagal Srinath. There was one series against S.Africa where their bowling was a dream. After that they failed (Srinath was more consistent though) but were persisted for many series and Prasad was probably the most generous bowler of his time (after that series). Then look at the combo of Ashish Nehra and Zaheer Khan. There were a couple of series where they bowled fast and got the wickets. They petered out too soon. Then there was Balaji and Zaheer and the same thing repeats.

My biggest concern is that Sreesanth should not turn out to be like them. The board has to do much more work on our bowling performance – especially fast bowling. West Indies in the 70s had a dream run when their fast bowlers demolished and crushed the opposition's spirit and the batsmen walked out full of confidence. That situation has been much fewer in the Indian team's case.

Thanks,

Mahesh Iyer

Your article in Rediff.com is excellent. While I agree with whatever you said, the reluctance to call a spade a spade when it comes to the "much-hyped" stars of Indian cricket is conspicuous. As a long time observer and former league player, I wish to do some plain talking on what I think of some of these seniors who are in the team, certainly not by merit:

Sachin Tendulkar: The fact that he has been repeatedly named as the second or third most popular person in the country testifies to the power of media. I have never seen such an undeserved adulation in all my life and I know people are just and plainly gullible and can be easily taken in by the media with its blitzkrieg in the form of Commentators refusing to call the truth, media correspondents shying away from writing any thing offensive, and advertisement commercials continuing to barrage the public with increasingly endearing images of the "most-likeable" face. The truth is there for any one who cares to see. In the last 3 full years, this guy has not made one worthwhile winning knock. In fact, when it comes to crunch situations (which have been legion – may be upwards of 30), this guy has come a cropper each and every time. It is kind of remarkable that some one can fail every time when every one looks up to him and still can carry on merrily as the most popular and the highest paid cricketer ever! All I can say, when I see dignified exits of champion cricketers, is that this man is really made of steel, or should say "currency"?

Virender Sehwag: Another sad story. A man with a huge hitting potential is time and again shown up in his technical and temperamental deficiencies but the selectors, the board, and of course, the media would not give up. It will take another 2-3 years (remember Sachin started failing at least a good 3 years ago when his media-career hit the peak) before the realization will even start dawning on all these "willingly" slow learners.

Mahendra Singh Dhoni: This is a curious case of a raw talent that is being laid to a waste by the inordinate media attention converting him to a poster boy for every thing from soaps to luxury cars. Dhoni is hurting and it is obvious. I wonder if he can withstand this kind of media glare. My prediction is that he will wilt, sooner than later.

In each of these three cases, the problem is simple: the media over-drive willingly or unwillingly has gotten into these guys' heads and they have started looking upon themselves as not just cricketers. I actually suspect that at some point some sort of a psychological phenomenon would occur when some one is being repeatedly mobbed and adulated as these three have been. It has clearly destroyed Tendulkar's and Sehwag's batting – I don't honestly expect them to ever regain their shimmer of greatness. In the case of Dhoni, the day is fast approaching because the media activity has been even higher in the last year or so.

In all the cases of media moghuls such as Sachin and Sehwag, it is not very difficult for an intelligent mind to figure out why the media and all related personnel refuse to call the truth. Of course, they stand to benefit by the "Star-Culture" of Indian cricket. They do want demi-gods (almost always undeservingly) to be created, glorified, and worshipped. After all, the losers are gullible, unthinking, and in many ways "willingly susceptible" paying public. Exploitation in various levels and spheres is the hallmark of our society and the perpetration of this cricketing star-culture is a shining example.

The sad result of all this cricket-mania is the complete non-growth of other exciting games such as Football and Hockey because of lack of viewer-ship and audience.

It is time for intelligent articulate journalists such as you to stand up for the truth. It is time that we stopped looking at cricketers any different from the footballers or tennis-players.

Best wishes,

Sridhar Chandrasekhar

absolutely agree with all the five positives that you've enlisted. i'd take it a step further & say that karthick should be enlisted as our first choice test keeper : his glove work is certainly not inferior to dhoni's, his batting technique & temperament is far better suited to batting needs in test cricket & importantly, one wk for either version will keep each on its toes.

absolutely disagree with sachin - in any shape, way or form - being anything close to a positive on the tour. it's the same story : doesn't score when we need him too - and these days, doesn't score at all. i'll allow his "gradually returning to form through this tour " as a positive only when he actually returns to form, we've been waiting for 3 seasons now :)

i'd view dravid's apparent failure as a blessing in disguise - the law of averages seems to have caught up with him - better now than at WC07 :)

best,

Sumontro

I just went through the subject essay that you have penned for the Rediff portal. I wonder if you have deliberately omitted an equally incisive analysis of the naked and the dead - specifically reasons for considering those who were exposed as naked and those played like dead meat ......

In any organization, one should take the good with the not so good, in one's stride, especially when one is in a position of management, like our selectors and administrators are. It is necessary to separate the chaff from the wheat as that is the only way for an organization to go forward. It is very difficult to leave behind those who have served the organization in good stead in the past, but then thats a job the administrators are paid for by the shareholders or the owners - these people are not paid to use their emotions or their feelings .... or to play favorites.

