Time for damage control
Instead of merely finding scapegoats for the World Cup fiasco, the Indian cricket authorities should concentrate on rebuilding, writes Abhijit Chatterjee
The knives are out. A search is on for scapegoats who have taken Indian cricket to a new dismal low. Of course, there is a lot of chest-thumping and soul-searching among all those who follow or love the game to find out what exactly went wrong with Team India in the World Cup. Was it bad team selection? Or was it wrong strategies followed by the coach and the team management? Or was it that the team played bad cricket when it mattered the most? One awaits answers to all these questions.
India’s unexpectedly short campaign in the 2007 World Cup, where the team won just one match out of three, has sent the cricket administration in the country into a tizzy. A meeting of the Working Committee of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), as also a meeting of former captains, has been convened so that everybody can sit down and decide what is best for Indian cricket.
The demand for sacking coach Greg Chappell, whose term expired at the abrupt end of India’s campaign in the World Cup, and replacing the captain is doing the rounds wherever cricket administrators meet and India’s debacle is discussed.
It will be bad for Indian cricket if there are knee-jerk reactions at the Working Committee meeting or an attempt is made to find easy scapegoats for the fiasco. Undoubtedly, the Indian team as a whole performed very badly. Also, it is to be made clear once and for all that there is no place for non-performers in the squad.
Shortly after India’s ouster from the World Cup, BCCI President Sharad Pawar had expressed the opinion that India should build two teams, one consisting of seniors and the other a junior team which will be repeatedly sent abroad where the players could gain experience before making an entry into the senior squad.
There is another school of thought which says that India should have different teams for Tests and one-dayers. These teams should be led by different captains (on the pattern tried out very successfully by Australia) and also most of the players of the two squads should be different, with the one-day squad laying more stress on fitness and agility rather than on experience and seniority. The youngsters will gain experience as the team plays more and more cricket (and there is no dearth of that).
But before anything is done, the Working Committee will have to have a close, hard look at the performance of Chappell as the coach. He promised a lot but delivered very little. His "vision" of Indian cricket came a cropper and his ranting at the media after India’s defeat at the hands of Sri Lanka showed him in very poor light.
The Australian unsettled the team by his chopping-and changing policy over the past two years. Most of the players, especially the youngsters, did not know whether they were in the team or out of it at any given time.
If a player like Irfan Pathan finds himself with no role to play after being touted as a potential allrounder just a couple of months ago, there must be something inherently wrong in the way Chappell moulded the squad. Also, Chappell’s infamous spat with the then captain Sourav Ganguly soon after he had taken over must have unsettled quite a few of the senior players. That Ganguly forced his way back into the squad speaks volumes of the failure of the Chappell experiment.
For the good of Indian cricket, at least during these turbulent times, the Chappell medicine is not the best thing for the team. But who takes over from Chappell is a difficult question to answer. It is also difficult to say whether Indian cricket should have an Indian coach or a foreign one. But one thing is sure. Any coach who takes over will have to start from scratch.
If one is seeking the ouster of Chappell, the same should not be said of captain Rahul Dravid. True, Dravid is not an assertive captain like Ganguly, but his cricketing acumen is beyond doubt.
The talk of bringing back Tendulkar as the captain should be stopped immediately. One should not forget that when Tendulkar was the captain prior to Ganguly’s takeover in 2000, things did not turn out very well for Team India.
The time has come for the Indian team to look beyond Tendulkar. The same can be said of Ganguly. He was a good captain, an inspiring leader. But he too should not be given a relook because like Sachin, he has enjoyed his time in the limelight and one has to keep the future in mind.
Team selection is another area which the Working Committee should pay attention to. Already these is a demand to sack Dilip Vengsarkar for his role in the selection of the team for the World Cup. But one should be more practical and look at the larger picture. For some time now, one of the national selectors has been touring with the team and helping in team selection on a match-to-match basis. But has this made any difference?
The practice of having national selectors on the basis of zones has outlived its utility. The five-member selection committee should be replaced by a three-member committee — this suggestion has been coming time and again from those who are at the helm of affairs of Indian cricket — with the members selected for their knowledge of the game and not on a zonal basis as has been the case till now.
What they said on the eve of the World Cup sounds laughable after Team India’s premature exit
The current squad is better prepared than the one which won the Cup in 1983.
Sunil Gavaskar Former India captain
India should win the Cup. I have never seen a stronger Indian one-day side.
