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A to Z of Cricket in 2008 - Part-V - Suneer Chowdhary Column
by Suneer Chowdhary
Jan 01, 2009
Continuing from where I left off, this is the concluding part of the A to Z of cricket in 2008.

V is for Vengsarkar, the former chief of Indian selectors. At a time when his Aussie counterparts came in for scathing criticism for some of their baffling decisions, Vengsarkar not only took the selectorial bulls by its horns, but also spoke against the BCCI diktat of a media gag for this breed of stakeholders. His proximity to the city of Mumbai and hence to the likes of Sharad Pawar did help him in his endeavour, but in the end, his efforts brought about a never-heard-before, and startling announcement; Indian selectors would no longer be on an honorary payroll.

The first batch of selectors may not have had his name - he opted out due to his other commitments that he refused to give up - but those would be thanking him profusely for the Rs.2.5 million pay package that they would receive for making all the decisions related to selection.

Amidst all this, one mustn't forget Vengsarkar's role in taking many a bull by its horns during his tenure; getting Sourav Ganguly back and then dropping him, dropping Rahul Dravid from the ODI team, selecting the World Cup T20 winning side in 2007, and focussing on the future by picking youth in the shorter versions of the game.

There is one other player whom a lot of Indian success is indebted to, and that is Venkatesh Prasad. The bowling coach of the Indian team, it would be fair to call him the one who brought about a reconnaissance in swing bowling in general, and reverse-swing in particular.

W is for the 'Winds of Change' that one witnessed in the year, when Australia was stream-rolled over by the Indians in three out of the 7 matches the two teams played, and then routed in the two that they featured against South Africa. The Aussies may have ended the year as the number one side, but that was more to do with a statistical reverence to the past, than the state of things right now. The way things stand, the new year could see a battle between Australia and England for the third spot; a far cry from what the cricketing world had witnessed through the past decade and something.

X is for the eXtra-ordinary achievements of 2008, and this includes India's win at Perth in the backdrop of Sydneygate, Virender Sehwag triple century at Chennai in double-quick time, Brendon McCullum's 150 in the opening match of the IPL that was never eclipsed by either him or the others, Ajantha Mendis' wizardry against arguably the best players of spin, England's return to India for a series amidst the terror fears, India's chase of 387 versus England, South Africa's gallop to 414 against Aussies at Perth and their subsequent series win down under, Dhoni and Graeme Smith's leadership, amongst the others!

Y is for the yo-yoing nature of the Australian selectors when it came to the rather barren cupboard of spin bowling. Never, in the last decade or so, has one seen test matches been used for trialling out new players by Australia - such has been the purported strength of its domestic structure - but what happened in the last ten tests that the Aussies featured in was at best amusing, and worst totally un-Australian. After Stuary MacGill’s abrupt retirement in the middle of the Caribbean tour, Beau Casson was drafted in - and out - of the team in a hurry that was akin to a jersey-changing spree by cricketers in an April test match at Chennai. His exclusion, for no apparent reason, left him so disillusioned that he longer finds a place in his state side anymore! Bryce McGain was lifted out of obscurity and expected to come good against India, but an injury meant that it was left to the extremely lucky Cameron White, and the luckless Jason Krejza to try and 'sell their wares'. White failed, Krejza picked up 12 in his first match but was dumped for Nathan Hauritz - who had played his first and last test some years back at Mumbai - but he had hardly looked a part. Wonder who’s next!

I may have missed out a name or two in this list, but any such occurrence is purely incidental, without ulterior motives and caused due to a never heard before and a concerted effort by the selectors to mess up the mindset.

Z cannot go to anyone but the one man to whom India owes a lot of his success; Zaheer Khan. If ever there was a passage of play that summed it up, it was in the rain-shortened Bangalore ODI against England when skipper M.S. Dhoni handed over the reigns of the bowling captaincy - and in turn the fielding placements - to this left handed bowler. Zaheer may not have the wickets to show for the kind of year he had, but then, statistics never told the entire story. Zaheer Khan - along with Ishant Sharma - was responsible for this year's biggest breaking news as far as Indian bowling is concerned, and that was the fact that the pace bowlers stood up to their spinning counterparts and helped in as many Indian wins, if not more!

Zaheer Khan's confidence was exemplary, and that was personified in the fact that his accuracy and ability to put the ball where he wished to was almost Glen McGrath-like. The much-spoken about reverse swing led to the Australian demise, and for no small measure, he was a much improved batsman at the number nine position. Zak was definitely the 'Ripper' in 2008!
 
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