Tuesday, February 5, 2008

The Price of Youth

Its all fine to see the average age of the Indian cricket team get knocked down by a couple of decades, but what price this shift in mentality? The last bastion of the late '90s team, the Little Master, still remains at the top to remind all and sundry that old might still be gold, but The Wall, The Prince, The Smiling Assassin, and of course Mr. Very Very Special, are now considered dented brass worthy of the junk yard. Funny - its these very same players who win Test matches for us. Is Test cricket so fundamentally different from Limited Overs cricket?

Granted, the elder statesmen are not the best on the field, nor are they the best runners between the wickets. But is it my imagination, or was the side less prone to humiliating 150s and 160s all outs a few years ago? Where are the 250+ scores? Where is the confidence with which the boys in blue won 17 consecutive chases?

The batting looks brittle, and the calmness of age seems absent. Dhoni goes to Sehwag...Sehwag???????...for advice...the same Sehwag who couldn't remember not to edge balls outside off stump to the short 3rd man placed especially for him about a half dozen times. And our lead spinner is none other than Mr. Diplomatique, who is vying to be the next Indian ambassador to Australia (specifically Sydney). The humiliating treatment meted out to Anil Kumble, which ultimately forced him to quit the One-day arena, cost India its best bowler in the 50-over format. Horrible.

Agreed, the one phenomenal area of development has been the fast bowling department. Glorious Zak, Ishanth Sharma, R.P., a rejuvenated Pathan, and a chastised Sreesanth look - and act - formidable. Youth was definitely needed here, and the team is the richer for it. The new breed came in at a time when certain 'fast' bowlers were making Kumble look even faster than he was.

But look at other teams who have invested heavily in youth, and only in youth. Zimbabwe, due to political reasons of course have a team of high-schoolers, but that apart, what about New Zealand? No Fleming, Astle, and Mcmillan - and all of a sudden the senior batsmen are - hold your breath - Lou Vincent, Jacob Oram, and Brendon McCullum. One waits to see how England plays them without being tough enough to alert Child Services. Pakistan resemble a bunch of pre-schoolers out on an excursion, with two nursemaids playing chaperone (Hint: One has male-pattern facial hair, and the other's name starts with Y too) - and they were made to look pretty ordinary over 5 matches by the whipping boys of international cricket, the Mugabe Cricket Team.

And what about the 'blends'? The fine balance of youth and experience? Australia are doing just fine with the grey hairs of Hayden, Ponting, and Symonds (a stretch, but let it pass). England have an experienced Collingwood, a mature Pietersen, a classy Strauss, Vintage Vaughan, and the fast maturing Ian Bell to offset the young 'uns that are showing up. And Sri Lanka have that marauder Sanath at the top of the order, bludgeoning mortals in middle age, much like Stallone in Rambo.

So please, BCCI, bring the experience back. The only way these young guns are going to learn to fire consistently is if they have a steadying hand pointing them in the right direction. And it feels good to notch up 300 + once in a while

1 comment:

msp said...

Notionally in agreement.
We have the one old hand. The Man. I agree we could do with one more.
But apart from that who's to go and who's to come in. When are the Rohit Sharmas and Badrinaths to get a hand ?