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Past Their Use-By Dates

This list compiled by Cricinfo’s stats gurus makes for fascinating reading. It is interesting to note the number of players who have performed significantly better in their last international series, as compared to their overall careers.

The top 10 of each is comprised of many famous and talented players for both the Test and ODI forms of the game. One would naturally expect to read names like Pollock, Dempster, Barnes, Grimmett and Chappell. What is surprising, however, is the absence of Indian names in the top 10 from all but one of the four lists. A certain Atul Bedade is flying the flag for all past Indian players capable of making it to these lists. He boasted a career (comprising 13 matches during the height of the fixed match era) batting average of just over 20, but managed a statistical average of 77 in his last series in Sharjah, owing to a few not-outs.

IMHO, this fact hints of a deeper malaise in Indian cricket where players are selected despite their rapidly diminishing value to the team. Australian selectors have long been pilloried for dropping or forcing the hand of greats like Steve Waugh and Allan Border, however, it was probably these decisions that prevented the rot of complacency from infecting the team. It was probably these decisions that instilled a ruthless and clinical mindset.

The job of Australian selectors over the last decade and a half has, no doubt, been made significantly easier due to the talent waiting to burst onto the international scene, as well as the pathetic level of cricket offered up by other Test-playing nations. One could argue, that these bold decisions would not, and are still not possible, in an Indian setting, because, the depth of talent is simply not available. The recall of Matthew Hayden to the ODI team may be a signal that the once-great depth in Australian cricket is only but a faint memory (but that is another post for another time).

I take the view that it is better to provide a developmental opportunity to a promising player, rather than carry a currently underperforming “great” player. With soaring remuneration for top players, one would be daft to retire before it is impossible to keep going. However, it is time Indian selectors displayed gumption, bit the bullet and called it as they saw it without hiding behind reputations and statistics.

It will not be easy to achieve this with the impending, and no doubt sentimental, retirements of Tendulkar, Dravid, et al. However, this process has already started with the Sourav Ganguly saga (my views on him here) and should continue, even if future coaches are not created from the Greg Chappell mould.

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