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Readers sound off on: Indian cricket

January 9

From: Subramaniam <>

This is in reference to the articles on Chauhan and team selection..
The conspiracy theory of the Aussies , I believe , is still valid. In the last 15 years, Aussies have not done very well in India in Test matches. They lost the latest Test played they played, Tendulkar's first as captain. Now they have to play three Tests and that too in spinner's heaven like Chennai, Bangalore and Cuttack. Also, remember that in the present series against South Africa, Aussie wickets are going to Donald or Symcox, the off spinner, and Symcox again has been instrumental in SA wins over Australia in ODIs. The last thing the Aussies want to face, when they come to India, is a confident off spinner -- which was what Chauhan was developing into.
Australia has always been good at psychological warfare, at demolishing the confidence of opposition sides before the start of a series. Even in the ongoing series, against SA, there is the example of Hansie Cronje and his "ball tampering". Somehow, Hansie never looked quite as confident after that storm broke, in the way he led his side.
I suspect the Chauhan incident owes, at least partly, to that same strategy -- because it is Chauhan and Srinath who are going to be the dangermen for Taylor and company, when they get here.
Regarding the captaincy and team selection... I think we are losing out on a good berth by playing Mongia and Karim, neither of whom in my opinion are good enough. I think it is about time we found a good opening batsman-cum wicketkeeper, maybe M S K Prasad.
As for captaincy, the recent example of Adam Hollioake -- okay batsman, no great shakes as a bowler, good fielder -- is one worth noting. Very calm, composed, always smiling even in crisis, keeping up the team's spirits. And more important, playing to their strengths and keeping the overall gameplan in view. It was such teams that used to win games for us in India's golden era, bowlers like Mohinder/Binny/Madan and, to some extent even Chetan Sharma, Manoj Prabhakar... all bowling slow and straight in crucial spells towards the middle and end of the innings. Though today, Robin Singh bowls like that, his line and length are not always under control, he tends to bowl many short ones. In fact, whenever Robin managed to keep the wicket to wicket line he has been effective, as has Ganguly. Jadeja used to do this too, a long time ago. I think what we are missing out on is a bowler or two of this kind -- not the stars, but reliable performers with bat and ball, more importantly, bowlers who can bowl tight spells in the key stages of the game, and do so consistently.

From: Raja Mitra <>

I am quite amazed that all this talk by experts and ex-cricketers should have erupted the moment Tendulkar was replaced as captain. It seems that while the selectors are accused of partisanship and ham-handedness, scores of 'experts' cannot quite escape this stigma either.
The issues are fairly basic and uncomplicated.
Tendulkar has not performed upto the mark as a captain, judging by the results of Tests and ODIs. I wish as a nation we finally get focussed on results instead of a whole lot of extraneous and trivial issues.
Reasons like poor team composition, politicking etc., sound like mere excuses now. In any result-oriented setup the leader is fully responsible for both the positives and negatives of his team and the environment. If these were factors which were not acceptable to the captain he should have stood up and said so a long time ago and if despite this he did not quite get what he wanted, he should have quit as a captain. That Tendulkar didn't do either makes him squarely responsible for India's dismal showing since he took over the captaincy.
Finally, very many of the 'experts' have never ever played ODIs during their playing careers and therefore are hardly qualified to pass 'expert' comments on this variety of the game.

Prem Panicker replies: A couple of points here. The same experts -- a lot of them -- had, if you will think back far enough, criticised the ouster of Mohammad Azharuddin at the end of the England tour. Further, what is being criticised here is not so much Tendulkar's ouster, as the manner in which it was brought about, by systematic erosion of the captain's authority all leading to a predetermined result. So it is not quite true to say that the experts are getting het up just now -- do go back over the past few months, starting from the tour to West Indies when Tendulkar first let his dissatisfaction with team composition be publicly evident -- you will see that the media has systematically been pointing out the events, and predicting the ultimate result, well before it actually happened.
As to your second point, the captain did, often and loudly, indicate his displeasure -- that is exactly what has landed him in this predicament. As to the point about results -- how about holding everybody responsible, not just the captain? For instance, if selectors dictate the final lineup and the batting order, how is it that they are not accountable for results? Or are we saying here that such things as team composition and batting order have no bearing, that results can be produced anyway?
One other point. If the argument that you have to have done it before writing about it is carried to its logical conclusion, then there will be no media at all, period. You can't write about government and its policies because you have never been a cabinet minister, can't write about politics because you don't belong to a party and haven't contested elections, and so on. In fact, by that yardstick the only thing a journalist can write about is the media itself, right, because it is the only thing he has done?

But never mind that argument -- if your point is that the experts haven't played too many ODIs and are not competent to write, then should it not hold for the selectors as well? There are five of them -- and the sum of their ODI experience is six, all in the name of Shivlal Yadav. None of the others have even played a single ODI. So tell me, if lack of experience is a factor when weighing expert comments, how about when selecting teams?

