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Face the facts

Time does not stand still in cricket



PETER ROEBUCK

It's about time the Indian cricket community grew up. Inflammatory remarks, burning effigies, blocking roads and messages of hatred are the sort of conduct expected from hysterical students and not mature adults committed to their country and versed in the ways of life. Seasoned observers understand that the world is a complicated place and decisions hard to take. They do not raise every stone in search of ulterior motives and cunning conspiracies. Juveniles rant and rave.

Obviously the dropping of a beloved son from the Test team has been the hot topic of conversation. At least the fury confirms that cricket still matters in this country. Unfortunately it also confirms that it's at the mercy of the mob. Every demagogue in town has vented his spleen. Every Tom, Dick and Soumitra has voiced an opinion. Worse, recently elected officials have fanned the flames. What price discretion?

Anyone following the supposed debate could be forgiven for concluding that the selectors have taken leave of their senses, and no longer care about right or wrong. Truly it is a pity that loathing has been directed at honest servants of a game and not evildoers. Perspective has flown out of the window.

Every time a player is dropped, another is selected. Rather than focusing on Sourav Ganguly, it is also necessary to consider his replacement. Does he not deserve an opportunity? Age is a factor. Time does not stand still in cricket. Sooner or later the older man must be tossed overboard, especially when he is a poor fielder with a disdain for training. Forget about emotion. Face the facts.

The balance of the side is also relevant. Bear in mind that Rahul Dravid opened the batting in Delhi by way of accommodating an extra middle-order batsman. Arguably Dravid is India's best ever batsman at first wicket down. It is a crucial position to be occupied by a player capable of batting in varying tempos. Exceptional temperament and technique are required. Dravid has been magnificent at 3 and his promotion was a temporary measure.

Sooner or later India had to return to a proper batting order, with two specialist openers, and a well-balanced middle-order. Since Dravid, Tendulkar and Laxman are certainties at 3, 4 and 5, Ganguly, Yuvraj, Kaif and others are forced to fight for the last position. No one need be surprised that the selectors have preferred a younger man with fine prospects. Doubtless he will improve the fielding and also increase the energy levels in the side. A team not busy being born is busy dying.

Fresh blood

Moreover India's batting has plenty of experience and officials must be concerned that in a few years the entire order will disappear lock, stock and barrel. Accordingly the desire to introduce fresher blood is understandable. Without weakening the side, India is investing in its future. Selectors have many matters to weigh up.heir wider responsibilities demand that they act without fear or favour.

Australia has also been engaged by the axing of a well-loved player, a long-standing servant on the verge of breaking a record. His successor was booed when he played his first fifty over match and also on his Test debut. Hotheads demanded the chairman's resignation. Ian Healy was the dropped player. Adam Gilchrist was his replacement.

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