Vantage point

Thursday, April 08, 2004

Happy Dilemmas

Currently we are facing dilemmas in both batting and bowling selections. It shows the richness of talent in Indian cricket.

I would go against the popular tide and back Chopra for the Pindi test. The guy plays out time, and gives fellows like Tendulkar, Laxman and Ganguly/Yuvraj an oldish ball to play with. His presence means that Sehwag can play his natural game without fearing a collapse. He has the technique to handle quality fast bowling, and basically, he has results on his side. He has been part of 4 century stands, and 4 half century stands in the 8 tests he has played.

Pitchforking Yuvraj to the opening position on the basis of his performance at Number 6 reeks of the myopia that plagued Indian cricket until 4 years back. We caught hold of any promising dude and made him open, because there was no place in the middle order. Laxman is one example. That can be forgiven because then the regular openers were all failing.

Chopra is not failing. Just because he has not scored a half century in ages does not mean he is failing. Judge him by the opening stands he has been involved in. And on those counts, he has done better than even the Australians this season.

We want to emulate the Australians. Remember what the Australians did to Martyn while Mark Waugh was playing, or to Simon Katich recently? Katich scored a match-saving century at Sydney. Yet he was not in the eleven for the first test in Sri Lanka, because Lehmann was back. He was only included in the third test in place of Symonds because of his spin bowling. Whenever Martyn replaced Waugh or any other batsman in times of injury, even if he played well, he had to make way for the guy coming back.

What we need to tell Yuvraj is "Dude, you have done a fantastic job in the middle order. But there is no spot there. And we know you want to open, but our openers are doing a fantastic job. Please return to the bench."

If anyone should make way for Yuvraj, it should be Ganguly. But as I said in my earlier post, it is too early to say whether Dravid is as good, or better than Ganguly in terms of captaincy.

My suggestion would be to send Yuvraj back to the bench, and get Ganguly in. Let us not get swayed by one or two tests. And let us not make Chopra pay the price of the personality-centric way in which we follow cricket.

However if we feel that Yuvraj the batsman is better than Ganguly the batsman+captain, then drop Ganguly from the 14. As I said, I am not convinced about this yet.

In bowling too we face dilemmas. If Nehra and Zaheer are fit, then what do we do? Again, we have to look at things long term. If we feel that in the long term, Balaji is better than either of them, then make him a permanent fixture, regardless of whether he bowls badly in one or two tests. Let us not judge Zaheer on the basis of one innings. When fully fit, he has run through oppositions, both at home and abroad. Same with Nehra. In my eyes, the best combination is Pathan, the swing specialist, Zaheer the hit-the-deck-on-seam specialist, and Agarkar, who can do a bit of both when hundred percent fit, as we saw in Australia.

Unfortunately, our cricket fans, as well as our selectors have myopia, as well as the memory of a gold fish.

I am hoping against hope that Yuvraj will be benched and Chopra will retain his spot. But it seems highly unlikely. And I do not consider Yuvraj's technique good enough to handle an inspired burst of new ball bowling.