S Radhakrishnan, better known as RK, is a sports freak. After dabbling in the world of Physics at the Madras Christian College, he did his Masters in Business Administration from Mumbai. Working in a corporate world didn’t suit him and he decided to enter the world of journalism. During his stint with ESPN Star Sports, RK covered the ICC Cricket World Cup in 2003, before moving on to join NEO Sports as their prime anchor. He is now the face of NEO Prime and NEO Sports.
A defeat in Sri Lanka prompts many in the media to ask the same question all over again - what's with the Indian batting line-up. Is it time up for the fab four? It's amazing how many times the same question has come about in the last five years and its equally amazing how we don't really delve deep into the same.
Imran Khan, a while back, when quizzed about Sachin Tendulkar being on the wane said, "If you have some one to replace Sachin Tendulkar, you might gladly do it. But the point is do you have one?"
I think that's the question we have to address. Sachin is just one of the members in this Indian line- up who is in his mid thirties. Add to that the likes of Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman and Sourav Ganguly who aren't getting any younger, India will have to look at people who can step into their shoes at some point in time. Big shoes to fill, no doubt but at least we should start somewhere.
Since the turn of the century, the Indian selection committee has handed out test caps to 30 cricketers. More than fifty percent of these made their debuts as bowlers, ten seamers and six spinners. Besides, there have been seven wicket keepers, a few of whom have been shunted up and down the batting order. In effect, eight batsmen have made it to the middle.
While Gautam Gambhir and Virender Sehwag are opening the batting for India, Yuvraj and Kaif are out of the squad. Shiv Sunder Das, Badani, Sanjay Bangar are out of the picture at the moment while Akash Chopra would love to take a shot at the opening slot. In fact since the 2005-06 season, not even a single batsman has made his Test debut. In the same time span, five pacemen and two spinners have worn the Indian cap.
The point is - we, at some stage haven't really strived for or so it appears to gear up for the eventual retirements of our middle order batsmen. I hope it's not an exodus. I doubt that anyways.
While it's brilliant to note that we still have players playing from the early or the mid nineties, it should also be noted that we do not appear ready for the next generation of test cricketers just yet. I know we have been talking about the potential in Yuvraj Singh or the talent that lies within Rohit Sharma but we are not exactly Australia where you have an assembly line of batsmen who just come in and make you forget the spate of retirements.
V.B.Chandrasekhar, former member of the Indian selection committee agrees, "I think at some level, it appears we have not adequately thought and planned about the retirements of these great cricketers.
There was a time when it appeared that the likes of Kaif, Yuvraj and Raina would get in. But Sourav coming back altered things" So where did we miss out? Or did we at all try gearing ourselves. Chandu Borde, former head of the Indian selection committee agrees,
"I think it never occurred to us. Especially because these players were playing very well and are continuing to do well. I think if and when they retire, we will come to know."
V.B.Chandrasekhar has a slightly different point of view. "I think Sourav Ganguly being dropped was the first step in that direction. That's where we tried building a team for the future. Also the fact that in India, selection to the test team unfortunately is through the one-dayers. If a player does well in the shorter format, he is drafted in to the test squad. That's why some one like a Venugopal Rao is lost. He might not be the best one-day player but there was a case for him in test match cricket," argues V.B.
But does he being a part of the selection panel feel accountable?
"I think the selection panel is very much like a team. You need to have a captain and the vice-captain. You need to groom them. Frequent chopping and changing of the panel doesn't really help. If you ask Vengsarkar, he will say he has picked the best team and that's fair to him."
It's perfectly alright given the current scenario where the best eleven is picked. But what about the future? That's what you plan for and I'm afraid we haven't been watertight with our thought processes.