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It's a pity that umpire referrals will not be used in the India-Australia series
by Sunil Gavaskar
Oct 06, 2008
The second season of the Indian Premier League is to start in April 2009, a good seven months away, so it is hard to understand the need for the Deccan Chargers to announce that VVS Laxman was stripped of the captaincy and it was going to be Adam Gilchrist who will now lead the Chargers. India is due to play the world champs Australia in a Test series in a few days time and this kind of demoralizing news was certainly not what was wanted.

The Deccan Chargers are fully entitled to make a change in their team be it on the management side or the playing side but the timing of the announcement is strange to say the least. Adam Gilchrist has been a wonderful player for Australia and his elevation to the captaincy while sacking an India icon on the eve of a crucial series is something that is head scratching alright. The Chargers have got a new Chief Executive Officer and thankfully he is not an Aussie, else screams of conspiracy would have been loud allround. Laxman is not part of the India one day squad for a couple of seasons now, so the announcement could well have been delayed till the end of the current series and made before the one day series against England which starts in mid-November. Not that the chargers won lots of matches after Gilchrist took over from the injured Laxman last season so its not as if his captaincy was spectacular.

Hopefully, all this will only spur "very very special" Laxman to produce his best which he usually does against the Australians. He has had very little support for apart from a stray column there's not been much of a hue and cry about the change in captaincy. That can well be due to the fact that everybody was preoccupied writing the epitaphs of the senior players in the team. Unfortunately for them the new set of selectors did not oblige though how anybody could have expected that all of them were going to be given the shove especially on the eve of a series against the world champs is beyond reason. Yes Sourav Ganguly is invariably the fall guy when it comes to asking for changes to be made. He and Laxman are perennially on trial despite their record and it speaks volumes of their temperament that they keep churning out runs amidst all this pressure.

The baffling thing was why Ganguly was not at the training camp in Bangalore while those who failed in the Irani Trophy were there. Who selected the guys for the camp? The old committee? Also who is the physio of the Indian team? Why is he not being consulted about the fitness of players while someone at the NCA is giving the fitness certificates?

Classy centuries by youngsters Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli in the warm up game against the Australians will no doubt put a lot of pressure on the Indian middle order to do well to keep their spots in the remaining two Test matches. There is also Badrinath and Yuvraj waiting in the wings so more than ever there is very little room for complacency for anybody in the team. There is no doubt that the seniors will be spurred by the double challenge of playing against the best team in the world as well as maintaining their places in the team to lift their game a notch or so and they will also have taken heart from the fact that against the full strength Aussie attack the youngsters have got tons so with a bit of luck they should also be able to do well.

It's a pity that the umpire referral system will not be used in this series. The Indians came off second best in this system in Sri Lanka but that was simply because they had not got the hang of it and used it with emotion than cricketing sense. That can happen when a team is not doing well and is under pressure so it appeals for anything and everything. Mahela Jaywardene on the other hand was cool and calculated and used the referral system only when he was pretty sure that the appeal would go his side’s way and so had a better percentage than Anil Kumble. On pitches that will help spin and with fielders surrounding the batsman, the system would have been a big help in defusing potential confrontation situations and that's why it is a pity that it wont be used in this series. Not many "walk" these days and that can lead to a feeling of frustration if the reprieved player goes on to play a match turning innings as happened last season. That's why Anil Kumble is unlikely to agree to a pact about taking a fielders word for catches taken close to the ground. When a team is desperate to win these pacts go out of the window as was evident a few months ago and in any case its strange logic to accept that a player who stays when he knows he is out is going to be honest about catches he has taken near the turf. It would be foolhardy to accept such a player's word. It means zilch and the excuse given will be that he was playing hard and not trying to cheat. Of course, and the sun rises from the West too!
More Views by Sunil Gavaskar
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