The first match
of the Challenger series in Mohali provided the action that was missing from the ICC Super Series
. Always love a good fight, always. Nothing makes the sport more interesting than a valiant fight back. The result then takes a backseat and often the quote by Grantland Rice
For when the One Great Scorer comes
To write against your name,
He marks – not what you won or lost –
But how you played the game.
gets some credence in today’s age of ‘winning only seems to matter’ sports-world.
I switched on the television when India ‘A’ needed some 86-odd runs from 65 balls. They had lost 5 wickets; that meant apart from the current pair (N Patel and Dinesh Karthik) on strike, no genuine batsman was left to complete the chase. India seniors led by Kaif, had a bowling attack that was pretty much the mixture that India uses on its international scene- Irfan, Zaheer, Ajit, Karthik, Bhajji. First thoughts, India A is dead meat. Not that our senior team has shown much fight back or resistance in the recent past, so how could I expect the lesser known to show any?
India A are always the underdogs, the ones who can spring a surprise. Last year they had won under Dravid’s captaincy. (The selectors should have taken some sense out of that and decided on the captaincy issue, this whole ruckus could have been avoided! But, we hate to take firm decisions, hum to aise hi hain!)
Anyways, this time around India A is lacking stalwarts unlike the previous year. Clearly, India Seniors were looking at an easy win. You never realise when the unexpected hits you and it hit India seniors pretty bad. Zaheer’s bowling in the final overs was dismal, seriously dismal. If no.8 and no.10 of India A, Ramesh Powar(who has earned himself a reputation of a punch-hitter in the domestic circuit) and the relatively lesser known V Singh (I don’t know much about him as I have not followed domestic cricket much ) respectively, can send him packing into the crowds, he has some serious thinking to do about his bowling. He has been having too many off days if that is the excuse we wish to offer.
Karthik bowled reasonably well though his figures do not reflect it. I wonder why Ajit never got a look in. Zaheer and Pathan were being tossed around in the final overs; so why not experiment with Ajit? I know he does not inspire great confidence, but surely he couldn’t have bowled worse!
I can’t comment much on Kaif’s captaincy as I did not see the whole match but I have felt that he is one of the contenders for the future, based on the fact that he had led India to its under-19 world cup victory. Well the selectors have given him the responsibility, let us see how he fares. The experience will only help him further.
India A fought back really well through Dinesh Karthik, Powar, and the two Singhs. Their late punch overshadowed a few good performances in the sunny half of the game. Rao’s and Agarkar’s 50s. Now only if the duo carried the same tempo in the international series to follow, they would be serving India a world of good.
Over the years since the challenger started, one wonders if it is serving its purpose. First of all, it is an ODI competition, so obviously one cannot judge the temperament or the technique of players much in just three games. The international season is so tightly packed that scheduling a longer version of the series is not possible. So how would we justify for e.g.: A player gets a look into the Senior team based on his fine performance here and is considered for a place in the test squad. Definitely it is not fair.
I think it promotes selfishness among players. Each player looks more towards an individualistic goal rather than a team goal. And we all know what can happen if the team does not have a common goal. If I perform well, I will get noticed irrespective whether my team wins or not, and that is not to be encouraged in a team sport like cricket!
However on a positive note, one heartening aspect I saw from yesterday’s match was the will to fight and not give up. I’ll take it any day and I hope this precise attitude creeps into all players.
The entire series does not gain any eminence if senior players are not available for the same. Sehwag and Dravid are serving the World XI, maybe we could have scheduled the Challenger series later so that they could play too. Ganguly has pulled out due to injury. How he manages to get injuries prior to matches where he will be tested or will be under scrutiny, I do not know! Remember Vs Pak 2004, first two tests, then on a nice green-top at Nagpur Vs Aus,2004 and the graveyard at Mumbai in the same series. Someone please tell him that the only way to shut everyone is by letting your willow talk. Hearing us Dada? Even if it is some small domestic competition!
Upsets like these may not often augur well as the selectors and the coach do not wish to see the team that represents the core of the international team suffering defeat at the hands of lesser known performers on the domestic circuit. After all, the reason why they are in the senior team is because they are the best of the lot. The seniors should not be lacking in any aspect of the game when they play a series like this; in fact they should be looking to play in a fashion that makes sure they are invincible throughout.
Surely, as stressed time and again, this Challenger Series needs to be looked into carefully to assess its objectives. We need a fair amount of thinking to go into it. Getting the best 36 players to play together and compete is a fairly good idea, but is it serving its purpose? And if not, what can we do about it? Maybe if the BCCI is not putting its thinking cap on, we can, and see what we can come up with?
Before I end, the maestro made a low profile comeback, but a comeback nevertheless. It is a good sign that others are making news even when he is around. Now all that I’m waiting for is some lusty blows as he would belt out in the good old days. No fear, only sheer aggression. A trademark cover drive, a lovely straight drive, a cheeky paddle, and I’d die for a repeat of the six straight at the sightscreen, the one he hit off Kasprowicz, at Sharjah,1998.
Yes, he is a delight to watch, having caught him umpteen times live at the Wankhede, there is nothing more that gives you much pleasure than watching him stand up straight on his little feet after he has punched his trademark cover-drive; the fielder is chasing it fast and furious, hoping to stop it, but the sheer timing is so teasing that the maestro wins the battle 😉
Oh, I’m getting nostalgic again, but it really has been a long time….