Saturday, March 10, 2012

A look ahead to the Asia Cup and beyond

Hello friends,

It has been a while since my previous post on this blog and a few important things have happened since then in Indian cricket. India deservedly did not make it to the finals of the tri-series in Australia. Even though they gave themselves a chance with an incredible batting performance in chasing down 320 in less than 40 overs, SL and Australia were the better teams in the series by a distance and deserved to be in the finals. At least, that performance would have restored some confidence in the batting unit and that is always good because their next assignment starts very soon.

Another significant news was the appointment of Virat Kohli as vice-captain for the Asia Cup and, I suspect, for the near future. I have heard opinions that this is not fair to Gambhir who has really not done much wrong. But this is a long-term decision and if looked at in that regard, I think it is a good decision and a thoughtful one. Virat has looked like captaincy material since his early days and after his performances in Australia, this is the right time to reward him and also let him know that he is being earmarked for greater things. It remains to be seen how Gambhir will take this - as a personal slight or as a decision made in the long-term interests of the team. That will, to a large extent, determine how Gambhir performs in the next few series. I hope Srikkanth or someone in the board has taken the time and pains to talk to Gambhir and explain things to him.

Virat is good captaincy material, no doubt given his understanding of the game and situations. But where I have concerns is, in his ability at people management. One of the important facets of captaincy is getting the respect of all your teammates and extracting the best out of everyone. Virat has the respect of his mates right now due to his performances, but he needs to work on his attitude and behavior. He tends to get ruffled too easily and that does affect his behavior and performance to an extent. It is not wrong to be passionate and showing passion. In fact, I would rather have someone who shows passion on the field and gets visibly upset and shows uninhibited joy at defeats and victories respectively, than someone like Dhoni who appears so calm he gives the impression of not caring too much. But Virat needs to realize that as vice-captain and possible future captain, he will be even more in the spotlight and everything he says or does will be analyzed very deeply and that he has a certain responsibility to the Indian team and public and the world and his actions and words need to reflect that.

One other big news this week was the retirement of Rahul Dravid. I would say that Rahul has done the right thing at the right time. Given that he did so well in England, he has only had one bad series and he would have chosen to give himself one more series at home to judge for himself what he wants to do and to announce his retirement in style in the middle of a series. But this way, he has gained the respect of a lot of people, definitely mine in retiring when the thought first popped in his head and not choosing personal glory over the team and his own conscience. Sunil Gavaskar had made a classic statement about retirement that has stayed with me forever - "Retire when people ask 'why now' instead of 'why not'". In Indian cricket, I can only think of 2-3 people who retired in that fashion - Gavaskar himself, Anil Kumble and to an extent, Ganguly. In Ganguly's case, he could have (should have?) retired a year or so before he did when he was out of form and looking uninterested. But he chose to play himself back to form and then quit when people started to want him to stay a little longer. Dravid's case is a little similar to Ganguly's. He could have quit now and gained the respect as he did, or he could have played himself into form in the next home series and then quit. Having said all this, it is easy to judge from outside. Only a cricketer knows what it takes to stop doing what he has done all his life till then and go in a direction that is completely unknown, away from the spotlight and adulation of crores of people and financial rewards. Rahul will be missed for sure, but I still think he has done the right thing and this is the right time for him to go.

India play SL (once again, phew) in the Asia Cup in 3 days time. India should look to give everyone a chance in this tournament and give a decent run to people like Manoj Tiwary, Rahul Sharma and Rohit Sharma. I will watch the India-Pakistan game with interest, not for the rivalry factor, but for the fact that Pakistan are playing good cricket these days and it will be an intriguing battle between their spinners and our batsmen.

Lets hear it from you guys. This post was different from my usual posts. I wrote about events in Indian cricket rather than games. It would be nice to hear what you guys have to say about the events. There is a lot of cricket to be played in the near future, so we can always talk about the games. But lets talk about the events for now. After all, that is what I started this blog for - to talk about cricket in general, whether it is to talk about matches or people or events. I hope I can see lots of comments for this post as I know there are quite a few of you reading this regularly and have opinions to share when we chat in person or on the phone.

My next post will be during the Asia Cup, maybe after the first couple of India matches. Stay tuned.



  1. Well, good to read a review after a longish break.

    India did not make it to the finals and the two most deserving team did (in Aus). That was the right thing which should have happened. 0-8 outside subcontinent is something which should not brushed aside.

    I disagree with your Kohli argument. I think by making this guy a captain, once again we have demonstrated that we are emotional people and not thinking with the head.
    This guy's temperament is a work in progress and for that reason alone I wouldn't make him VC. Just look at him on TV mouthing off obscenities. What kind of a message r we sending to youngsters? Its OK to be brash, mouth obscenities as long as u perform? I think that's incorrect. Not that Gambhir and Sehwag are better on that aspect but they r better than Kohli. Secondly, as u pointed out, it will be very difficult for Kohli to get respect from his teammates. C'mon he is just 23.
    I think its injustice to Gambhir/Sehwag. If not them then they should have made Zaheer the VC. What happens when Yuvraj comes back?

    About Dravid, sad to c him go but the right decision as usual. Hat's off! Very difficult to find somebody to replace him, it will take some years. I think Kumble's was the most graceful retirement and after that, its Dravid. If he had retired after England, it would have been perfect, but may be he wanted to do it one more time in Aus.
    I think soon we are going to c Tendulkar go after his 100th Mahashatak. He is smart enough to time his retirement. After that its Laxman. Sad days but had to happen.

  2. I like Kohli and I think the promotion to vice captain is the right medicine for him to become more polished and mature.

    Dravid's timing, as always is very good. He has picked the right time to go. I guess he, like other senior players and fans, was hoping for one final hurrah in Australia but that was not meant to be. Instead of seeking self glory by waiting for easy pickings in a home series, he has decided to leave now with respect and dignity.

    I wish Sachin would also retire after the Asia cup whether he gets that much coveted and frustrating 100th hundred or not. In all fairness no one expected him to struggle for so long for that landmark. I thought he would get it fairly quickly, then score 4-5 more and retire by 2013. But unfortunately he is choking whenever in sight of the landmark and it has become a millstone around his neck and the team's. At this time he would command more respect by retiring at 99 and showing that he doesn't care for personal landmarks.

    I wish Laxman had retired too. He runs the risk of being dropped due to poor fitness and form. He failed to summon his magic against his favorite opponent Australia. I wonder what he wants to achieve by hanging on further. Maybe he wants to bat well one last time and sign off in style but will the selectors allow him that luxury?

  3. Kohli might be a future (one of the) candidate for captain, but being made VC so early, the timing of the event is what I am not sure of.
    A Vice captain is somebody who is second in command. It means that if Dhoni is absent for some reason, VC will most likely captain. Do I see Kohli captain a series in absence of Dhoni? Hell no. Not now, maybe in future. For that matter, do I want to see him as captain for even 1 match now, probably not now. If Kohli is captaining in absence of Dhoni, it will be difficult for him to manage people, his game and runtime strategies.
    Sure he can take advice from seniors, sure Gambhir, Sehwag, Tendulkar, Zaheer can guide him, but its too much.
    Secondly, yes Gambhir is out of form, he is not in touch, but do u discard somebody from captain's position so early? This guy was star performer till may be last 2-3 series. But he didn't do that bad in Australia, atleast in ODI. Moreover, he has blanked out NZ as captain. i.e. his performance as captain is infact good.
    We should have persisted with Gambhir. Not to mention his shattered confidence.
    I think its too early.