In one of my earlier notings, I had suggested that anyone who gets to wear an Indian cap should pay, instead of being paid, for the honor bestowed on him and for the adoration [not counting the zillions that come in through ad revenue]. There should be some way to get this handled - cricket is a team sport and not an individual game like golf or tennis and there should be some sort of a tax on those who are given the honor to wear the TEAM INDIA colors and a very strict control regime to monitor the performance of each individuals responsibilities and/or roles as required for their presence in the team. Else, in the worst scenario, this could lead, in a worst-case, to situations akin to match fixing, where people under-perform for reasons other than cricket.

None the less .... one does hope someone wields the axe and that whoever is not left behind, does live up to the expectations of the millions who are as crazy as me or even crazier .....

Wonder if you have seen this pretty neat slide show called Australia strikes back .....  Check out this URL 
http://www.news.com.au/dailytelegraph/ashes
Cheers and have a wonderful week ...

Hari Shankar

I have heard about the zonal quota system which dictates that only a certain number of players can be in the Indian squad from each zone. It certainly seems to have a negative impact on the quality of players we have. For example if a Dhoni or a sehwag is out of form, they would still manage to 'hang on' to keep the zonal representation 'in balance'...unless of course, some new talent from that zone is unearthed. This perception may not be openly acknowledged, but it does seem, that the whole country is run by one form of quota system or the other.

And the politics of 'who is known to who' makes it still worse. I would also say that baring a few exceptions, most of the journalists are biased towards the region they hail from. I read the other day, in one of the websites, where it is argued how 'their own' RP Singh is being overlooked in favour of Sreesanth who gets his impressive bowling figures by mopping up the 'tailenders'. This partisan behaviour runs in everyone's blood who are in a position to make a difference. I cannot see any improvement in any 'team' sport, unless this attitude changes. This also explains why Indians excel in 'individual' sports where the quota system cannot interfere. People like Jaspal Rana, Geet Sethi and Viswanathan Anand have been able to progress this far since they were representing themselves & not competing for a 'slot' in the Indian team. On one hand, we talk about patriotism, and on the other display this crab mentality towards fellow Indians. That has been the bane of every Indian 'team'.

Regards,

Karthik Kalyan

I hope u are not going to be too harsh on the batsmen.

Except for Jaffer (in one innings) the problem with Indian batting on the tour was that guys that got their eyes in did not go on to make a BIG score.

Jaffer, Gangs, SRT, Dravid, and Laxman were all guilty on the same count. But the conditions did favor bowling so you were never really on cruise control.

SRT and Dravid actually had to take lot of new ball pressure in 5 out of the six innings courtsey our openers.

And the bowlers actually got SA into the 3rd test by their shoddy display on Day 2. Too many 4 balls got served. Letting an out of form batsman (Smith) off the hook in the all-important test was their fault.

Pollock's quality was probably the difference between the two sides. They had a bowler who could bowl very well even to set batsmen choking up runs and creating pressure and getting key wickets. Khan, Sree, VRV, Patel and Kumble probably did what they are capable of but they are still not in the same class as some of the other attacks.

Dave Boskey

A great feature, Prem! I like this new format of post mortem!

As always, entertaining and engaging! I am a long time reader living in USA. Before, I used to read your articles because there was very little Live cricket coverage on TV in USA. Now, it is a great testimony to the engaging quality of your reporting, that I read them in spite of watching lot of cricket on TV!

But, coming to the performance of Indian cricket team, I think that much of our analysis [including most of yours, I must say] seems to stay only skin-deep while our problems run far deeper!

I have followed Indian Cricket for more that two decades now and we have pretty much always stayed 4th-5th-6th [among 10 or so cricket playing countries] team in the world! Many players, coaches, selectors, cricket academies and chairmen have come and gone but, our position has hardly ever changed for any considerable duration.

In a somewhat bigger context, our position in other sports like soccer, hockey, athletics, Olympics is not much different. I wonder, if it is not because we Indians lack the physical strength, stamina and mental killer instincts that most of physical sports might demand! I wonder if our primarily vegetarian [even a non-vegetarian in our country, typically eats meat twice a week opposite to other countries where pretty much every meal contains meat] diet has got anything to do with it!

In cricket too, our age old problem has been lack of quality fast bowlers [Srinath would bowl two fast over and then huff and puff and would need to rest for half an hour!] and our batsmenʼs inability to play quality fast bowling. As I see them, both these problems are connected. It is hard to have batsmen well-equipped to play quality fast bowling if there are no quality pace men operating in the domestic circle.  

As a band aid, maybe we should ʽimportʼ players from other countries to at least play in our domestic league. Maybe, we should have a system like England and have 2-3 ʽforeignʼ players [primarily fast bowlers] play in each top ten Ranji teams. Further, maybe, we should mostly forget test cricket [requiring even more stamina] and just focus on doing well in one day cricket and twenty-twenty alone. Maybe, we can have a well developed one day league of 10-20 domestic teams and have 2-3 ʽforeignʼ players play in each of the top ten teams.

