Cricket Australia is keen to look ahead. The BCCI would have Indians fans believe similarly so. But can one be compared to another, especially when some pertinent discrepancies have crept into the selection?
Andrew Symonds has caught himself in a net where even his wriggling out will require some effort. The last time Australia toured India after the inaugural World Twenty20, they were a testy lot smarting from the fact that India were romping with the champions tag. Spats over who were the ‘real’ champion sparred with Symonds’ claims of his being taunted with a rather childish taunt of ‘monkey’ which was brazenly assumed to have racial undertones to it. Symonds and Harbhajan continued the sparring in Australia and it appears Cricket Australia and the rest of the team, for a change, do not want to be a part of another fracas that involved Symonds and India.
Having said that, Symonds’ credentials as player make him a virtually indispensable figure in any squad. To replace a player of his caliber and under the present circumstanced that do not involve injury, it is hard for the squad and management to assess when and in what frame of mind Symonds will be able to stage a return. While Cricket Australia is lending a hand towards his rehabilitation, they do not want to seem too indulgent with a player who has proved a distraction even within the home dressing room. Rest assured, Australia will not be short on aggression even without Symonds. With Ricky Ponting, Matthew Hayden and Brett Lee all set to return, Australia’s holes may only show significantly in the spin department. Having said that, even Warne failed in India so, Australia will back their strengths in the batting and in the pace department and hope that the spinners touring with the Australia A squad will gain a little more insight before one or two of them are pressed into duty.
But Australia enjoy a strong bench strength, although it has appeared to falter especially when it comes to finding a worthy spinner to fill in for Shane Warne’s retirement and Stuart MacGill who was simply forced to fade away in Warne’s shadow. With a few promising names such as David Hussey, Shaun Marsh, Shane Watson and the likes doing the rounds, Australia will look at this vacancy to find their answer to the future. It is perhaps even likely that the names in question will outshine and outpace their predecessor over the span of their international careers not only because of their talent groomed in a tough domestic environment but also, because perhaps they will be hungrier than Symonds to establish themselves in this team.
But strangely the case in India appears bizarre. While the BCCI have wanted to look proactive in benching Sourav Ganguly perhaps permanently, their decisions in the selection policy have been debatable. The collective failure of the team in Sri Lanka has meant a virtual full strength squad takes the field in the Irani Trophy tie. But it has also meant that the likes of Rohit Sharma, hailed highly in Australia as a player for the future, has been overlooked. Mohammad Kaif has been given another chance after his ninety-four against Australia A. But the fact that the selectors have now decided to watch the senior pros in action before finding more heads to roll has meant that these youngsters including Subramaniam Badrinath are missing the opportunity to prune themselves against teams at home and stake a claim for the series at home.
The opening slot seems forever a position vacant and there is no real effort being made to find a player who can answer to India’s call for the next five, seven, even ten years perhaps. A nomadic position where not a few sacrificial lambs have been sent to the alter.
How one performance alone will decide the end of the road of the senior or pick one fringe player over another is a question only the BCCI can answer and one that they hope will be proved right. These are decisions being made on egg shells. It must seem that there is next to no public outcry in Bengal but they have had their preoccupations with the Tatas and Nanos in Singur perhaps even realizing that Dada’s fate is something not even he can control. Rreasoning with the BCCI with logic has perhaps worn them out. That Ganguly has been singled out does not bother anyone and perhaps it is his performance in Sri Lanka that has been more entrenching that his gritty efforts against Australia and fighting pitch conditions at home while helping India to victory against South Africa.
The BCCI does not want to risk allowing the senior players to rest not knowing the depth of their present form and at the same time, unwilling to bring in newcomers in the two series at home. Perhaps throwing them into the deep end is the way the BCCI likes it. But with the seniors occupying the crease, not to mention, jostling to keep their places, the situation with the Indian cricket team is aimed mainly as self-preservation (which is why the BCCI is still playing it safe) and not really rebuilding in concrete fashion for the future.
Dropping Ganguly alone and benching Yuvraj (the latter did not make a case for himself and he will seriously need to think about his Test career as it would be deteriorating to prevent a more skilled player the opportunity to be groomed for when the gaps finally expose themselves) may appear that the BCCI is looking in the right direction. But there is still a muddled mind at play and it could create a few uneasy scenarios against Australia in the bid to play it safe as well.
Given this kind of thinking, if the seniors find it difficult to get going against the Australians, England will be licking their lips at the opportunity to find India without a trunk when experience gets the axe.