In the second of three Willow Talk columns this week distinguished former first-class cricketer and coach of international players Dr V. V. Giri, who conducted High Performance coaching sessions for MCA last year (and made a huge difference to the performances of the Academy’s fortunate youth players), looks at the challenges facing India’s Chairman of Selectors. For more on Dr Giri, check out MCA’s Profiles page.
Krishnamachari Srikkanth came out with yet another stunning performance in the team selection for the Asia Cup. I really pity Srikkanth for being the chairman of the National Selection Committee at this moment. It is a really tough luck to be in that post for such a mammoth cricketing nation with so much money rolling around and with fans who have taken up cricket as their religion. But, let me tell you, Srikkanth has done the job commendably time and again and this time, almost spotlessly. This team is also the best possible at the moment.
There has been a lot of mudslinging and the media wanted some spice for their work. I, who have played a huge amount of cricket with Srikkanth and have known him for many, many years, am not surprised at the way he barked at the media. Cheekkaa is always outspoken and it is very difficult for him to be a hypocrite like so many other cricketers in India, especially from Mumbai.
First, the media and the cricket fans wanted to know about Sachin Tendulkar. In my opinion, Sachin is still one of our best batsmen. He is fit. I mean really fit, when compared to half the side — Ashwin, Gambhir, Zaheer and others. His technique is still the best in India. When you see Sehwag, Dhoni, Raina, Gambhir bat, you always come to this conclusion. And tell me, who will replace him in the playing eleven? Rohit, Rahane? No way.
All Sachin needs is a century – the pressure caused more by the cricketing world than by himself. Isn’t it a terrible feeling to see half the spectators (even in Australia) walk out when Sachin gets out? When you are aware that the world is looking for that milestone, it is always at the back of your mind and affects your normal game. It is common for all, in every field of endeavour. I hope and pray that Tendulkar gets that milestone and then can breathe normally. Take it from me, if Sachin gets that coveted century now no one would be able to stop him and in no time he will reach 20,000 runs. But, of course, Sachin may prefer to quit ODIs and focus on tests. So, in my view, Srikkanth did a wise thing by keeping Sachin in the team.
Again there was a complaint against the selectors for ‘resting’ Sehwag instead of dropping him. Some went on to say Cheekkaa was a coward. If anyone at all in India has the guts to drop Sachin and Viru, it is only Srikkanth. I write this, knowing him well. Gavaskar, in his recent article, even said Cheekkaa is the right person to ask Sachin to retire from ODIs.
I want the media, who are looking for some masala, to look into the past. This is the same Srikkanth who meticulously dropped Yuvraj and Harbhajan Singh, who were always supported by the media and the sponsors. So it is unfair to call the chairman a coward.
Many people question the inclusion of Jadeja. I am surprised at their ignorance. These people just go by statistics. They don’t know the usefulness of the players and their true abilities. Jadeja has done extremely well, walking out to bat at the end or in a crisis, bowling when the medium pacers were being hammered, and fielding at the Jonty Rhodes position and saving many runs. He is the best fielder in India.
Similarly, people should understand the value of Ashwin. Dhoni always makes him bowl during the power plays. Many Indian pace bowlers are scared to bowl during PPs and towards the slog overs and even walk off the field at that time. Ashwin is also a great bat. (Greg Chappell would have had him open the batting for India).
At last India has some good all-rounders, in the shape of Jadeja, Irfan, Ashwin, Raina, Sehwag and Yusuf. But in this Oz series we noticed that there was no planning, home work, and consistency in Dhoni’s captaincy. Dhoni must make use of them properly. My worry is not about the players, it is about the captaincy which is rated ‘very poor’ by cricketing giants.
Finally, there was talk of a ‘rift’ in the Indian side. Even though the BCCI, the managers, Dhoni, Sehwag and even the President negate that, these selections (resting Sehwag and stripping Gambhir of the vice-captaincy) suggest that there is no smoke without fire and one can clearly see Dhoni’s hand in it.
But it is Cheekkaa who has performed a brilliant balancing act.