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No praise can be too high for England - Sunil Gavaskar Column
by Sunil Gavaskar
Dec 12, 2008
No praise can be too high for the brave decision of the England team to resume their tour of India after the traumatic happenings in Mumbai. The England and Wales Cricket Board also deserves credit for allowing the players to take their own decision, without putting any pressure on them. In the end, the statement of England skipper Kevin Pietersen that "they are ready to stand shoulder to shoulder with India in this hour," has gone down extremely well in a country that has been hurt beyond belief, and given it the confidence that they will not be alone in fighting this scourge which is bigger and greater than any illness or ailment that mankind knows.

As with anything, there will be the cynics who will sneer and suggest that this decision was prompted by the lure of the Indian Premier League, but then the IPL had a very successful first season with just one English player, and the absence of English players in the second one won't make too much of a difference. In any case, there are probably a handful of English players who the franchises would be interested in, and that leaves us with a majority who wouldn't get a glance their way, and they could have voted to withdraw from the tour. Instead they and the coaching and support staff, who the franchises weren't interested in, voted for the tour to go ahead. That the decision was unanimous tells you that England are indeed committed to stand with India and this gesture of theirs will generate more goodwill in a cricket mad country than any diplomatic or political stand.

If as some have suggested that it was money that made England come back, then the question can be turned around to ask these objectors, if it was a lack of an invitation to be part of the IPL that is making them feel this way.

When the suicide bombings took place in London in 2005 there was nearly a suggestion that cricket should be stopped, and Australia should go home; so why should it be different this time around? Even if one takes into account the normal mourning period in India after a death, that also had passed when the Chennai Test match began, so those raising objections could be having another motive and the old saying of three fingers pointing back at the pointer holds true.

What the events of 26th November have shown is that cricket is but a trivial pursuit, and there is more to life than a game of sport, but as with anything life moves on and while sympathizing with all those who lost their near and dear ones the decision of the England team needs to be applauded and not criticized. The irony is that those who are criticizing the tour resuming are not shy of earning money commenting and writing about the tour. If they were genuine about their objections then they should have the courage to not comment about this tour, and earn money from an exercise that they feel shouldn't be taking place. How hypocritical is that? But putting money where their mouths are is never easy as we all know that comment is easy but action is not.

India have chosen Yuvraj to replace Sourav Ganguly, and that is no surprise after his terrific batting in the one-dayers against the same English team. It is a wonderful chance for him to cement a place in the Test team, for with his fielding and occasional bowling he is a big plus even before he faces a single ball with the bat. What is still hard to understand is the stubbornness with which Indian selectors are not releasing the reserve players to go and play in the Ranji Trophy matches once the final eleven is selected. Sure, keep two players in the reserves but release the other two so that they are in match trim. Unfortunately, even the reserves seem to have a negative mindset where they worry that if they fail in the Ranji game, then they won't be selected for the next Test, when in fact they should be looking at the prospect of playing the Ranji to enhance their chances of getting a place in the Test eleven. If they are not confident of doing well in a Ranji game then how are they expected to do so in a Test match?

There was a feeling in the past that the Indian team had become like a cozy club, but it's to be hoped that under Mahendra Singh Dhoni and the Chairmanship of Kris Srikkanth, that this wont be the case and players will have to consistently deliver to be wearing the India colors.

The next few days will tell us what Indian cricket has in store, and if the Champions League has been rescheduled or not, but till then let us watch the current series to see if India can maintain the intensity that they showed against Australia and win the series, and go to the number two spot in the Test rankings.

 
More Views by Sunil Gavaskar
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  National duty comes first
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