The last word on Indian test cricket has been said. The Venerable Old Lady of Boribunder announced on its page one a Brave New Indian Cricket Team.
No M S Dhoni, no Gambhir, no Zaheer, no Yuvraj, no Raina and, believe it or not, no Sachin! Virat Kohli is the new captain and Wriddhiman Saha, the wicketkeeper. The Brave New Team could have been one of the themes at the Mumbai Literary Festival where poets read out verses from ‘Cricket Waste Land’, ‘The Love Song of BCCI Srinivasan’ and ‘Sonnets to a vast Bank Account’.
As the Old Lady said ‘Drastic times needed Drastic Steps’. But some old
familiar faces like Dhoni and Sachin would not fade away. If any one needed the chop, it was these two after the Eden Garden disaster, where India proved it could face neither pace, nor spin. It was now difficult and useless to find excuses for India’s dismal show. No application, no sense of pride in playing for India and in the case of Dhoni, sheer cussedness.
One reason given by our so-called experts for not dropping M S Dhoni from the team was that such a move was not advisable in the middle of a series. Well, changing captains during a series was not unknown to Indian cricket. We had five captains for the five tests against the touring West Indians in 1958-59. How long can you tolerate a captain who does not perform? For the past many months, Dhoni appeared disinterested in his job, failed with the bat and was just passable as a wicketkeeper. For him, only tamasha cricket like IPL seemed to matter and there was a clear nexus between him and the BCCI boss. And it became worse when the captain allowed his personal prejudices to influence him in team selection
What had the captain got against Bengal players, Manoj Tewary and Ashok Dinda, who had outstanding records in domestic cricket? Why was Ravindra Jadeja treated differently? Was it because he was a member of the Chennai IPL team captained by Dhoni and owned by the BCCI chief? Dhoni, who had deliberately spurned domestic cricket, could not look beyond the men who were already in the team. Hence, despite repeated failures and niggling injuries, Ishant Sharma was chosen for the Kolkata test and flopped yet again. If a third spinner had to be chosen why not Amit Mishra who had a better record in tests than Piyush Chawla. Finally, can one really expect Mumbaikar Sandeep Patil to have the guts to drop fellow Mumbaikar, Sachin Tendulkar? These issues could be argued. But there were no arguments on the miserable performances of most of our players. They took their places for granted. Look at Zaheer Khan moving around, he cut a pathetic figure. Gambhir and Kohli were too inconsistent, Sachin simply did not deserve to be in the team and finally the media appeared to realize this point. Restructuring of the team should have begun after the England and Australian disasters but there was the arrogant presumption that we were invincible on the home front. England pricked that bubble.
Who was the most spirited person in Indian cricket? To me it is the 82 year old Eden Garden curator who was least worried that the BCCI boss was upset with him for not providing a rank turner but gave us a wonderful cricket wicket. The curator clarified he was committed to his profession and was not bothered at the unhappiness of the BCCI Chief or even his own bosses in Bengal cricket. Indian cricket needed more spirited personalities like the curator.