Tuesday, March 27, 2007


Captain Tendulkar? Never Again, Please


How can so many people, with so much "experience" and "wisdom" be so short-sighted? Discounting the fact that the Indian media tries its shameful utmost to create the news, rather than merely report it, many supposedly knowledgeable elder statesmen are pining for the reappointment of Sachin Tendulkar as Indian captain.

Instead of calling for mindless "blood-letting", cricketers whose opinions are solicited or opportunistically offered should wisely consider their views before creating unnecessary drama. Indian cricket has suffered far too much and far too long at the hands of selfish self-promoters. For once in Indian cricket history, the people that matter are called upon to unite and restructure the game in a manner that will promote success in the long-term. Taking decisions and spouting needless rubbish on a whim is not what the doctor ordered.

Let me preface my views below with the information that I am an unashamed and long-standing fan of Tendulkar. Regardless of the fact that he has failed to win pressure matches in recent times and seems unable to overcome a mental block that is prohibiting him from wowing us with his true genius, he has been one of the reasons (quite often, the only reason) why many of us have continued to watch Indian cricket. He has also been a big part of the little success that Team India has achieved over the previous decade and a half.

I will continue to be a fan of Tendulkar until my dying day. This has not, and will not, cloud my judgment pertaining to his true worth to Team India. I believe the calls for his axing or retirement are premature and irresponsible. I challenge the proponents of this school of thought to name one emerging player of considerable talent who will be able to consistently outperform Tendulkar over the next few years. Emotional and illogical arguments aside, not one name will be half of what Tendulkar can be over the coming years.

Sachin Tendulkar's worth to Team India is indisputable. However, his qualifications to lead the side leave a lot more to be desired. His two previous stints in the top job were nothing short of disastrous. He would have, undoubtedly, matured as a person and developed as a leader in this time. This should not paper over his blinding inability to inspire and cajole his troops to perform during his previous attempts.

Instead of discussing potential replacements for Rahul Dravid, the question that needs to be considered is whether Dravid deserves the sack? Tendulkar was not alone in being unable to convert his players into a cohesive and focussed unit. Mohammad Azharuddin also suffered the same problems. Azharuddin only survived for as long as he did thanks to politicking and a lack of desire within the BCCI to try and improve the game they are supposed to manage (obviously, nothing has changed to this day). A second failing of Azharuddin, Tendulkar and Ganguly was their significant decline in form while they were captain.

Rahul Dravid has only been in the job for 18 months. In that time he has shown that his batting has prospered, or at the very least, not suffered. He has also shown that he has the ability to lead his players to out-perform their potential, as evidenced by the 17 straight ODI victories while chasing.

Moreover, he has shown that he wants to be his own man. Nobody quite knows what prompted him to take the collaborative route for the World Cup, but he has also shown in the past that he has an ability to isolate and remedy his shortcomings - remember how he wasn't good enough to play ODIs.

Admittedly, his tactical awareness and ability to innovate went distressingly MIA when the going got tough. However, to be fair to Dravid, he is not the only international captain that suffers from this affliction. Only, Stephen Fleming, and Michael Vaughan to a lesser extent, have consistently displayed the ability to come out on top in difficult situations. The few times that they were strenuously tested, even Steve Waugh lost the plot.

If Captain Dravid's only drawback is that he needs to improve his tactical nous in difficult situations, does he need replacing? Do we have a ready-made candidate who is a shoo-in for both teams and also has the ability to captain like Fleming? I seriously think not.

Captain Tendulkar, is the worst thing that could happen to Indian cricket in these troubled times. We do not need to change the captain, we need to change the system that produces his players. Concentration on the issues that need addressing rather the shuffling of deck chairs on the Titanic is the need of the hour. The decisions that need to be made are tough, but the reasons for making them are simple and require only common-sense.

Unfortunately, we all know that the likelihood of the BCCI making common-sense decisions are as likely as George Bush capturing Osama Bin Laden.


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