Friday, May 25, 2007

Defining cricket in the next decade

The print issue of Wisden Cricketer has come out with a list of 10 players who will define cricket in the next decade. CricketNext carried a brief report.

I am sure the magazine has detailed analyses and opinions on how each of these individuals will contribute their mite to the game over the next few years, but I haven’t read it yet. In that delightful ignorance, it’s interesting to spend an idle Friday evening speculating how each of these people will make a lasting difference.

Michael Clarke was apparently touted as Australia’s future captain even before he made his debut. So what kind of an impact when he becomes captain? May be he will preside over the Australian team as it falls off the pedestal it has occupied longer than anyone wants to remember? Thus making the game more competitive?

How do you describe Shaun Tait? As accurate as Harmy one ball, as wayward as Pigeon the next. So will Tait usher in a new rule for bowlers: If you bowl three straight balls in an over, you are allowed one wide? Now that should reduce the disparity between batsmen and bowlers! And extend Harmy’s career in the bargain.

Shane Watson may well come to define the new age versatile cricketer, currently known as the bits-and-pieces journeyman. Middle-order-slogger one day, first-choice-but-injured opener the next, and then fit-again-middle-order-slogger the third. And a sudden test match hopeful in the next interview. With a bowling arm that comes in handy when nine, ten and jack are at the crease.

What’s cricket without commerce? And what’s commerce without personality? We do need personalities for the future, don’t we? Reverse-sweeping the best off-spinner in the world for six in a test match or taking four wickets in four balls against the second best ODI team in the world (but the unquestioned champions in “choking”) in a World Cup game are fine, but where will be our “model” cricketers of the future be if their hair was straight and its colour, plain and monochromatic? Take a bow, Kevin Pietersen and Lasith Malinga.

A loose-limbed action and a test bowling average of 20.12 after 9 matches (as of today) is all interesting to note, but how can you improve on this and make a difference in the next decade? How about being caught in a drug scandal one day and then becoming the vice captain in the next series you play? That’s Mohammad Asif for you.

Playing for one of the weaker teams in the circuit has its own advantages. You need to make a century only once in a season to get noticed. It helps if you are extravagant in your stroke play or if you make the century against the right opposition. And sometimes, if you don’t mind, the result of the game matters. Little wonder then, that Bangladesh’s Mohammad Ashraful is a shoo-in into this list.

The West Indies re-defined fast bowling in the 70s and 80s, where their bowlers reputedly had three types of deliveries – fast, faster and fastest. So what you do say to a West Indian fast bowler (all rounder, at least in the relative sense) who makes his reputation because he also has three types of deliveries – slow, slower and slowest? Welcome him into the list of players who would redefine the next decade, of course. Ladies and gentlemen, Dwayne Bravo.

They are the eternal bridesmaids of international cricket, and their neighbours have always treated them with scant respect. So if New Zealand unearths a young exciting talent like Ross Taylor who spearheads a successful run chase of Australia’s 336 in his very first international season, how can he be ignored? Considering how he performed in the 2007 World Cup, may be Taylor’s role in the future will be only to score centuries against Australia in home ODIs when chasing imposing totals. Thus giving a totally new definition to the term “big occasion man”.

That leaves us with the man the magazine says “had the talent to be a left-handed Sachin Tendulkar but warns that he needs to be handled sensitively by the Indian selectors.” So does Suresh Raina represent the corporatisation of cricket, where the management takes accountability for the performance of individuals?


Ananth said...

Hey-just looking in through homer's blog. loved the post. Just one point.

I think the author of that wisden article is right about Suresh Raina and the selectors's role. Raina clearly has not just talent but also the fabled 'cool head' and the untiring, positive livewire attitude that is so important in cricket and which is one big reason for the Australians success.
It is this enthusiasm that needs to be nurtured and tapped and not allowed to wane.

Two examples to back my case: Sadagopan Ramesh and VVS Laxman. Two cricketers with such a natural flair for test match cricket. One an awesome opener and the other, the perfect no.3. And what does the management do? Shuffle them around in various positions, put them in one-day cricket(which does not suit their kind of game at all)and finally label them as failures to bring in incompetent batsmen, with not even half the talent and hungry enthusiasm, into the side as 'replacements'.

That shouldn't happen.

Geetha Krishnan said...

I agree, Ananth. Raina never really had a clearly defined slot and role in the team. And I get a sense that he didn't have Dravid's backing either. But he is young, and should make his way back into the squad. I am not sure I share your view on Ramesh, though. I thought his technique was woefully inadequate for international cricket.

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