Rebel with a cause
The overwhelming emotion in Indian cricket just now is one of mistrust.
The captain clearly doesn't trust the selectors; I suspect the selectors
do not trust each other very much, and the manager doesn't trust two of
his seniormost players. For the start of a season, that is a pretty chaotic
scenario. For a team that is losing its popularity and more importantly,
its credibility, it is a terrible state of affairs.
One of the reasons the key actors in this critical drama are not pulling
in the same direction is that they are probably looking at things from
different perspectives. The captain is looking to enforce his authority;
something that has been severely dented by a very public statement that
implies his performance hasn't been appreciated. And the selectors have
two masters. They have , in theory, to pick the team they believe is best
suited to represent the country, but they also have to satisfy the people
who appointed them in the first place - namely, the zonal administrators. As a
result, a regional bias is inherent in our selection procedure and
selectors have to be looking at players from particular regions.
As we all know, the two don't always gel.
Tendulkar's frustration is understandable because he has to have players
that he believes can deliver. If a major is leading a regiment to war, he
has to be absolutely certain that his soldiers are firing in the
direction he wants them to. And that can only happen if he was complete
confidence in his regiment. If he feels his best marksmen are being left
behind, or even if some of them are, he is bound to feel handicapped.
That is why a captain, unless he is being completely unreasonable, should
normally get the team he wants. If a batsman is scoring a lot of runs and
the captain cannot offer a convincing enough reason to ask him to be left
out, he should clearly be over-ruled. But there are often considerations
that the selectors are not aware of and which are very critical.
Ian Chappell wrote recently on captaincy in the Wisden Cricket Monthly,
one of the most sensible articles I have read for a very very long time,
and he said, "A captain demands 100 per cent from his players when
they're out on the field, therefore he should return the compliment when
it comes to the players' off-field needs. If a captain has asked one of
his players to go out and play a few shots because the situation demands
it, the player must have complete confidence in his captain's ability to
stick with him in case he fails. Otherwise a captain cannot expect, and
indeed should not expect, his players to play their hearts out."
Now Tendulkar has been put into a situation where, if he goes up to say
Robin Singh and says, "I want 25 in 10 balls, so go for it," he cannot
guarantee that if Robin fails he will continue to get a place in the
side. In this theoretical situation, Robin Singh has probably sacrificed
his wicket for the team's cause. If he is then dropped, another player
will say `Hang on, let me get runs for myself first'. Can you, for
example, fault Nayan Mongia now if he hangs around to score a few runs
because the selectors believe he is not good enough to score them?
Having said that, it is very unlike Tendulkar to erupt and to have a go at
anybody. I have known him for a long time and have always found that he
has fewer words than shots. That is how I believe every cricketer should
be. If you speak with the bat or the ball, you don't need to speak with
And yet Tendulkar apparently has. This is an aggressive and cornered
individual talking, not the balanced young man we have all known. It is
a terribly sad state of affairs, and one that could easily have been
avoided if everyone had the same goal ahead of them. It was, for example,
obvious to everyone that there was no alternative to Tendulkar for the
job of captain of India. The easiest thing to have done in such a
situation was to speak to him in private and to tell him that he needed
to do better. By announcing it, and by not giving him the team he wants,
they have pinned one arm behind him.
All successful organisations, and therefore teams, run on effective
man-management. A happy man is more likely to do well. An angry,
disgruntled rebel will never put team needs above his own. What we have
done in the last two weeks is to ensure that the captain, and not a minor
actor, becomes the rebel.
You cannot clip a bird's wings and still expect it to fly high.