About thirty years ago in the formative years of one day cricket Indian
players had yet to come to terms with the intricacies of the game. Slow
on the uptake and firmly rooted in the Test match scheme of things
Indias representatives took a long time to get adjusted to the demands
of limited overs cricket which was soon gaining in popularity. Perhaps
it was not only the fault of the players. Indian cricket administrators
too took their own sweet time to come to terms with the growing
popularity of the game. While the Gillette Cup was first played in
England in 1963 Indias first domestic one day tournament the Deodhar
Trophy was first conducted only in 1973. This had its adverse effect
and as is well known Indian teams fared badly in the first two World
Cup tournaments in 1975 and 1979 besides going down in bilateral
matches to England, New Zealand, Australia and Pakistan.
Not having learnt from the mistakes administrators and cricketers have
again taken a lot of time to get used to the latest phenomenon of
international cricket the Twenty20 game. It has been in vogue
internationally for some time now and there is going to be the
inaugural Twenty20 World Cup in South Africa in September. And how many
matches have India played in this format? Just one, against South
Africa late last year. It can be stated quite categorically then that
India is far from ready and certainly cannot be rated as one of the
strong contenders for the title.
However it must be said that the Dilip Vengsarkar led selection
committee have at least gone along the right lines in picking the
probables for the competition. Perhaps their task was made a little
easier with `the big three Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav
Ganguly opting out of the tournament. The Indian captain in fact called
up Vengsarkar and specifically asked that the three not be considered.
``I think that is the way forward for Indian cricket Dravid was
quoted to have said. ``We thought it is better if the younger guys
played that tournament. Twenty20 is a game for youngsters and I think
we have taken the proper decision.
Yes, there was a time when Test cricket was good for the seniors and
the more experienced while the one day game was reckoned to be for the
younger and fitter players. Now with the advent of Twenty20 the
emphasis on youth is bound to be that much more. Each run conceded or
completed that much faster or each catch dropped or taken could well be
the difference between victory and defeat.
The way forward as the captain has pointed out is one for youth. And in
a way it is not a bad thing that Dravid, Tendulkar and Ganguly have
opted out. For one thing it opens up opportunities for talented
youngsters both at the top of the order and in the middle order.
Secondly Ganguly is 35 while Dravid and Tendulkar are both 34. It is
unlikely that they will be around for more than two years and in all
probability their retirements could be almost at the same time. So
this is a good time as any to build the team for the future, to blood
freshers and give them enough chances.
Under the circumstances the selectors have done well in casting the net
far and wide while focusing on youth and fitness. That does not mean
that the tried and trusted brigade has been totally discarded. The
likes of Virender Sehwag, Harbhajan Singh, Ajit Agarkar, Suresh Raina,
Irfran Pathan and Robin Uthappa are in the reckoning to play in South
Africa. It is also good to see that those who have done well in the
domestic Twenty20 competition that was conducted earlier this year have
been included in the probables list. Karan Goel and Niraj Patel the two
top run scorers have been rewarded for their performance. Patel
incidentally was a member of the Indian under-19 team that won the
World Cup in Sri Lanka in 2000 a side that also had Md Kaif and Yuvraj
Anirudha Srikkanth, the younger son of former Indian captain Krish
Srikkanth, also finds a place in the list. He gave a commendable
performance in Tamil Nadu's triumph in the domestic tournament. But his
teammate V Devendran, who was also among the runs with a marginally
higher strike rate is perhaps unlucky to miss out. The emphasis on
youth is best exemplified by the fact that there is no place for
players like Dinesh Mongia and Murali Karthik.
The final squad of 15 will be selected in the first week of August and
it is imperative that the BCCI conduct some sort of tournament very
soon to give the probables a taste of what to expect in South Africa. A
rigorous camp for the selected players should also be a must. As it is
the Indian team faces a tough task in the tournament and the
authorities should not make it tougher by faulty preparation.