Rediff Logo Cricket
March 11, 1999


send this report to a friend

Nowhere to go but up

Sanjay Manjrekar

Sadagopan Ramesh is a rare case in modern day Indian cricket. He is a cricketer who had to excel in Tests to get a nod in the one-day team. It is his consistent run in the four Test matches he has played thus far that has led to his inclusion in the shortlist of 19 probables for the World Cup, and to his being pretty much a certainity for the one day team for the triangular to be played by India, Sri Lanka and Pakistan from March 19.

There have been many examples of cricketers in recent times who have got picked easily for the one day team and, after a few ordinary performances here and there, been considered for the Test team. Such players are one-day cricket's gift to Test matches, an the list is quite long.

But the fact remains that Ramesh finds himself in a list that is not very long. This is because he chose the more difficult route to come into the one day team. The Tamil Nadu left hander should however feel proud of the fact that he has excelled at the highest level in cricket -- in the Test arena -- and now embarks on the easier route, of course, with different challenges this time.

I saw the young man in action for the first time when he walked out to play his first ball in Test cricket in his hometown, Chennai. He got off to a flier of a start against Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis, and remained unbeaten that day. I must confess I wasn't entirely convinced about his technique and style of play. After his brief exhibition that evening, I wondered whether he would be able to answer the more critical questions asked by the bowler, in tougher conditions.

But four Test matches later, he has established himself as an opening batsman for India. He has had one of the more consistent starts I have seen from anyone at the Test level.

With such expectations early in your career, what you mostly do is raise expectations and that is where Ramesh finds himself just now. He is in the shortlist for the World Cup, and will in all probability play in the onee day triangular tournament this month. He will not even get enough time to enjoy his Test success, because he has now to approach the unenviable task of fulfilling expectations in a different setting.

The setting may change but the expectations will remain the same. Let us face one truth in cricket, a truth that is backed up by evidence from examples of past cricketers. And that is that no one can sustain that level of performance over a long period of time without a slump here and there -- and given the kind of beginning Ramesh has had, he will find sustaining the momentum extremely tough.

Sachin Tendulkar is one cricketer who is unique in many ways and one of his unique achievements, as Harsha Bhogle rightly pointed out, is that he is the one cricketer who has fulfilled all the expectations -- and I can tell you that takes some doing.

But Ramesh is not Sachin. So let us please be reasonable and not expect the world from the left handed opener. He has just started off, he has to learn, and learn quickly, especially as he is an opener who has to play the new ball. At the cost of sounding repetitive, I feel he needs to move his feet better, play a little straighter, curb his tendency to play on the rise. A middle order batsman can get away with this at Test level, but not the batsman who has to play the first ball of the innings.

I do hope, for the youngster's sake, that these apparent weaknesses I see remain just that -- merely apparent. If he is good enough a player to adjust to the varying demands of international cricket, India would have found an opener capable of keeping the scorers busy.

Good luck, Ramesh -- go for it! And for our part, we will try and be reasonable in our expectations.

Tell us what you think of this column