Regards,

Arvind Singh

However, I don't agree that Wasim Jaffer's performance is a silver lining of the tour, definitely not for the team. Of course, he scored a century but to declare that performance as a silver lining would reflect lowly on our cricketing standards. If not our performances, at least our standards should be high.

In any case, I can't wait to read the second part of this article that would focus on the negatives of the tour. Please do let the critic in you run amok this time.

Just wanted to find out about your opinion on the inevitable comparison in the form of Ponting, Inzy and Sachin of late. Ponting has been virtually unstoppable for over 2 years now and Inzy has been going from strength to strength in his career. Whereas Sachin's performance seems to have taken a nosedive, especially given his domination in ODI cricket earlier. As much as I hate Ponting's apparent contempt of Indian bowling, I can't help but admire his recent stats.

Cheers,

Sampath Reddy

I always admired your writing skills and love to read all of your writings on Indian Cricket.  I have written to you in the past and this time I am writing to make a simple request.  That is, please constructively criticize the so-called greats of Indian team, especially Tendulkar.

In my opinion, he should be axed immediately.  If he wants to continue to play for India, then let him prove his worth by going to England and playing in their county games.  He needs to earn his place.  I have had enough of his past and we can't take him in the team based on his past records. 

I dare you to analyze him and write against him if you have guts.

Azhar

I liked your piece on Dinesh Kaarthick. He should be rewarded with a regular place in the team.  He showed a lot of class. In fact Kaarthick may be the better keeper and Dhoni may have to fight for a place as a batsman. I personally feel Dhoni's batting technique is somewaht suspect although he is gutsy and effective.

It was dumb to send Sehwag opening in the 2nd innings. Kaarthick and Jaffer put on 153 in the first and why would you break the pair with the match and series on the line? This mindless experimenting, especially in mid-match, is irresponsible.

anguly should be given captaincy back now that he has shown he deserves a place in the 11. Dravid has not been an inspiring captain. Drop Sehwag (a 50 in Durban is better than 200 in Multan. He has failed miserably in tough conditions) Drop Tendulkar (He was good/very good but now is just a shadow of his old self. btw, he was always very overrated in my opinion.

I mean there was talk of him being next only to Bradman etc... Sure he has 35 100s but he does not have a single innings in Wisden's top 100. I rest my case) Get rid of Chappell. He has not done anything outstanding, to put it mildly. Mohinder would be a good replacement.  What do you say?

My team for WC 2007 is, Jaffer Kaarthick Dravid Laxman (Horrific run out in cape town..Needs to improve running between wickets. Not rocket science. Coach needs to grill him) Yuvraj (hope he is fit) Ganguly Dhoni Kumble Sreesanth Zaheer Munaf (very fine bowler.. needs to improve fielding. grill him...)

(Ganguly and Yuvraj have to share 10 overs. Batting heavy I agree but could be an advantage too) reserves:
Venugopal Rao VRV Singh  Badrinath Harbhajan Kaif

Ram Madhavappeddi

Thanks for your poignant summary of the Indian safari in South Africa.

What I would even more appreciate is an article on the five worst offenders in this series, and that too, in order of merit. I have my own list that I would like to compare with yours. Generally, the list of your better ones has agreed with mine.

Amit Chattopadhyay

I truly agree with your analysis on success of the tour. But I am more keen on your next part on the failures.

My opinion on that, Kumble is the mild failure. The biggest one is the GOD called Sachin Tendulkar. He is a failure not only on this tour but on a lot of occassion post 1999 (his back injury). He just proved once more how worst he has become by first getting a 0 when all India needed to do was bat 60 overs for draw, and then did even worse by changing the approach of the team & the match, when all was needed was to play "normal" cricket of his typical 45 runs per 100 balls.

I was mighty relieved when he got out just before tea, as it ensured the he will not get the "last man standing" plaudits from former greats (Gavaskar, Shastri, Donald et all) after changing the whole complexion of the game single-handedly from winning position to a match-saving position by his defensive, no-risk mindset.

And for once & all, I will also request you to voice your opinion that he should retire now. If at all he has to play, he should play ODI as a bolwer and part-time batsman. These 50 run once in 4 innings can be scored by any Ranji Trophy player as well. If he is in team, he will just be there to get cheered for every run he scores as Classy, while the Pontings, Lara, Hussey, Yousuf are the real classy act in contemporary cricket. Sachin is no better than mediocres like Chanderpaul or Attapattu, as he is a pain to watch with his defensive mindset and yet does not score anything more substantial that these.

Jai Joshi

You correctly describe them as the only silver lining from this tour. It will be interesting to see how these 5 carry on from here. Hopefully, the statement of John Wright does not have to be repeated to these 5. Surely 2 of the 5 have done what they done on this tour because of being dropped and made to fight for their places.

I saw a TV program about the state of Indian sport after 50 years and Harsha Bhogle so correctly mentioned that we in India are more taken in by talent and do not promote or shower praise on the hard working players and that is one reason why we do not do well - all sportsman it appears only want the adulation. So, in this list to see the name of Wasim Jaffer mentioned first was really a good touch - recognition for the hard working, ordinary player. One only hopes that to preserve our super stars he is not shown the door, when he fails once.

