By Sunil Gavaskar
The selection of the Indian cricket team is always a newsworthy event and is invariably preceded with plenty of speculation in the media about the final composition of the squad. The selectors do drop a few hints, anonymously of course and gauge the reaction to that and if there is no outrage then they go ahead with the selection.
Unlike in England where the media can influence the selection by suggesting some names, in India the media is quite happy to get the little bits and pieces from the selectors and go ahead and play the game for them. So even before the announcements came most people knew that Dravid and Yusuf Pathan were going to be dropped and it was going to be touch and go for Ishant Sharma. Fortunately for Sharma he was spared but Dravid and Yusuf were not and with Sehwag being fit and Yuvraj also likely to be so the two who were to be the sacrificial lambs were Dravid and Yusuf Pathan.
Dravid was brought back after two years ostensibly because the younger batsmen in the team were having problems with the short ball and since the Champions Trophy was to be played on the quicker bouncier pitches of South Africa the selectors went for experience over youth. Dravid did nothing wrong in South Africa where the team were beaten by Pakistan and went out of the tournament but as always when the team loses somebody or the other has to be made the scapegoat and so Dravid was one of them.
The other was Yusuf Pathan and his fault seems to be that he did not score too many runs. Now anybody who bats at number 6 or 7 hardly gets enough overs to get lots of runs. He, poor chap has to try and make up for the lack of runs or slow going by the earlier batsmen and in doing so gives away his wicket. To be punished for playing for the needs of the team is sending the wrong message to the others who will rather get a not out against their name than lose their wickets cheaply trying to make up for the lapses of the top order batsmen.
The number six and seven batsman should be seen in the light of the partnerships he has with one of the top batsmen when the team is in trouble and if he has lost his wicket in the chase for runs and a quicker scoring rate. If that is the case then he does not deserve to be dropped but encouraged since here is a player who has put the teams interests above his own and has sacrificed his wicket doing so.
The BCCI deserves kudos for the warning letter it has sent to Sreesanth after the seamer got involved in another unsavoury episode in the Irani trophy match. Allan Donald who was Sreesanth's coach at Warwickshire has plenty to say about Sreesanth and not much is complimentary and he has no axe to grind. What is important is his observation about Sreesanth’s training methods and attitude to it.
Now the training that Indians do has been and is vastly different from the overseas teams. Running and training are concepts which are alien in India and unless these aspects are learnt at an early age it becomes harder to pick them up later. It is not known if Sreesanth was an enthusiastic trainer or not and maybe his training methods are different. In any case each body is different so no common course can be prescribed for all. As long as a bowler is able to bowl for a longish first spell when he is fresh and effective ones later on particularly towards the end of a tiring run chase then there should be no worries. It's when a bowler is bowling at half his usual speed and is looking listless that his training becomes a subject of discussion.
Make no mistake Sreesanth is a serious talent and he needs to be counselled not to waste his considerable abilities. He loves to be in the spotlight and that is no bad thing as long as it doesn't take away from his commitment to the team and is not affecting the rest of his team. Unfortunately, by all accounts he is not even liked in the team because of his propensity to be a showman and attract attention to himself.
Fast bowlers love to swagger and show who is the boss and love it when the crowd gets behind them. Sreesanth is still young and has plenty of cricket ahead of him. He can still be a match winner for India. After Kapil Dev and Richard Hadlee there has been no bowler with such an upright seam position on delivery. The BCCI letter asking him to shape up or ship out has come not a day too soon and hopefully will make the young bowler see the light. He can still take plenty of wickets without making faces which do not flatter him and if he sees it himself even he may agree.
The BCCI has done its duty and it's now up to Sreesanth if he wants to be recognised as a top bowler or as an entertainer with nothing to show in the score books.