Tuesday, October 31, 2006

What Is Deja Vu?

It is what Indian fans feel when their team is going through a bad phase or when the selection committee has recently been overhauled. Yes the team got thumped, when it should have been a lot more of a contest. Yes, more was expected of the unit even though many of the vital cogs have not been in the finest of touch of late. Yes, some serious thinking needs to be done before the World Cup campaign is embarked upon. That is all well and good, but Anil Kumble and Wasim Jaffer in our one day team? If ever there was an example of taking drastic measures, this is it.

Anil Kumle is a modern day great, in every sense of the phrase. He is as cunning, miserly and aggressive with the cricket ball in hand as Glen McGrath. Granted, he can even has the potential to bat a little better than McGrath. That is where the comparisons and superiority ends for Kumble. For all his greatness, he still has not learned the art of fielding and throwing. Kumble chasing and diving after a ball is akin to an elephant attempting to dance the salsa. They don't call him Jumbo for no reason.

In all seriousness, I honestly believe Kumble is a fantastic test match bowler. He has served his country well in the ODIs he has been asked to play, thus far. However, his use-by date expired long ago. He was put out to pasture in the ODI paddock, for a simple reason - he is a liability in the field, for he cannot run, dive or throw. Why embarrass him further in the ODI arena, when he could priming himself for some real cricket action - namely Test matches?

A similar deal with Wasim Jaffer. The guy builds fantastic innings at the top of the order in the longer version of the game. He did a magnificent job of anchoring the innings in our recent win in the West Indies, but this is ODI cricket. Team India requires fast, nimble and multi-dimensional players who can turn the game, more often than not, at the drop of a hat. Jaffer was hardly able to hit the ball off the square in the recently concluded Challenger Trophy. So, how did he qualify for ODI selection before a Rohit Sharma or Gautam Gambhir?

According to Dilip Vengsarkar, Jaffer's "technique is good for hard and bouncy wickets". The Indians showed they can bat 50 overs on a "hard and bouncy" wicket two days ago at Mohali. We do not need players who can block every ball back to the bowler, whilst displaying a back-foot defensive technique that would put the writers of the proverbial textbook to shame. We need players who will run hard and put the ball into gaps from the first ball. For a team that that pioneered the role of the big-hitting opener (Tendulkar in New Zealand, 1993/94 - not Jayasuriya as is commonly thought), it seems our selectors have lost their way, once again.

My man Sreesanth makes a welcome return through the front door, but I really would have preferred to see VRV Singh selected in place of Zaheer Khan. Our bowling attack lacked experience two days ago and there is no better opportunity to give some young guys the experience of playing good, tough cricket in unforgiving international conditions. Zaheer Khan could have waited his turn a little longer.

I cannot really complain about the batting line-up, for it picks itself. However, the selectors have illustrated their penchant for the bizzare by including Dinesh Karthik as a standby for Yuvraj Singh. Effectively, Karthik is now proficient enough with the bat to take Yuvraj's place. How?

Such is Indian cricket, the important questions will never be answered. I'm already getting that sickening sense of deja vu.

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