borderline places in the Indian squad is more important than winning matches in the near term.
The Indian teams preparation for the World Cup is in its final lap and
has reached a stage where finding the right combination and filling the
borderline places in the squad is more important than winning matches
with due respect to Vince Lombardi.
Greg Chappell himself has realized this. In an interview to a national
daily recently he touched upon this aspect by specifically pointing out
to the Chennai ODI against the West Indies which India lost. Conceding
that the team India fielded in that game was not the best that could
have been picked remember that Dhoni, Ganguly, Harbhajan and Zaheer
sat out he hit the nail on the head by saying that the time had come
to identify players in specific roles and give youngsters who are on
the threshold of selection the big break. ``They should be thrown at
the deep end of the pool he said.
The team management is striking the right note in resting some of the
certainties and trying their best to fill up the few places still up for
grabs with deserving young talent. As Rahul Dravid has said the
selection committee has come close to choosing the squad of 15 from 17
or 18 players. ``We are pretty close to where we want to be. We want
players who can adapt to different conditions and wickets and we are
getting these kinds of players the Indian captain has said.
Robin Uthappa is a case in point. Had the selectors stuck to a more
conventional plan the dashing 21-year-old Coorg-born opening batsman
would have been out in the cold. The resting of Ganguly gave him the
opportunity and he made the most of it. Now at least we all know that
there is an alternative to any established opening partnership should
it fail to deliver.
It would be a good idea if the policy of resting senior cricketers or
certainties is continued in the series against Sri Lanka. It would do
Indian cricket no harm if Dravid, Tendulkar and Agarkar for example
miss a couple of matches. Also it is imperative that Yuvraj Singh
should bat higher up the order in the games against Sri Lanka. He is
the only established batsman who is still finding his bearings thanks
to the injury that kept him out for a long period. He is a key member
of the Indian middle order and it is important that he get some runs to
regain his confidence before the World Cup.
In the ultimate analysis long term planning is preferred to short term
gains. My mind goes back to 1969 when Vijay Merchant as chairman of
the selection committee had definite views about the future belonging
to the youth. In the twin Test series against New Zealand and Australia
during the 1969-70 season he gave the India cap to as many as eight
youngsters. India was exceptionally lucky to square the three-match
contest against New Zealand while the series against Australia was
lost. Merchant took the criticism that followed on his chin and
remained unruffled. He persevered with the policy the following year
and the result was the greatest year in Indian cricket the India
Rubber Year of 1971 when India won historic rubbers first in the West
Indies and then in England. Some of the players blooded by Merchant
played a notable role in the twin triumphs a vindication of his far
Nearly 40 years later Greg Chappell has also warned of ignoring youth
at ones peril. It is obvious that the Indian team like Australia
has players who are in the evening of their great careers. Managing the
transition period will be a crucial exercise but at least a start has
been made along the right lines.