Finally, to club the other players in one review would be grossly unfair - surely one did not expect VRV Singh to do well, only hope he improves and has learnt something from this tour. It is not his fault for being selected to play 2 test matches - the others were worse than he is. At least, his innings with the bat gave the Indians a big boost to win their first test match in South Africa. The observation for him should be neutral. Also, are you going to evaluate Dravid the player and Dravid the captain? It was his idea and pressure to have Viru as our spinner cum middle order bat cum opener???

Enjoyed your piece as usual - Cheers

Sundar Vaideeswaran

I am a daily reader of the cricket on Rediff but this is my first email to you.. I think the BCCI has to adhere to Greg Chappell's philosophy of bringing in youngsters and play them in tours abroad and in India.

It is unfortunate that Kaarthick is a reserve and to my mind he deserves a place in the XI for is batting alone and his keeping and reflexes are better than Dhoni's. Dhoni has proven to be a matchwinner as well although his outing in SA is not what was expected of him and the jury is still out on how he will perform on faster tracks. He has shown the temperament and the fitness that is needed to play for the country.

I think Jaffer deserves a place as he has demonstrated that he can play long innings which none of our so called senior cricketers did.

It is time to give Sachin and Laxman a break. Let them play in the domestic and see if they still have the hunger in them to play at the highest level.

When you see the Aussie greats such as Warne, McGrath leaving in their own terms (and so did others such as Langer and Martyn) why is it hard for our India stars to do the same? Is it just the hype surrounding them in the Indian Media that forces them to stay as long as they can. Is it the money?

What makes it hard for them to quit when they can tell it is time. I am sure Sachin must have watched his performance on the 4th day of the test match and he is smart enough to judge himself.. Isn't he?

Thanks for the work you are doing at Rediff. Rediff and cricinfo are my only 2 resources for cricket and I appreciate all the good work you do. I have been out of cricket since 1989 when I came to US but I follow it dearly.

Suresh Gopalrathnam

I wonder how many first-class matches tendulkar has played over the last 3-4 years, and especially after his injury lay-off. Not a handful in my recollection. I dont think that it is a matter of reflexes slowing down after all he is not that much older than Ponting and about the age of Dravid and Ganguly.  Raising him to the status of a semi-deity has backfired on him, and all that mindless adulation has inculcated an arrogance in him that prevents him from returning to the games bedrock.  Do what Agassi did after his big injury - bugger hubris and playing the challenger tournaments - and learn how to build an innings again, if necessary from scratch.  It is not his phsyical skills that are lacking, it is an unfamiliarity with batting real actual innings, something which can never be replicated by mind numbing hours spent in the nets. This unfamiliarity has bred ever increasing anxiety so manifestly obvious out on test wickets, and it is little wonder then that opposing captains and bowlers are feeding on his fear of failure.  You cannot learn or relearn this skill at test level, and as test bowlers certainly dont learn to bowl their more rigorous lines and lengths in tests Tendulkar has become easy prey - like a deer caught in the headlights so to speak.  Even the umpires sense this and rather instinctively punish him for his anxiety, his fear.  A self-fulfilling prophesy really. Ever wonder why the brazen Ponting so frequently receives the benefit of so little doubt, especially in Australia (where his average far exceeds his 'foreign' one).  Really a very simple solution to his excuiciating, for him as well as us, problems is order him to play first-class cricket for several months on pain of being dropped.

Rajen Panikkar

Enjoyed your article on "Naked Truth....."  You are absolutely correct.  Please spare no mercy on the senior cricketers who yet again failed to deliver when we really needed them most.  I can give you countless examples.  What is at stake here is the sponsorship money.  Common indians, time too often, put these guys on pedestal and treat them like they are God.  They need to be exposed and I am looking forward to some harsh words from people like you.  It is the media's responsibility to discuss the naked truth and what is behind it.

It was embarrassing to see India loose in last two test.  I have no problem if we loose with pride and fighting.  But the way we lost was just shame.  It was pitiful to watch Sachin, Dravid, Sehvag, Laxman etc. bat in this series.  No one is even talking about one-day series.  If we have to have any hope going in last four in the World Cup, we need to influx some new blood, which I thought was going well during Sri Lanka series couple of years ago.  Looks like old politics is back again or it is just endorsement money that these guys are worries about!  I am sure they will start roaring as World Cup is round the corner because the big money is at stake again!!

Hitesh.

Regarding Dinesh Karthik, the best thing is that, the guy is very inventive with his strokeplay and also placement of the strokes,In the field, he seems to have a map of the field in his mind, and is able to direct his strokes, in that area. He is a good thinking cricketer, plus has an excellent tempremant, very very calm head on his shoulders, with those qualities, he could an excellent one-day batsman, as we saw in the 20-20 match. Last time I saw someone in the indian team, placing the ball in good areas in crunch situation, was Ajay Jadeja or Ravi Shastri and Kapil Dev to an extent.

