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By Sunil Gavaskar
The two big selection dates in the Indian cricketing calendar have come and gone and as expected made waves. The auction for the players for the ten franchisees in the Indian Premier League and the selection of the squad that will challenge for the ICC World Cup have been selected and has met with the usual mix of wonder, criticism and questions that only cricket generates in India.
Cricket is a widely followed game in India and evokes a passionate response in people who follow it. Somehow stories about cricket are more than about other sports and it could simply be because other sports are faster and do not have the intervals that cricket has and so there is nothing but action to talk about other sports while cricket, because it allows a bit more time is full of folklore, and tales that can be told and retold over and over again. In such a scenario some tales are quite clearly made up out of small incidents to create a legend and some are totally and patently false but sound so good and so true that they become legends themselves. Most selection issues come under the latter category and there are always conspiracy theories about why player 'A' was selected and why player 'B' was omitted.
Depending on which part of the country the player was from those from that part will be the ones who will be talking about the conspiracy that involved the player concerned. Of course even while they are talking about the player from their zone or state they will be blaming the others for the selection or omission. Most theories are when a player is dropped rather than when he is selected. Then there is all kinds of speculation about the skipper wanting this guy or the other even when the captain does not have a vote. It’s a most common route of escape also for the selectors who just shrug their shoulders and hint that it’s the skipper who did not want a player and that is all the 'research' that is needed to give the skipper a bad name.
Be that as it may, now that the selection of the world cup squad has been made we have to back the players selected and support them totally even if we may have had reservations and disagreed with the odd selection. This is now our team and we must back it all the way.
The IPL franchises also raised eyebrows by some of the selections made and some whom they didn’t pick. Of course they were much wiser than the first auction where emotion ruled rather than cricketing sense but even in this auction it was hard to understand the big amounts paid for bowlers. Unless a bowler is a guaranteed performer like Zaheer Khan who has also made improvements to his batting and can contribute with the bat as well it simply doesn’t make sense to pay big money for bowlers who are pretty much out of the game once their quota of overs is bowled. In this ultra short format of the game a bowler is in the game for only 4 overs for unless he can bat and is an outstanding fielder his contribution ends with his bowling spell. That is why it was surprising to see so many unproven bowlers going for the amounts they did and why so many others also got the fees they did.
Batsmen and all-rounders are in the game for longer than just 4 overs. Of course a batsman or all-rounder also could get out first ball he faces but at least there is a chance that if he gets going then it will be more than the 4 overs a bowler gets in the game. What is interesting is to see the rush for uncapped players once the franchises knew how much money they had left and how much they could spend on the uncapped players.
Unfortunately India’s uncapped players had a limit of 30 lakhs while there was no such limit for the overseas uncapped players but then that is typically Indian thinking. Just like we always feel that our guys are parochial and biased but not the overseas guys so also the limitation is only for the Indians and not the foreigners. Look at the support staff that will be brought by the overseas coaches. They will invariably be from their states in the countries they are from and they will also try and get players from their state and country but they will never be accused of being biased but woe betide the Indian who bats for support staff or players from his state and they will be howled at as only promoting people from their city or state.
The National Cricket Academy produces dozens of coaches, physios, trainers and other support staff. While it can be understood that franchises don’t want an Indian coach at least the jobs of assistant coaches and support staff could be given to the Indians. Not only will there be a great saving of funds but it will also encourage Indians who are putting the effort to make a contribution to Indian cricket. Most if not all foreigners including those who come in for commentary duties go back to their countries and make fun of India yet we still invite them even when it is obvious that they are there simply for the money and have nothing good to say about India.
Fortunately our players have long gone past the stage when they did not believe they were as good as the opposition and so results have been improving decade after decade. All Indian owned franchises have Indians as the chief executing officers so why won’t they have Indians if not as coaches then as support staff? It’s a question that baffles all the time.