Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Forgotten XI... Or Maybe Not

The following is an eleven comprising of Indian cricketers whose names are likely to be remembered only by either their own families or the most diehard of cricket followers. Like any "fantasy XI" I have picked the ones which I recall from my cricket watching career. There can be quite a few alternative XIs.
  1. Iqbal Siddique - In his debut Test for India, opened the bowling and batting. Also hit the the winning runs. And never played for India again. 
  2. Sujith Somasundar - Opened for India in 2 ODIs with a lineup comprising of Tendulkar, Dravid, Azhar, Ganguly and Ajay Jadeja following up. His failures lead to India experimenting with Ganguly as Tendulkar's opening partner and the rest as they is history.
  3. Gagan Khoda - Scored 89 in his 2nd ODI earning him the Man of the Match award. And never played for India again. Just plain bad luck. 
  4. Amay Khurasiya - In contrast to Khoda, An attacking 50 on his ODI debut earned Khurasiya place in the 1999 World Cup squad. The innings warded off competition from the likes of VVS Laxman and Virender Sehwag. A few games later he was dropped for good.
  5. Atul Bedade - Was the Yusuf Pathan equivalent of the pre-T20 era. A high strike rate but not too many runs ensured that Bedade represented India only in 13 ODIs. Would certainly have been in big demand in the IPL.
  6. Pankaj Dharmani - Only one game for the Ranji run machine. A wicket keeper with a first class average of over 50 but played only one ODI for India due to a career coinciding with Nayan Mongia's. 
  7. Laxmi Ratan Shukla - He is still toiling away in the Ranji and IPL circuits. Hasn't represented India in this millenium, hence the IPL considers him to be an uncapped player inspite of playing 3 ODIs for India.
  8. David Johnson - 2 Tests as Srinath's injury replacement. But never stuck around the team
  9. Noel David - Noel Who is said to have been the reaction of the then Indian captain Tendulkar, when he heard that this spinner has replaced the injured  Srinath. A brilliant ODI debut and superb fielding were good signs, But his career fizzled out within a few days.
  10. Nilesh Kulkarni - A wicket of his first ball in Test cricket followed by one more in his entire 3 Test career. A case of domestic potential not being translated into international performances.
  11. Robin Singh Jr. - Not to be confused with the more famous Robin Singh. Both played 1 Test each for India although Robin Singh Sr. played in more  than 100 ODIs also.
12th Man - Connor Williams - Slight cheating done here. He never played an international for India. or rather never played in an "official" international game for India. His only India cap came in a "Test" against South Africa which was not given Test status post the Mike Denness fiasco of 2001. 

So 4 batsman, 1 wicket-keeper who can bat, 2 seam-bowling all-rounders, 2 fast bowlers and 2 spinners - in all a very well balanced side.  

Some unable to use their chances and some plain unlucky. But all (with one exception) being part of the very few to have worn the India cap.

Friday, October 24, 2014

The West Indies - The End is Nigh

Its been just over a week since last week's dramatic and abrupt end of the West Indies tour to India. In the mean time thousands of articles have probably appeared on the web talking about the decline in everything related to West Indies cricket. Here is one more on the same.

In my opinion, the time has come for the West Indies as a cricketing team to close down.

This abandonment could be the straw that broke the camel's back. The player-board standoff has been running for years which not surprisingly has coincided with the general decline in West Indies cricket. From being the top ranked country and a widely admired opponent, they have now been sitting close to the bottom in terms of rankings. Threats of strikes, withdrawals, dubious droppings, stand-offs between individual players and the board do not augur well for the making of a team. But walking out in the middle of a tour against the most powerful cricket board is taking matters too far. The abandonment will have far-reaching repercussions. BCCI has already suspended future bilateral tours and other national boards and sponsors are extremely wary. There are even doubts on their participation in the coming World Cup.

West Indies are not the only ones with problems. Zimbabwe have worse but theirs are not just board specific but rooted in the political turmoil in the country. And Afghanistan have shown how cricket as a sport can still grow in war ravaged nation. So payment disputes are comparatively an insignificant issue.

The WICB have been consistently showing their incompetency for the past few years. The 2007 World Cup was arguably the worst organised one in history. And they had almost sold off the entire cricketing administration to Allan Stanford, an American billionaire now in jail for fraud. 

Even the cry of "Rally around the West Indies" somehow doesn't fit the players who seem more interested in becoming T20 mercenaries playing across the proliferating T20 leagues across the world than playing for their "nation".

The West Indies as a team concept are an unique example in not just cricket but across the sporting world. They transcend the national boundaries. Its not just one nation but different countries across the Caribbean region who come together to play as one on the cricketing field. In every other sports these countries have their own separate identities but cricket unites them. However the multiple national interests may also be the cause of the breakdown. 

So I feel that the time has come for the various nations in the West Indies to go their own separate ways. Most likely they are just waiting for the first one to take the plunge and go its own separate way. And maybe having separate national teams might rejuvenate the flogging interest in the game within the region. It will be sad day for cricket when this happens. But the way the events are unfolding it seems to be a question of when and not if. 

The demise of the West Indies cricket will be mourned by all cricket lovers but their current avatar will not be missed.