One has to give credit to Ganguly, despite whatever people say, you need to have guts and lots of it to compete on the international Level and Ganguly has it and it does rub off on your team-mates, when you have a gutsy and not phlegmatic attitude. Maybe Ganguly deserved a gentle rap on the fingers for his form, but what chappell did was attrocious, no logic for that. All that harping about his ineptitude against the short stuff and therefore no place in the team, was all bull, as we can clearly see, Ganguly did hold the innings

together in the first test and of course with help of Sress and Khan , thank god , we were able to win the match.

Sreesanth, he is just the best thing to happen to Indian cricket, in recent times. When he came into the team, lot of people didn't give him much chance, but kudos to team management for sticking with Sreesanth and kudos to Sree for putting in both brain and passion Into his bowling and his game in general.

Zaheer Khan is great news, just good to see him back and bowling with fire and hunger. We all know , how well he could do and he is on his way to better himself and team india.

Jaffer, has a good technique, and he will be good in the long-run, I like his classic technique, but for right now , we have to focus on the world cup, since its close by and I don't think  Jaffer would fit in the one day squad.

I would also add Kumble to the list, in terms of dedication, I salute the guy, always keeps trying and always is positive, needs to be retained.

Munaf Patel as Barry Richards, rightly said, he moves like he is 60 , not so long ago akram said he behaved like he was 124, Wonder if its his injury, or his attitude in general, he seems to give impression that, he thinks,  he is doing a favour to the indian team , by being in it.

Last but not the least, it really hurts to be so agonisingly close to win the series in SA and not win it, those kinda oppotunties don't come often. 

Thanks,

Ajay

I really wish and hope you get a chance to read my e-mail. And I will be over the moon, if you responded to me. I will be making some really hard comments and I know that only someone like you can understand and infact relate to what I feel.

Firstly let me start that I think you are finest cricket writer in my book along with Dileep Premachandran and Osman Samiuddin. I have enjoyed your work many times. Thanks for all these articles.

Coming to the current series in question, India's debacle tour fo SA. I whole heartedly agree that these 5 players which you have mentioned as positives are indeed the only people who deserve it.  And I take my hat off to your below sentence in bold where you are 100 % right in Sree's assessment and "timid" seniors.

"In that one moment, Sreesanth defined himself - as a player who would never take a backward step.  India has too few of those; that is why it is all the more vital that the spirit of a Sreesanth be fostered, encouraged - and never broken by temperate `advice' from well-meaning `seniors'.

What really gets to me as a cricket fan is the "timidity" and "conservative" that Indian cricketers sometimes exhibit. Its plain depressing. If there has to be a list if reasons for the loss of 3rd test, the following are the my top most culprits which led to 3rd test defeat and in that order,

Reason 1. Tendulkar's cowardly(for lack of better word) inns of 14
2. Sending Sehwag to open in 2nd Inns
3. Rahul Dravid altering his approach after seeing Tendulkar bat at the other end. 

These 3 above points decided the fate of the 3rd test and defeat for India. Apologies if I am all over the place Sir, but I am not a great writer like you. Do bear with me.

Sreesanth is a guy who is a rarity in India cricket and truly a part of Gen Next. He is raw and he is a youth icon and for a guy like me he is the reason I watch cricket as he represents the new youth of India. He is like so many Indian 20 somethings, who are not shy of saying what they feel and taking what they want.

Because losing does not hurt me, losing without a fight and chickening out ( like Tendulkar on day 4 ) just kills me. And something is wrong with our cricket culture if seniors are asking Sreesanth to tone it down. Because there is no need to. Let him be. He is at his best that way.  If one person likes Sreesanth, its Greg Chappell. Deep down, I can guarantee you his Australian heart beats that much faster when he sees Sree mouth off to an opposition batsman. There is nothing wrong in that. It is much better than a great batsman like Tendulkar, who for the last 2 years has not displayed any fighting abilities when confronted with a pressure situation. Prem Sir, go to any cricket chat site nowadays, you know what they call Tendulkar now - Tendchoker. And he is. He comes in 1st inns, scores a 50 in a relatively low pressure situation and chokes to glory in 2nd inns clutch time. Tendulkar is half the figher Gavaskar was.

One more point is that, look at Ganguly, he has my respect any day because he is a fighter. On day 4 in Cape town, such was the aura of DADA, that Tendulkar and later Dravid actually slowed down and choked after DADA got out. Shouldnt it be the other way round? Thats what a fighter does, he inspires faith in others around him. Isnt it unbeliavable that a guy who has been ridiculed for his poor technique and batting comes back after a long time and all of a sudden batsman are under pressure after he departs. Why, you ask? its because of the fighting qualities.

For all his 100s, Tendulkar has lost his fighting abilities. And let me also add that at no point in his career, he has been as great a fighter like Dravid, Kumble and DADA Ganguly. And on that depressing Day 4 after lunch, Sachin infected Rahul Dravid with his cowardice and negative energy. It was truly embarassing. Usually Dravid, puts away bad balls and plays percentage shots. But as he is low on confidence, he followed Sachin's ultra-defensive approach which proved fatal. If Ganguly was at the crease, he woud have asked Sachin to pick it up. But Dravid is too passive to say this. Dravid sometimes just goes through the motions which I find very annoying.

