The Board has to look at the quality and not the quantity, writes Makarand Waingankar
No international body ever indulges in amateurish approach when it comes to players’ fitness, but Indian cricket adopts different parameters for the selection of senior players. This is one big reason for India losing at Nagpur by an innings.
Not long ago, Sourav Ganguly was asked to prove his fitness; Laxman declares himself fit and is unfit on the day of a crucial Test thus making a mockery of the selection process. Add to it, Rohit Sharma injures himself in a game that he seldom watches.
Though the old-timers don’t appreciate the various warm-up activities that current teams enthusiastically indulge in, it’s time the coach, looking at the inexperienced bench strength, does away with the activities which the cricketers have no clue about.
Unlike players from England, Australia and South Africa, players from the sub-continent play only cricket. And when one plays football for a few minutes, wrong tackling technique can be dangerous, as happened in the case of Rohit Sharma. Didn’t kho-kho cause injury to Yuvraj Singh’s knee?
Sir Ian Botham made a very pertinent point when one England cricketer was injured playing football on the day of a match; he asked when cricket coaches get players to play football, does Sir Alex Ferguson make his footballers play cricket during the warm- ups?
The problem with Indian cricket is that some of the seniors play when they aren’t fully fit overlooking the fact that the body, because of the wear and tear over a decade with hardly any time for recovery, doesn’t respond to the fitness required to play at the international level.
In this case one must admire Tendulkar who is smart enough to listen to his body. He seems to believe in the maxim that when one is hundred per cent physically fit, mentally there are fewer issues to deal with. Cricket being a mental game, the decision making then becomes easier.
Laxman, a class player himself, seems to feel that he is good fielder on the plot only. Rarely do we see him chase the ball to the boundary. When the game is becoming increasingly fast, seniors unfortunately think of their experience in skill to increase their longevity. This is where the selectors have to take a call.
When all the international teams, except perhaps Pakistan, are working on various match simulation fielding drills through experts, we had Mike Young as a fielding consultant for a few days. It’s the drills that sharpen reflexes. The more you play, the more you have to push yourself. The fact is Indians continue to live in the comfort zone while dealing with this important aspect of fielding.
And Harbhajan Singh continues to pose problems to the selectors. Though the ICC, in a written statement, says Harbhajan Singh bowls the doosra within the permissible 15 degrees (none of the former great spinners agree), Harbhajan is unwilling to take the risk and that has made him more predictable unless he bowls on a rank bad turner.
It’s time the board looks at the quality and not the quantity of the national tournament. We play the national championship on placid pitches which are covered. Selectors go by those performances and pick players for India.
We have got to have India ‘A’ playing against South Africa and Australia. That’s the level that will guide the selectors about the skill and temperament of players.