Thursday, December 11, 2008

Amid security concerns, the first test between England and India gets underway. WE applaud the English team for expressing its solidarity with India and what better way to do so but come and play. Sports has stood for the best of human spirits and so it is now. It wasn't an easy task to decide to come and play here. It isn't easy to concentrate on the game when you are worried about your personal safety.And hence the decision must be applauded. We Indians appreciate it.
Having said that, it is the first time since his retirement that India has taken to the field without Ganguly. It will be interesting to find out how team India fills the void left by his departure. There are many talented youngsters who now have to adorn the baton and prove their mettle.Ganguly has always been in the thick of controversies. A man paradoxically accused of not trying to become a part pf the team while he was a junior and yet the complete team man when he became the skipper. Personally, he wasn't my favorite but I couldn't dislike him. On his day he could demolish the best of bowlers as well as any other batsman. His off side game was sheer poetry. He was such that he could single handedly change the complexion of the game despite his weakness to meddle with the balls pitched short or those flying outside the off stump. My favorite innings has to be the one he played against the Lankans in the world cup held at England at a rain interrupted match. He rose to become one of the four pillars of the Indian top order, with his batting prowess keeping abreast with controversies that plagued him like a shadow. Probably one of the most criticised batsman in the history of the game, he was also the one who steadied the boat of Indian cricket when it was threatening to sink under the rogue wave of the match fixing scandal. Those were the times when in spite of a Sachin Tendulkar on whom the team depended completely, the team still did not quite believe it could beat the best. He has the best captaincy record and he backed his team to the hilt. He laid the foundation of a strong team that believed in its abilities. And the youngsters like Dhoni can now build it up further. These are exciting times.
He was also the captain during its most memorable wins, The Eden Gardens test against the then invincible Aussies led by The great all rounder, Steve Waugh. The Finals of the 83' World Cup when the Formidable West Indies had to bite the dust in front of the underdogs from India was probably the proudest an Indian Cricket lover has felt. But I was too young at that time. I can relate much better to Dhoni's young guns winning the Twenty-20 world cup. But for me the ultimate cricketing moment or rather sporting moment has to be winning the Eden test after following on. In fact, the story is so inspiring that I am planning to get the score sheet laminated! Its an allegory to "Never say die". Memories of that win instills a confidence that no matter how bad the going or how dire the situation, its just a matter of applying one self and sticking on. The dream innings by VVS overshadowed the contributions of the other team members like Dravid, Harbhajan and Tendulkar (with the bowl). It was truly a team effort. This is the legacy that has to be taken care of by any aspiring cricketer. I cannot imagine a team without Laxman, Dravid and Sachin. And yet a day will come when these names will be missing from the score board. Lately few names have promised a great deal. While there are quite a few contenders for the one day format, The test team beyond the seniors still looks weak. I have lot of expectations from the likes of Gambhir, Rohit Sharma and Raina. Few others have flattered to deceive. Many youngsters are knocking on the selectors' door with fine performances in the domestic season. And yet we forget one thing. The senior players have passed the acid test by winning matches for India abroad. All four have done just that over the years. Irrespective of what form they are in today, they have taken on the best of bowling attacks all over the world and prospered. Most of Laxmans best Innings have come against Aussies and in Australia. Dravid and Tendulkar have held the innings together in adverse batting conditions far away from home. And there lies the crux of the matter. It is one thing to make runs in India. The real test of character is how the youngsters will fare in alien conditions. As a reminder let me mention Wasim Jaffer. Jaffer hit a superb double ton against Pakistan playing in India. The innings was such a delight that it was reminiscent of Laxman's elan. And yet when he went to Asutralia, he just couldn't play. The point I am trying to make here is that lets not try and replace the seniors until the young guns have proved their prowess with the willow at grounds outside the country. Lets treat the seniors with more respect. Lets not hurry with phasing them out lest their departure leaves the team weak and tottering. We have the ability to become the best test team in the world. We are at the threshold of establishing ourselves at the top of the world. Lets not step backwards with poor and shortsighted selections. Often we talk about people only to criticize them. And "the good is oft interred with the bones". In the end let me mention, what Dilip Vengsarkar did as a selector was hugely commendable. A selector is usually caught between the hard place and the rock. A job that is thankless. Forgotten when the sun is shining, his is usually the first head to roll when the teams performs badly. And yet pushing for the team that he believed in under all sorts of opposition, a part of the credit for Team India's recent success must go to Vengsarkar. Lets hope that Kris Shrikanth follows suit and India shines.

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