 I can tell you atleast 3 times where Sachin choked on 2nd inns of a vital test in last 2 yrs.

1.  vs England in Mumbai 2006
2.  vs Pakistan in Bangalore in 2005
3   vs Pakistan in Karachi in 2006

And to top it off he overacts. Do you remember Sir , Sachin squatting in Karachi after Asif removed his off stump? There Sachin was trying to show as if the ball kept low, when in actuality it hit the top half of off stump. Why does he act? I ve lost all respect for Sachin because he looks like a circus clown with all these actions when we all know what the truth is - he has lost it mentally. And he has started squatting so much to show that bad bounce did him in. In Durban , his deliberate "action" cost him his wicket, when he squatted again like a ball kept low and was adjudged LBW, but in actuality it was going over top of leg stump according to hawk eye.

Dont you think this is pathetic by this man Tendulkar who makes so much money, but yet cannot play cricket nowadays with a true brave heart because ultimately the champions all have a true brave heart and in my book Tendulkar is a great. But not a champion. Ricky Ponting is a great and a true champion.

On the captaincy issue, Dravid is a born fighter. But Dravid is not a born leader. Yes, its time for the King Ganguly to return and take the seat he deserves for one last war - world cup 2007. Because no matter how brave the warrior (Dravid)  is, he cannot run a kingdom.

Thanks for your time,

Shashank Reddy

Very good analysis. Though a little surprised to see you applauding Ganguly. I thought you were a Ganguly basher, but I am happy to be proven wrong. Throwing something at you: do you agree he should be recalled to the one day side?

I agree with your analysis about Jaffer, probably the one less obvious than the other four. A century is a century is a century, plus the revolving door concept applied to Indian openers in tests cannot help the mindset. Look forward to your analysis of the failures, particularly Dravid's captaincy and his batting in the second innings, and Sachin's batting in the second innings. I am not a Sachin basher, and really do like him; however I cannot overlook the stats that his contributions in all the second innings he has played has been meager. A good individual run accumulator, but is he a match winner? Please prove me wrong.

Koustuv Chatterjee

That was a good article. Pretty disappointing end to the tour but I thought this was a better performance compared to all the overseas tours we have had in the past. The team after long has finally started to win something outside. The batting if I need to point out is the footwork as changed of a lot of the Indian players. No body is coming down the track as they used to in 90's against spinners. All are playing from the crease. Also we are either too adventurous or too mellow. This is something that the team needs to look into. We need players to somehow stop thinking too much on the field and focus and just play the ball.

A sport psychologist can really benefit the team considering that all players are under immense pressure though they are talented and responsible individuals. Somebody who can help them focus on the right things like watching the ball, relaxing, relaxed concentration, footwork etc. I wonder what ur thoughts are on this.

do let me know what u think.

Badri Narayanan

I think you are right on the money with sliver lining from the tour. As far as failures are concerned, to me biggest failures were Tendulkar and Dravid, even above Sehwag. Tendulkar, for frittering every opportunity to either save a match or win it. In second test, he let go an amazing opportunity to score big for the team and in 3rd test, he did a "Tendulkar" again. I was discussing this with Dinesh and others, and I have been highlighting this tendency of Tendulkar to not show up when needed most since 2001. He has been doing this on either side of WC2003.

When we look back at Tendulkar's career, it will be as much as about what he achieved as about what he didn't. To me, he has let himself down, more than anything else. While his contemporaries have set new standards, Tendulkar has been in catch up mode and now he is not even doing that. So much for great Indian hope. May be we fans had sky high expectations.

On Dravid, I think he is awesome as a batsman but ok as a captain. I can reel out series of blunders, from opening in in Pak, batting first in Mumbai, poor selection in WI, being outsmarted by Lara in WI ODIs, bad team selection in 3rd test and sticking with Sehwag. While some of his decisions have been innovative, others have been little out there. I am ok with someone having conviction and sticking to it, Ganguly did it with his fair share of dodos, but Dravid has made key mistakes that have directly resulted in losses. And I have seen Ganguly being little better tactically than Dravid, who is much more by the book lond of guy.

I still think a lot of success at the top is owed to perspiration and at the same time it is a mental game, I think Sehwag is missing both right now.

As far as WC2007 is concerned, I think we have to back the youngsters and take folks who have made case for themselves, including Ganguly. I was quite surprised by his fight back.

Anubhav Sharma

To the point and I cannot agree with you more.

I would like your views on our spin depart specifically as below

- Kumble is supposed to be a far more experienced spinner than SA's debutant Paul Harris.
Then why was he not "effective" as Harris on an "Indian like" pitch. All the expert commentators were saying Kumble must be licking his lips on seeing the way the debutant bowled.

- Indian batsmen are supposed to be excellent players of spin bowling.
Then why did the great SRT, RD, VS and VVSLs struggled against the debutant spinner.  where as the South African lower order batsmen (Pollock) played Kumble very well. Also see the way our own Karthik played spin bowling (not to mention the pace bowling now).