The team should play with discipline and not follow us (Parliamentarians).
Somnath Chatterjee, Lok Sabha Speaker
Anybody can survive with one kidney, but you’ll never get the chance to watch India win the Cup in the Caribbean.
Believe it or not, the world’s fastest 15-year-old swimmer is an Indian — Virdhawal Vikram Khade. The Kolhapur boy won his 200m freestyle heat at the World Swimming Championship in Melbourne to become the first Indian swimmer to qualify for next year’s Beijing Olympics.
Khade clocked 1 minute, 52.41 seconds — 1.77 seconds faster than his performance at the National Games in Guwahati recently — to go under the Olympic qualification time. His effort was 0.44 seconds better than the gold-medal winning time at the 2006 FINA World Youth Swimming Championship in Rio de Janeiro (The world record in this event is held by the USA’s Michael Phelps, who clocked 1:43.86 earlier this week in Melbourne).
Virdhawal, born on August 29, 1991, bagged six gold medals at the Guwahati National Games. He trains at the KC Reddy Swim Centre in Bangalore under coach Nihar Ameen. "He is India’s potential Olympic medal hope in 2012," says a proud Ameen.
The 6’2" Khade owes his athletic frame to his father, Vikram Khade, a noted basketball player. Despite being built for the hoopsters’ game, he was persuaded as a boy to try out swimming at the PGT pool near his house in Kolhapur.
The youngster has been
rewarded for listening to his father’s words. Now that he has got the
Olympic ticket, it’s up to him to train harder and deliver a
creditable performance at the Beijing games, to be held from August
8-24, 2008. — PTI
Jeev Milkha Singh is all set to become the first Indian golfer to play in the prestigious US Masters in Augusta, beginning on April 5. He is keen to do his best and put behind the mediocre start to his American sojourn.
Jeev’s tryst with the US Tour so far has not been all that great. He lost in the first round of the World Matchplay to Stewart Cink and then missed the halfway cut at the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bayhill.
He fared better at the World Golf Championship in Florida last week, finishing tied 28th in the event which was won by Tiger Woods. Jeev was lying tied 18th spot after the penultimate round, but he found the Blue Monster course tough to handle on the final day. "Still, I am happy with the progress and this is all a process of getting used to US conditions," he said.
The 35-year-old, who was Asia’s No. 1 last year, will play in all four golf Majors this year — the US Masters, US Open, British Open and USPGA Championship — by virtue of his top-50 finish in 2006. Jeev enjoyed a dream run last year, which saw him winning the Volvo Masters in China and Spain.
The seasoned pro said he was planning to divide
his time between Asian and European Tours and play some tournaments in the USA
and Japan as well. "I love playing on different courses," he adds. —
The first-ever motor rally organised by the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) has crossed the half-way mark.
A total of 120 persons (in 30 vehicles) from Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, the Maldives, Pakistan and Sri Lanka are taking part in the event.
The month-long rally is being organised by the Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India, Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), Member States of SAARC, along with the SAARC secretariat
The 8,200-km rally was flagged off from Bangladesh’s south-eastern tourism city of Cox’s Bazaar on March 15. It will reach New Delhi on April 3 to coincide with the opening of the 14th SAARC Summit. It ends in the Maldivian capital, Male, on April 14.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had proposed holding of this rally during the 13th SAARC Summit in Bangladesh capital Dhaka in November, 2005. — Agencies
Ireland’s dream run
Debutants Ireland stunned the cricketing world by ousting 1992 champions Pakistan from the World Cup. This must rank as one of the greatest upsets in the history of cricket.
Ireland bundled out Pakistan, who had world-class batsman like Inzamam-ul-Haq, Mohammad Yousuf and Younis Khan, for 132, and then scored the required runs for the loss of seven wickets.
Ireland had displayed their fighting ability against Zimbabwe by holding their rivals to a tie, and the upset win over Pakistan has shown that they are no pushovers. Thanks to their brilliant show, they are rubbing shoulders with the world’s best teams in the Super Eight stage.
Jaskirat Singh Ludhiana
Congratulations to Grandmaster Viswanathan Anand, who is all set to become the world No. 1. He will achieve the unique distinction soon by virtue of his victory in the Morelia-Linares chess tournament.
He climbed the summit of the chess world by dethroning Veselin Topalov to regain not only the coveted trophy after a long nine-year hiatus but also become the FIDE number one for the first time in his distinguished career.
Tarsem S. Bumrah,