Azhar goes for broke!
It had been simmering for a while. It seems to be out in the open now.
There was for a while a feeling that Mohammad Azharuddin wanted the captaincy back --
and if a Calcutta datelined report is indeed true, he has now admitted it
to the media.
There were recent reports, admittedly unconfirmed, that two of the selectors
wanted him back as captain. It is not always easy to believe such reports --
but then, very few of our selectors have any faith in the old school
which thought that the deliberations of a selection committee should
The fact that the newsmagazine Week should make a selector's
confession as its cover story was proof of two things. One, that the
selector was extremely indiscreet and two, that rumours about the
dissatisfaction with Tendulkar weren't completely wrong.
"If I am destined to regain the captaincy, I will get it", Azhar has been
quoted as saying in Calcutta. More interestingly, he has taken a little
potshot at Sunil Gavaskar and Ravi Shastri. "A couple of commentators
who have played the game were trying to spread these things," he said in
reference to the suggestion that he had a role to play in the running out
of Vinod Kambli at Karachi.
And so, between now and the next meeting of the selection committee, the
country will start the familiar debate all over again. It isn't a new
phenomenon. Vijay Merchant vs Pataudi (sr); Ajit Wadekar vs Pataudi (jr);
Sunil Gavaskar vs Kapil Dev. And now, Sachin Tendulkar vs Mohd.
The problem with such debates is that they rarely produce
healthy analyses -- and invariably lead to bitterness within a team. For a
set of players who have so much to prove in a home series, this could be
a disaster waiting to unveil itself.
There are two ways of looking at the captaincy issue. Will giving it back
to Azhar mean taking a step back? And will it lead to the demoralisation
of Tendulkar? Or, will it allow Tendulkar to feel his way for a couple of
years longer, and regain the captaincy as a much better equipped
individual? Should we therefore, be planning for the future or should we
be looking at horses for courses?
Kapil Dev said recently that he was opposed to changing the captaincy
around, because it is not good for the morale of the side. He got it in
1983 when he was just four years old in international cricket, and by 1987
when he had started becoming comfortable, he was sacked again. It led to
an extremely turbulent phase in our cricket history, which only got sorted out
once Azharuddin brought some permanency to the post.
Now Tendulkar has had a little over a year in charge. He has probably
gone through the difficult part of adjusting to the demands of
leadership. In fairness to him, he has only really lost overseas, and has
emerged with a 5-3 away score against Pakistan which to my mind, is one
of the more sensational results we have achieved in recent times. Why are
we then, talking about a change at all?
I suspect that the move to sacrifice Tendulkar, the captain, has its
origins in a desire to rediscover Tendulkar, the batsman. It is a noble
objective, but one that belittles Tendulkar's ability to think his way
Admittedly, Azharuddin's credentials to lead the country once again are
excellent. When he lost the job after the tour of England last year, his
personal life was in disarray and he didn't look like he would score runs
again. Since then, he has made five Test hundreds and well over a thousand
runs in one-day internationals. And more to the point, he has hardly ever failed at home -- which is where
most of the cricket over the next two years will be played. And he has
sorted out all his domestic problems. Indeed, he looks, more than before,
like a man at peace with himself.
Except that he wants the captaincy back!
It is a very tough decision to take. In moments like these, you tend to
take the path of no change, and that is what the selectors should do if
they are unsure.
My only hope, though, is that the two captaincy contenders
are rated on cricketing credentials. My fear, however, is that they will become
merely frontmen in a much deeper struggle for power.
The sadness in this situation is that the changeover in captaincy, from Azharuddin to
Tendulkar, represented one of the finest moments in Indian cricket.
taken less than thirteen months to change all that.