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Focus is on youth after Twenty20 triumph

While we euologise the Aussies for their consistently high quality performance, the fact is that we overlook the hard work that has shaped their cricket. They do the little things better than any other team and therein lies the secret of their success. The Australian cricketer radiates energy, enthusiasm, passion and more importantly, a commitment to excellence. The Indian team has three of the four attributes, but falls short on commitment to put in time on the field, practising till they drop dead, as it were. Thus, in a pressure situation, the Australians react better as a team whereas the Indians depend on individuals to see them through.

The Aussies are no angels of innocence. They are not above “targeting” key opposition players, constantly needling them to the point of distraction that eventually leads to the fall of a wicket. It is part of their gamesmanship that at times has earned them the tag of a “bully”. Watching them, some of our Indian youngsters seem to believe that aggression is a key to success. At most times it is, but so long as it is within limits of decency.

To a large extent, Ian Chappell’s Australians and Clive Lloyd’s West Indians have been the architects of sledging, attrition and unbridled aggression. Perhaps, the genesis of this malaise lies in the infamous Bodyline series where England targeted Bradman, attempting to physically injure the great batsman. But these days, the aggression has been reduced to bootlace levels with players not reluctant to mouth abuses, indulging in “gully cricket” antics and theatrics, much like Sreesanth did at Kochi and in South Africa.

Yes, we would not like to see robots playing cricket. The passion has to radiate and due allowance should be made for players to express their feelings, be it frustration or euphoria. But then, so long as these actions are within limits (and these days, the limits are truly stretched), they should be permitted. A glare or a jibe is fine as they add spice to the proceedings. However, Sreesanth’s act of appealing for a runout in a dead-ball situation at Kochi, went beyond decency. A pity that such a talented young cricketer repeatedly goes astray. The onus is on skipper Dhoni to lead the young stallion back on the racetrack, even if it means a spank on the bottom.

During Ganguly’s captaincy, the team followed its skipper’s example of standing up to the opposition. The shirt-waving act from Lord’s balcony was a clear signal to the rest of the team to go the distance in the name of aggression. And now, it has gone over the top with players like Sreesanth and Harbhajan not averse to adopting below-the-belt tactics.

These are among the many issues that are confronting the Indian cricket Board, which is finally admitting that the game is getting younger and unless you are a Hayden or a Ponting or a Gilchrist, there is no place for the oldies (read above 30). The tight schedules with so much travel and play with insufficient recovery period, the life of a modern-day cricketer is certainly getting shorter. Even Dhoni, only 26, complained the other day about non-stop cricket and how it is affecting the body.

Perhaps, the selectors took the hint from Dhoni and are now contemplating rotating players, especially the seniors. I suspect the selectors are trying to gather courage to tell the likes of Dravid, Tendulkar and Ganguly that it is time they retired from one-day cricket. The trio might yet get the odd big score to remind us of their calibre, but in the long run, their continued presence in the one-day squad would only stunt the development of young talent.

The Twenty20 triumph last month has put the focus firmly on youth. There is a craving to see new faces, fresh legs and more enthusiasm. Thus, the pressure is far greater on the Big Three now than at any time in the past. Instant entertainment and instant result is the new theme song whose tunes might not be as lilting, but we are in the age of “Remix”!

The Hyderabad game on Friday, thus, would be crucial in more ways than one. India need to win to stay in the hunt as also the seniors who have to perform or be “rested” (a euphemism for sack). Either way, it could turn out to be another potboiler.

Categories: Cricket Article, twenty20
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