Does it show that these great batsmen have not adapted to the present day spin bowling. Karthik was able to bat because, he had been playing domestic cricket.

These permanent members need to go to domestic cricket.

- Another is an analysis of Harbhajan singh - his consistency -  Its time to look for new spinners.

Haridas

Qutoing from your write up about Sourav Ganguly in the article "The naked and the dead" .

"Indian cricket is replete with stories of great comebacks - none, perhaps, greater than that of Mohinder Amarnath, who in the home series against the West Indies following India's dramatic World Cup win in 1983, had so many ducks following his name on the scoreboard his name could as well have been Mother Goose.

And yet, 'Jimmy' Amarnath went into the nets, worked with fierce intent, away from the spotlight and to the refrain of Survivor's anthemic number Eye of the Tiger, and went on to be rated the world's best player of pace, first in Pakistan, then in the West Indies."

Prem, I think Jimmy Amarnath scored prolificly against Pakistan and West Indies before 1983 World Cup. When he scored 1000 test runs in a calendar year in the shortest time period. It was a record then.  Mohinder was rated the best batsman against pace by his peers such as Imran Khan and Viv Richards among others. The Mother Goose phase came after all this prolific run scoring.

And yes he came back again in the team after a series average of 0.16 against West Indies.

Finally "Bunch of Jokers " episode happened and he retired in tears and so were many of us. While some of those jokers are still around in BCCI enjoying fat perks and free amenities.

Forgive me if in a rush to show off my great wisdom, I have somehow managed to miss the point you are making.

Best Regards

RAVI DUTT BAJPAI

That was really a very good compilation of best performance. I loved those lines and you are right in pointing out the best in the tour.I remember the Fish story of Japan where the fishes has to be always challenged by the sharks to make it active. The same case has to be applied to our Indian Cricket team. We need to always challenge the players. See how Ganguly, Zaheer came back. They have the purpose (To prove themselves).. Then came Sreeshant, Karthik, they are also in the same category. They need to prove the big bosses that they are also good. This shows that there should be challenge for each player with in the team.

The most derailing part in this tour is Shewag. I still thinking why Team India still persists with Shewag in SA, and the same team India has sent back Pathan for improving his skills. It should be Shewag who should be the first person to be sent out to the domestic circuit.

I am eagerly waiting for the next phase of your article.

S.Rajagopalan

Wasim Jaffar - You are right, he should be persisted, we can get a good opening combination if he is persisted as he is one who had repeatedly achored the innings for mumbai since he made his ranji debut. If he is given the confidence, I am sure he can become a justin langer for india (ofcourse hayden is not sehwag). My  choice will be gambir.
ZAHEER & SREE - They need to be consistent, thats the need of the hour. As sree is still learning, Zaheer needs to be consistent on his line and lenght to stay with team india, otherwise he can be history after 2 seasons as india has a big bowling reserves now.

KARTHICK - Exceptional

GANGULY - very good comeback, i think he secured his world cup ticket. I would like to add that we missed yuvi & kaif on the final day as far as the fielding is concerned, I am sure though kaif might have scored 25 runs, he could have very well saved 30 runs, the fielding was really worst and make it worse, starsports was very often showing the replays of how sachin saved a four (i still feel that pollock has won many matches for south africa than tendulkar for india, we need pollocks for team india, not sachins or his record, we watch cricket just because india is playing, not for sachin or dravid or ganguly, its a passion only for our country), whatever sachin does is money for the advertisers, its really bad for indian cricket, even harsha boghle was just exaggerating when sachin was batting, whenever jaffar scores a four, its just another shot, but the same shot played by sachin, i had to refer to dictionary as new praising words comeout of him, this will lead to nowhere. We need match winners, not cricket players.

Nazeer

There is one positive, that I would add to the list is the mindset of the youngsters. Sreesanths, Karthicks of this world are not following the 'footsteps' of the seniors, who are only too ready to drop down and 'gracefully' accept defeat in a 'gentlemanly' way.

Pontings, Laras and Smiths of this world don't accept things lying down. They are ready to raise their middle fingers and fight fire with fire. I would love to see Indians raise to this level and I feel only then, they would have consistent success. The 'Chalte Ha' has been going on for long and I think, we should put a stop to this.

I wish Sachin had announced his retirement from Test Cricket after the South Africa Trip. He was an embarrassment (except to his advertisers!) and the spin doctors would run a story to show how Sachin had to play with a buttock strain. Sourav showed the fighting spirit and I wish we had more such players. A Sourav with his technical flaws but with a fighting spirit is any day better to me than a technically superior Sachin but having no stomach to fight.

Mukund

The Indian cricket team is at its lowest ebb. A team having absolutely no belief in itself. A team that seems to have comfort only in defeat, which is apparently afraid of a victory. The seniors, led by Sachin Tendulkar displayed an alarming and despondent lack of personal belief – defensive tactics never won a team any respite, the only certain outcome of a defensive tactic is defeat, utter defeat. It almost looked like the team thought that the victory in the first test was not the correct result, and set out to correct the result by decisively losing the next two tests. Make no bones about it – South Africa did not win those tests, it was India which surrendered those tests, which gifted those tests on a platter to a none too impressive South African attack. One move says it all – Shaun Pollock fancied himself so much against our attack that the South Africans promoted him up the order in place of regular batsmen! It has been well known that most average and below average players restore their average and make their reputations when playing against India – whether it be bowlers blunting our bowling attack or out of form batsmen regaining form while playing against India.  This has been a most dismal performance, a performance which lacked not in talent, but in spirit. And when there is no spirit, there is no fight. There is no will to win. And the road only turns downwards thereafter.