From: Natarajan Sureshkumar <>

I am currently in the US and have been here for the past 2 years now. And since this is my first correspondence to you, I have to thank you for the excellent coverage of cricket-related happenings in your articles that actually keep me more informed of cricket than when I was in India, and hence has kept my passion for cricket very much alive. I read the flurry of mails that have been posted in your webpage on the sacking of Tendulkar and since I have a slightly different view of things from the apparently popular perception, I couldn't help but send this mail.
While definitely it is true that the selectors, by their recent actions/statements/political manouverings etc. have made a mockery of the whole system,what puzzles me is the apparently anti-Azhar feeling that is being sensed in these reader responses regarding their decision to appoint him as the captain in place of Sachin.
Surely, Tendulkar is the one of the most talented players of all time in Indian cricket and he has also played in an admirably selfless fashion all along. But, as much as the current media-bashing done by selectors is unjustifed, I think it was only the media that was the main reason for Tendulkar being made the captain of the Indian team prematurely. Sure, Azhar was not a great strategist, but atleast he was a winning captain, never mind if it was mainly on Indian wickets as even those victories are not to be seen now. His only great failures were the World Cup semi-finals and the England series that followed. The latter, as pointed out by Prem Panicker in his article, was more due to the bad English weather and other miscellaneous reasons than Azhar's captaincy. And the former was mainly due to the wrong decision of electing to bowl on winning the toss, and this decision, as pointed out in many news articles then, was a collective decision taken by the team management prior to the toss and the team management included Sachin as the vice-captain - a fact many people, including Mr. Panicker, going by his article, have forgotten. This is just to point out that such mistakes can be made by anyone and it was no good reason to remove Azhar. But then, everyone, the media in particular, thought Sachin would be the elixir to all the problems facing Indian cricket and hence did not rest until he was made the captain. But when, after being made the captain, he could not produce the miracles that he was expected to, everyone, not just the selectors but the fans and media as well, put pressure on him that only resulted in making him a less-assured captain and even worse, a less-assured batsman.
Notwithstanding the statistics of Tendulkar's batting last year that boast of high averages, definitely one could see a lack of confidence in his approach that was never seen in his pre-captaincy days. Being currently in the US, the only matches I saw live were the ones played in Toronto and his batting there was a poor image of his former self. Also, I remember reading consistently in Panicker's articles, that even in the fifties and such he scored in the Tests, he was far less confident than his usual self. So, I think, whatever the selectors' malicious intentions be, it is only a blessing in disguise for Tendulkar's own personal benefits to be relieved of these pressures and resurrect his batting confidence.
Meanwhile, as regards Azhar, same as Sachin, he is definitely one of the most talented cricketers of all time in Indian cricket. And I belong to the bunch of fans who used to derive sheer pleasure in watching Azhar bat, no matter what the result is - for he is one of the very few who not only makes runs, but does so with class. And talking of making runs, in the recent past, which would be his post-captaincy days, he has scored 5 Test centuries and a lot of runs in one-days too, I am sure, though I don't have the statistics obviously. And that is no mean feat. And I am surprised that still, so many people are calling for his head, because he failed in the last two one-day series. That he has class is proven. That he is physically fit, more so than his younger colleagues, is proven by his still alacritic fielding and the brilliant catches that he regularly takes, as reported in Prem's match reviews. Did people forget that famous cricketing adage that "Class is permanent, form is temporary"? So, I think, for all that he has acheived so far, he deserves to be given a place in the team, atleast presently.
And talking of captaincy, given that the composition of the Indian team for one-days and tests are not very different, it does not make sense to play two different captains. And, to give captaincy to the Dravids and Gangulys of Indian cricket, would be only suicidal to the team's interests as well as their own batting, given they have both just matured into good batsmen and they need more time to settle themselves firmly. So, if one were to releive Sachin of his job, I think the only natural choice is Azhar.
The reasons given by the selectors, like Azhar having a "happy married life", are just stupid, to say the least, for one to be made a captain. Nevertheless, in the overall perspective, though they had all the wrong reasons, I think they have come to a right decision, though one has to wait to see if it will deliver the goods.

