Sunday, October 21, 2007

A great support cast but no leading man

The clamour for the removal of the three senior men in the Indian batting line-up started after the victory in the Twenty-20 World Cup. The critics asked for youth to be given its due. Sachin, Saurav and Dravid do not have the makings of a modern day cricketer, they claimed. Their fitness levels are poor, their running between the wickets atrocious and they are a liability in the field – These were the arguments made against them. Most of these points have a fair amount of truth in them. The younger brigade scores over their senior counterparts in all these departments. So, should we just go ahead and drop the axe. Sure, but after you have identified your new lead hero.

Lead hero? Yep, just like the movies, we need to have a few central characters before we put the support cast around them, right. Well, that shouldn’t be too much of a problem. Remember, Indian cricket is almost bursting at the seams with talented young men. Heck, there were so many batting stars at the Twenty-20 World Cup. Just take your pick from Yuvraj, Sehwag, Gambhir, Uthappa, Dhoni, Rohit Sharma, Dinesh Karthik, Suresh Raina and Mohd Kaif. Fine modern-day cricketers all.

I just went through the list again. And again. Correct me if I am wrong but I can’t quite seem to pick out the lead hero. They all know how to dance (read field) and fight (read run between wickets) but leave a lot to be desired when it comes to acting (read batting). They are yet to display the kind of sustained consistent excellence which is required to become the lead star. Had even one of them been that good, he would have surely managed to displace one of the old guard (the three plus Laxman) from the test side. Additionally, other than Yuvraj, which one of them can find a regular place in the One-day side? And, even he is not reliable enough. Would you want him to bat for your life? I wouldn’t. (Dhoni is in the team as a wicket-keeper batsman and not a pure batsman, so that doesn’t qualify)

Most of them are good for a quick fire 40 odd or the occasional half-century but nothing more. Even in the last Australian series, India’s performance was largely contingent on the opening partnership between Sachin and Saurav. Imagine a trade scenario, where you could swap players with other test-playing nations. What can you offer to get a Mohd Yousuf or a Kumara Sangakkara or a Jacque Kallis or Kevin Pietersen in return? Zilch. That’s how good our young brigade is.

Most of the lead heroes of the past had set the domestic scene on fire from a very early age. They had been spoken of as national material while still in their teens. I can’t remember any of these guys standing out like a beacon of light coming through the domestic ranks.

So, we will be left with a mammoth cast of supporting stars but no lead actor once the heroes bid farewell. How does that augur for Indian cricket. Not so great, I am afraid. So stop the clamouring and start praying for the coming of a hero.

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