By Sunil Gavaskar
Two things happened last week that should convince the doubters that the much unfairly maligned Board of Control for Cricket in India is in good hands. The first was the announcement that Mohinder Amarnath was to get the Col C.K. Nayudu Lifetime Achievement award for services to cricket in India. Mohinder fully deserves the honour for he is one of India’s best ever. The kudos to BCCI are simply because some crusty people would have tried to bring to the fore some of the remarks by Jimmy towards the end of his career and so deny him the honour. Jimmy had famously called the selectors a ‘bunch of jokers’ after being dropped from the team and at that stage nobody gave him a chance of making a comeback but Jimmy being the original comeback man got picked again after a change in the selection committee and scored runs too to show that his earlier omission was a mistake.
Thankfully the BCCI did not hold that against him and has given him the award to recognise his efforts for India. Jimmy must be the bravest of Indian batsmen. Despite having his dentalwork disturbed by a bouncer from Malcolm Marshall he was undaunted and went on to get runs in the same innings and after that in the rest of the series too. The West Indian pace battery was never played with so much time and comfort as Jimmy did in that series and even before that series he had got almost 600 runs agaisnt Imran Khan in a series where the great man got 40 wickets and Pakistan won 3-0.
There was disappointment for Jimmy when he just missed out on being India’s cricket coach. The media expectations and pressure to appoint Greg Chappell was so huge that despite Jimmy’s presentation and vision statement being as good as the Australian's, he did not get the job. We all know what a disaster that appointment turned out to be though it is debatable that it may not have turned out so if there was no stubbornness about insisting on one of the support staff being retained in some designation or the other. The players had the utmost regard for Chappell but his assistant was the one that the players resented and that was what led to the souring of relations.
The second event that puts the BCCI in a favourable light is the selection of Sreesanth in the squad to play against Sri Lanka in the Test series. Sreesanth may not actually get to play if India decide to go in with two new ball bowlers and two spinners as their attack but his selection itself sends the signal that even as the BCCI will not tolerate indiscipline and bad behaviour on the field it will not come in the way of the player being picked. Sure if the indiscipline is such that the player should be left out then he will not be considered but even if he is given a warning he can be available for selection. Hopefully the seamer from Kerala will realise that this is a lifeline thrown to him and change his ways and let his ball do the talking. We will soon find out of course if he has learnt any lessons but the BCCI has shown that talent will be recognised even if that talent has been warned to mend his ways.
While the selectors also need to be complimented on their selection of Sreesanth their decison to have 15 players for a game in India needs to be queried. We just saw that the Australian team that came to India came with 14 players and if a country so far away can make a trip with 14 players what is a good reason for India to have a squad of 15 for a Test match at home?
Let’s face it, the only selection dilemma for the committee is going to be whether to include 3 seamers or two spinners because the batting picks itself so to have two extra batsmen in the squad makes little sense. They would be better off playing in the Ranji Trophy for there is nothing quite like match practice to be match ready and scoring runs or taking wickets is the one sure way to keep the confidence levels high. If some batsman takes ill then the replacement can be flown in quickly enough so really having a squad of 15 is not necessary at all. One would have thought that Srikkanth would rather have Badri and Vijay playing for Tamil Nadu and helping them to qualify for the semis than having them cooling their heels in the dressing room and being net bowlers and drinks waiters for the team.
India’s domestic cricket needs good players to play as much as possible to lift the standard of competition and that’s why hopefully both players will be released to play for their Ranji teams once the final eleven is decided.
The Indians will do well not to underestimate the Lankans for they have some of the top players in the world and they are here to try and win a Test series in India for the first time. It won’t be easy and the Indians after losing to a virtual second string Australian team need to do something special to win back the fans they lost losing the series to the Aussies.