Now that India’s WC campaign has ended as an unmitigated disaster, I thought I’d analyze the future prospects of the team.
Every time the team performs badly, everyone blame the coach. Sure, the coach has to take some responsibility, but more often than not he is made the scape goat. And this will suit the Indian public quite nicely. He is a foreign coach and not very popular with ex-players, and even if the ex-players do not have much say in the running of the BCCI, they voice their opinions (quite vociferously, I may add) in the media and influence public opinion and BCCI may act on this. His contract was till the end of the World cup, which means it has officially finished. It would be sad to see him go, but I think that may actually end up happening when the BCCI meets in April. And if Greg does go, then we may end up seeing an Indian coach being appointed this time.
For the record, here is India’s performance since Greg took over the coaching job in May 2005.
Zimbabwe tour: India won 2-0
SL series in India: India won 2-0
Pak tour: India lost 0-1
England series in India: Drawn 1-1
WI tour: India won 1-0
SA tour: India lost 1-2
And, India’s record in ODI during this period – 62 matches, 32 wins and 27 losses
As a batsman, he is still the best in our side and his place is secure. The only question that will be asked will be around his captaincy. However, at the current moment, there is no other suitable candidate for that position. I am sure, Saurav Ganguly will be considered again and so will Sachin Tendulkar, but I doubt if they will replace him. Sehwag will not be considered until we know for sure that he has come out of his form slump. Laxman is a candidate for the test captaincy but not for the ODIs. Barring Yuvraj, none of the others are experienced enough, and even Yuvraj needs more time. In my opinion, Dravid is still establishing himself on the team as a captain and needs a bit more time and I hope BCCI persist with him, and I think they will.
(Dravid has captained India in 20 tests, won 6, lost 6 and drawn 8. His ODI record: 65 matches, 33 won and lost 28)
Ganguly has been really good on his comeback. Here are his ODI stats since he returned to the side –
10 matches, 509 runs @ 63.62 and 6 fifties.
He hasn’t been timing the ball well or playing as aggressively as he used to, but there is no denying the fact that he has played better than most other people in the team. If Dravid is asked to step down as captain, then Ganguly would be a serious candidate for that post again.
There are going to be many knee jerk reactions following the WC performance, and one of them is to demand for Tendulkar’s retirement. Two bad matches against SL and Bangladesh should not be the only measuring stick. If you look at Sachin’s performance in the last 20 ODIs and tests, it is not bad actually –
Test record: 20 matches, 1188 runs @ 42.42 (Career avg: 54.70)
ODI record: 20 matches, 558 runs @ 32.82 (Career avg: 44.05)
Tendulkar is obviously not the Tendulkar of old. In the last two years or so, he has had a form slump and also been out of the team due to injuries. But I think there is no one good enough to replace him yet. I think the selectors know this as well.
Sehwag may have just managed to save his spot in the team with a hundred against Bermuda and some decent batting against SL. Here is his stats for the last 20 games.
Test record: 20 matches, 1411 runs @ 42.75 (Career avg: 49.46)
ODI record: 20 matches, 495 runs @ 27.50 (Career avg: 31.62)
He got into the team only at the insistence of the David, and until he earns the confidence of the selectors, he will not be considered for captain or vice captain. Which brings me to Yuvraj…
Yuvraj is part of the young brigade and I think it would be worthwhile making him vice-captain. There are media reports that he may replace Dravid as captain and I think it is just sheer speculation. According to an article in the Deccan Herald, Greg Chappell doesn’t even think he is captaincy material and I do not know the inner workings and politics of the team. But the big three along with Kumble are going to retire in the next few years and it is time the reins of the team were handed over slowly to the next generation. Yuvraj Singh has been performing well over the last couple of years and is an automatic selection for the ODI team. He is young, but has played enough matches to be given this additional responsibility. But before this can happen he has to cement a place in the test team. Here is his recent record –
Test record: 19 matches, 830 runs @ 33.20
ODI record: 20 matches, 597 runs @ 38.80 (Career avg: 35.53)
His place in the team is secure for now.
I have a feeling, Kumble will announce his retirement from ODIs. I hope he goes on his own rather than being pushed. Retirement in ODI will prolong his Test career by at least 2 years and that will be good for India.
There is no doubt that Uthappa is an excellent prospect for India. But BCCI need to be seen as making changes to the team and Uthappa will be dropped. I am sure it will only be a short term move and he will soon be back in the team.
Pathan, Karthik, Sreesanth
They didn’t get a single game, but may be dropped too. As I said earlier, BCCI should be “seen” doing things.
I am not sure what the selectors and BCCI are going to do about Dhoni. He is a match winner that we cannot afford to drop, but public opinion against him has been strong and this may act against his favour. If he is dropped, then Karthik may get his place. For a Keeper/batsman, he hasn’t been bad though –
Test record: 15 matches, 706 runs @ 30.69
ODI record: 20 matches, 518 runs @ 37.00 (Career avg: 44.15)
Agarkar, Zaheer and Munaf
I am not entirely sure whether Zaheer and Munaf will be dropped, but it may be a bit of touch and go for Agarkar.
I think Ramesh Powar may stake a claim to the ODI side in place of Bhajji. He hasn’t done anything in the cup that will safe guard his position. He position in the Test team remains unchallenged, though.
Ok. This is what I think would happen. But what should really happen? IMVHO – Nothing.
I think it has taken us two years to build this team up and we shouldn’t throw it all away. We should also not confuse between what constitutes a good one day team and what constitutes a good test team.
The board and the selectors shouldn’t go for major changes. Not yet, anyway. We have a Bangladesh tour coming up in May – give the same team another go. Sure, Laxman and Jaffar should come into the test squad. Uthappa and one wicketkeeper will have to give way. Agarkar or Pathan may also make way for another seamer. The rest of the team should actually continue as it is. After the Bangla tour we have a much more important tour of England. The swing bowlers will play a very important role and you need batsmen with good experience. Drastic changes will not be good for the long term prospects of the team.
As I said in an earlier article, there is nothing wrong with the physical make up of the team – the main problems we have are in the mind. Get a Sports counselor to work with the team. Full time. And the coach – Give Greg Chappell some more time…at least extend it to the end of the Australia tour and put him on notice.
I am sure I will be flamed for voicing an opinion like this. “What? No change after such a disastrous World cup? Is he mad??”
But think about it. This was the best team we had 4 weeks ago and most people agreed. There is nothing to indicate that the bench strength has suddenly gotten better and can challenge the current team. One good Ranji outing does not mean you can get into the side, just as two bad performances does not mean you should be dropped form the national squad. Give them another chance in the Bangladesh tour and if they do fail – then get your knives out…