It is time the excessively adored and hero-worshipped 'stars' of Indian cricket either perform or perish. A person is only as good as his last innings, no better. If we have to be whitewashed 4-0 in 4 one dayers and concede a 1-2 defeat after being one up right at the start of a test series, we might as well achieve those same results by building an entirely new team with people with spirit. I do not believe that this country with a population of over 6 billion cannot produce 20 cricketers who have the one quality required in any sport – the ability to fight, the ability to carry the fight to the opposition, the will, the desire, nay the obsession to win. Let us rest those cricketers who are unable to perform, no matter the reason – past credentials can carry one only so far, no further. And let us build a new team which has as its central focal point the will the win, the will to fight, the will to perform and the determination to do all of this, again and again and again.

G Subramanyam

Rear vision is always 20/20 they say, hence a postmortem analysis like this does end up getting received like being left with a lingering astringent aftertaste as you rightly mentioned. But then the sports media, which in the case of India is more or less cricket media, do have a role in ensuring the right policies are adopted in an attempt to translate the humongous popularity the sport enjoys into a dominant team. Which in turn sometimes is a very important factor in a national feeling of well being, fortunately or unfortunately.

You have always shown the wherewithal and courage to tell the tale as it is, with out being afraid of ruffling feathers like the rest of the media do, when they seem to be ending up providing a bland report or coverage of the events with out being committed to provide an analytical view point. Hence it was with great interest that I welcomed you back to cricket reporting after your brief sabbatical.

 I thought it was hilarious that the media kept referring to the tour as disastrous, when was it that we had more successful tours to countries that had fast, bouncy pitches? Those trips had always been a dump in to the abattoir for the players and the fans who hoped against hope to find success , but history continued to repeat itself and this time the story wasn't going to be different.

For one, the busting coffers of BCCI was never used for creating facilities through out the country where by creating a breeding ground of talent which can compete with each other and those who climb to the top of the pyramid are absolutely the best that can survive in all conditions. And the selection policies have always been comical exemplified by some choices that were made on this tour too.

It was interesting that a comment made by Vengsarkar, the chairman of selectors went unnoticed by the media for its relevance. After announcing the first team that was selected under his supervision, Vengsarkar lamented the lack of talent that was on view for him to be able to choose from. He probably was sending a message to the team that he ended up selecting that they are in the team, not because of their ability and commitment, but because of the lack of it outside themselves. I wonder if he believes that India by its nature will not be able to produce competitive sportsmen that can actually go outside the tutored pitches in the country and win some matches.

Vengsarkar played true to his qualification that really won him the post of national selector , of being from the Bombay posse. And he kept the tradition going by selecting Wasim Jaffer when he seemingly had done nothing to merit the unexpected the selection. He kept failing on the bouncy pitches in SA and still was given chances while Gambhir, Dinesh Karthik and Irfan pathan where showing off their technique which seemed to be much more capable of coping on those pitches. And to boot, vengsarkar even unleashed a Machiavellian criticism of jaffer on the eve of third test as if to prove his disassociation with his continued selection. The fact that jaffer was given a pitch that resembled a Mumbai pitch and he scored a century should not alter the fact that he shouldn't have been there playing.

The very fact that we view his success in the first innings as a positive that seemed to have come out of the tour, is that we still haven't learned from our mistakes of the past. Sports with its uncertain nature will throw up a surprise here and there, and Jaffer's century was just that, and should be treated as such too.

While Ganguly's return to form was certainly heartwarming, the way he found his way back was so unbecoming of a professional team. Comments from his old guardian Dalmiya and the uproar in the parliament resulted in him getting called back, since he still haven't done enough on the domestic front to merit a recall. Again, the fact that he used his hunger to prove himself again to score runs is a welcome sight, but sentiments expressed by politicians shouldn't be the driving force to a place in the team, it should be hard, explicit figures and facts that he like everyone else, have to produce.

Sreesanth, Zaheer Khan and Dinesh Kaarthik have been a revelation on the tour, and these are talents that need to be carefully exploited. We seem to have an interesting conundrum to solve at Wicker keeper position once Dhoni becomes healthy again. It may be a good idea to give Dinesh a chance to play in tests and use Dhoni's unusual hitting prowess in One dayers, and swap them as forms go up and down. That scenario in itself is proof that if pushed to compete for a place in the team, the contributions from players are bound to be better than what we got in SA. Especially true for those senior players who seem to be taking that for granted solely based on the laurels they won in the past.

Looking forward to the next part, that figures to be lot more controversial considering the iconic stature of players that stand in line for some shots from you.

Prasanth. Kollarath