S Badrinath gets his chance and he doesn't fail - Sunil Gavaskar Column

2008 Aug 23 by

Subramaniam Badrinath is not one for controversy but for performance and from what little has been seen of him at the domestic level as also the Indian Premier League, he is thankfully no 'show boater' either.

Subramaniam Badrinath gets his chance. And he doesn't fail.

Sunil Gavaskar

Times they have certainly changed. Not so long ago any player expressing disappointment at being left out of a team would probably never ever be selected for his temerity in going public. This however is a new age and a new era and unless you are 'in the face' as the popular saying goes, you are not going to get noticed. There are other benefits too apart from being seen and that can be in the endorsement business as today's advertisers are looking for those already in the public eye, be it for performance or controversy.

Subramaniam Badrinath is not one for controversy but for performance and from what little has been seen of him at the domestic level as also the Indian Premier League, he is thankfully no 'show boater' either. There is not the slightest doubt that had he not expressed his bafflement at being continually ignored for national selection and not being told what he needs to do by any selector, he would not have been picked as a replacement for Virender Sehwag. By saying what he did immediately after the one-day team to Sri Lanka was announced he brought attention to the selectors wandering minds that here was a player who had done no wrong and needed to be given a chance, or as Badri himself put it, given a chance to fail. Make no mistake, if he had not given that interview the selectors would have turned to Dinesh Karthik, or the perennial standby Mohammad Kaif, to take the place of the injured Sehwag.

Luckily Badrinath is still on the right side of the 20s in a youth obsessed country where performing at the under-19 level without any corresponding deeds at the domestic level, can propel a player straight to the national team. Yes, one can understand an under-19 quick bowler being pitch-forked into the international pit because he has the strength, stamina and energy and is largely injury free, but batsmen unless it is a once in a century player like Sachin Tendulkar, need a lot more time to mature and be able to face the pressures and tensions of international cricket. It is because of this awareness of a national call up being round the corner after a performance at the under-19 tournaments that one finds that ages are not always what the certificates say at that level.

By speaking out Badrinath did force the selectors to pick him as a replacement and in his first game he showed just why, by keeping his cool along with captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni and taking India to a win after the earlier batsmen had tottered. Even here he was batting at number 7 where batsmen hardly get the opportunity to get big scores and are dumped when they sacrifice their wickets in throwing their bats in the slog overs. In dropping these lower order batsmen the selectors point to their scores seldom taking into account the circumstances in which they had sacrificed their wickets.

Badrinath probably learnt from the fate that befell previous Tamil Nadu players like S. Ramesh and S. Sriram who despite scoring thousands of runs at the domestic level and then doing well in the limited chances that they got at the international level, were dropped on some pretext or the other. Why, Sriram was even dropped for the next series after having been chosen Man of the Match in the previous one-day series in Bangladesh.

Ramesh was never understood by the management and was seen as a goofy character lost in his own world, never mind the fact that with the bat he still delivered and also plucked some extraordinary catches in the close-in position.

Past skippers including yours truly were often accused of favouring players from their state or zone in the national team but no captain is foolish enough to cut his own feet by going for players from his state or zone and upsetting the balance of the team. The only reason he goes for them is because he has seen more of them and knows how they react to pressure than players from other zones he hasn't seen enough of. In the past decade or so the captains seem keen to get an image of being unbiased by not plumping for deserving players from their state and zones for the national teams.

Badrinath's skipper for the Chennai Super Kings is Dhoni, and while he has now said after Badrinath showed not just batting skills but good temperament as well in his debut game that "he is a good player", did he discuss him at the selection meeting? Of course captains have had no vote in selection ever and are only co-opted to get their view on combination etc. In trying to keep an image of being unbiased, are captains not doing justice to players from their own states and zones? Then the best thing to do is to follow the Australian method of selection and not have the skipper as part of the selection group. By all means seek his views as also that of the coach but let the selectors then go into the meeting and pick the team. This way the skipper is not involved in picking or dropping any player and can go ahead and do the job with the players given to him.

Badrinath has got in but don't be surprised if at the first failure he is left in the lurchwhile other failures get more chances to fail.