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A few days after the WC exit I wrote an article about why Sachin Tendulkar should not be made captain. A version of this piece was also published over at Desicritics. Unfortunately, in the comments of the DC post, the debate has veered towards whether Tendulkar should be in the team at all.
Lets address this question, then. Does Sachin Tendulkar warrant a place in Team India in the current climate?
IMHO, those that want Tendulkar out of Team India should be able to name a (or multiple) creditable and talented replacement. Most of the names that have been cropping up, to date, revolve around the likes of Mohammad Kaif and Suresh Raina.
Don't get me wrong, these two players have potential that they need help in realising. However, that help should not come at the expense of SRT. One could argue that Kaif has had all the help in the world, and then some. Yet, he still has not been able to flourish and cement his place in the ODI team - unlike his good friend Yuvraj Singh.
For all his dips in form and changes in mental approach, I would still bank on Tendulkar playing consistently better over the next few years than any new cricketer coming into the side. Anybody who suggests that Indian cricket is ready to forge ahead without Tendulkar (and apparently that is 60% of India, as well as Ian Chappell) is seriously deluded or has an axe to grind.
A Question of Age
People like Jabberwock and Ruchir Joshi have vastly differing reasons for asking for Tendulkar to be shunted out of the team. Although, I do understand Jabberwock's angle (not because, like me, he is a self-proclaimed Tendulkar loyalist), I fail to understand what Ruchir was on about. Sample this:
For a person born and brought up in India, age *does* matter. Most indians are indoor-people, by nature. They don't have the physical build to be in tip-top shape, as age advances. Compared to a normal adult of 33 years age, Sachin may be in great shape, but that does not mean he is in a great shape to play cricket. Add to that all the injuries he had to suffer. Sachin is definetly one of the better physically fit players, but it doesn't mean he will be able to play till 40. Most western country people have thick bones. Even if they are skinny, they look healthy. They are mostly outdoor people too. They indulge in lot of physical activities on weekend, at all ages. So, they have better physical structure to support them in sports, even at advancing age.
To anybody living outside of India it is quite obvious that Ruchir's sense of a Western lifestyle is quite misguided, as is his contention that Indians cannot remain as fit as their Caucasian counterparts. Most Western people do not indulge in physical activities, that is why obesity is rampant. Secondly, a person's bone structure has nothing to do with how well he/she can play cricket - they call it skill.
It is also highly irresponsible to suggest that Tendulkar's injuries are a result of him being unfit or under-prepared. His injuries have undoubtedly been a major cause in his lack of form over the past two years. It is hope that with a bit of luck the injuries will stay away, allowing him to play as freely as we all know he can. Nobody is suggesting that he play till 40, for that is a long way off. Do not forget he is only 33 - hardly the geriatric period for a specialist batsman.
Quantitative v Qualitative
No, I do not intend to deliver a mathematics lecture here. But, I would like to refer to a certain Chandra who produce some rather interesting statistics pertaining to the performance of Tendulkar and Kaif, in the comments section of the article I mentioned earlier.
I do not intend to dispute Chandra's statistical data, nor his analysis. However, I would like to refer you to Jabberwock's contention - and one that I wholly support - that every (sane) Tendulkar fan understands that the man "hasn’t been the world’s leading batsman for at least six years now; he hasn’t even been India’s best batsman for at least four years, going back to roughly the time when Rahul Dravid had those great series in England and Australia." You do not require statistics to prove this.
It is important to give statistics their due. Having said that, I also believe statistics should not represent the be all and end all of a case for the in/exclusion of a cricketer from a particular team. Our over-reliance on statistics has led to many a situation where a Ranji star has been picked for the national team based on a stunning average, when honest subjective analysis would have highlighted that he clearly lacked the gumption to put in what international cricket demands.
Quantitative objectivity has its merits, but in a game that so heavily relies on touch and timing, too often we conveniently forget the insights that our very own eyes and brains can afford us.
Here's to hoping that common sense prevails and SRT can remain injury-free and be allowed to play like we all know he can over the next few years. I am all for introducing new blood, but, the kids will simply have to find another road into Team India - for now.
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