Prem Panicker: I think just one point needs to be made, here. The media's main argument against recent developments centre not so much on the two personalities -- Azhar and Sachin -- as on other factors.
The first is selectorial manipulation. Since you have been following my articles, you will surely remember that as early as six months ago, we had begun talking of two selectors who were hell bent on ousting Sachin from the captaincy. And we have detailed, in every series, the steps they have taken in order to make the captain's task next to impossible, so I won't reiterate them here. The cumulative point is merely this -- if selectors are allowed to indulge in such manipulations to bring about the result they desire (and in this context, the rightness or otherwise of the result is immaterial), then the danger to cricket is self-evident. For instance -- what does Azhar do from here on? Silently accept the teams he is given, blindly follow the "suggestions" made to him, and he can be captain as long as he likes. Question their decisions, and he gets the sack next. This is what happened to Sachin, and given that this bunch of selectors have tasted blood, the same is going to happen to Azhar -- and that is the real danger.
I remember once, Ian Chappell being asked what the key was to being a successful captain. His reply is interesting: "I made a bargain with my team -- I back them one hundred per cent off the field, in return they back me one hundred per cent on the field." Take another successful captain -- Ranatunga. When Aravinda D'Silva was dropped for other than cricketing reasons a couple of years back, Ranatunga at once gives up his captaincy rather than stand by. So when the issue is resolved and Ranatunga is back, is it any wonder that ADS plays out of his skin for the captain who stood by him? Here, the captain -- no matter who he is -- cannot guarantee anything, to anybody. For instance, the captain tells a player, go out there and hold the fort, or slog, or whatever, and the player does so. Suppose he fails, and the selectors drop him though the captain stands by him. Next time such an order is given by the captain, will the player carry it out, or will he, rather, play the kind of game more likely to impress the selectors? You tell me.

From: Rajeev Nagabhirava <raja@ISI.EDU>

In my view the basic problem with the selection is there are no true allrounders in the team. Resulting in a five batsmen, five bowlers, one keeper kind of situation, which in my view will never work.
We dont need the best allrounders of all time, what we need is at the least someone who can consistently bowl 8-10 overs tight and also get 35-40 regularly with the bat. That is what our strength was in 1983, when players like Binny, Madan Lal and Mohinder Amarnath proved the key to our World Cup win.
These days, we have quality players -- Tendulkar, Dravid, Ganguly, Srinath, Prasad, Kambli, all the rest, they all excelt in one area, but not in the other. I remember reading somewhere that Indian bowlers don't get time to practise batting in the nets -- this, I think, is part of the problem.

From: Shariq Ahmad Tariq <>

I have had it with the selectors of India and Pakistan and the rotten games they play with the players and minds of fans. There was a time when I thought that no player should be allowed to get bigger than the game and that if something like that happens the selectors should intervene -- but our sadistic and power hungry cricket board bosses have taken this to a new level. It is so frustrating that I don't even have any desire to follow any sort of cricket has become a real farce. Thank you dear Indian/Pakistani selectors for driving away a die-hard fan from the game, I am sure many others will follow suit.

From: <>

I read all of Prem Panicker's articles on the recent drama neatly convened by our bunch of jokers. It's nice to see somebody fighting against our honourable selectors' autocratic approach -- we will always support you.
I feel that instead of discussing in details, atleast hereafter, about the controversial selection of the captain and the events which followed immediately thereafter, including Chauhan's chucking, it's better to discuss what are the other alternatives to avoid such problems in the future.
According to the present system, the selectors are being proposed from the regional assocations and hence it leads to a lot of partial selection. It could be solved if we have a system wherein players (former and present) can form an association to take care of the players needs. This can reflect in the ideal selection committe which should consist of a former Test batsman, preferably an ex-captain, who has played atleast 40-50 Tests, a former Test bowler, a quickie preferably, of outstanding ability; a former Test spinner, of the same quality as the above; the coach of the side, and the captain of the current squad.
The three ex-players should be selected by the players association and not by the regional selectors. The major advantage in this system is, players (former and present) select these three selectors, who in turn, is responsible for the selection of the players. These three selectors should watch all the domestic matches and can show the video-clippings of upcoming players to the captain and coach.
I feel sad to say that Chauhan isn't worth a place not even in the Indian A team. When compared to Muralidharan and Mustaq, he is nowhere. He was never a match winner. He always failed to deliver the goods when it was needed, that too on a turning track. During the good old days, he played only a supportive role to Kumble and Raju. So, we have to concentrate on getting a good off-spinner for the country instead of going back to Chauhan. Nevertheless, our Board should have fought on behalf of Chauhan, like the Sri Lankans did for Dharmasena. People would have appreciated the board for that, even if they drop Chauhan afterwards because of his failures.
As for captaincy, my choice would be Jadeja above both Azhar and Sachin. Even in Tests, Jadeja can be accommodated as an alrounder. Sidhu and Ganguly can open the innings. Since Ganguly is opening the innings in one day matches for a long time, he could be tried in Test matches too. Batting at five and six, as he does now, he doesn't get to really build an innings, which he has shown he is capable of doing.
So my Test 11 is: Sidhu, Ganguly, Dravid, Tendulkar, Azharuddin, Jadeja, Mongia, Bahutule, Srinath, Prasad, and either an off spinner, or a medium pacer, depending on the nature of the pitch.