Ticket to the NCA

Dilip Vengsarkar is perplexed.

“If Rahul is back because he plays the short balls well, it is a matter of great concern for Indian cricket,” he told Daily News & Analysis. “It means the youngsters cannot play the short balls. This decision means the cupboard is empty. If the youngsters are not technically equipped to play the short ball, then they should be sent to the National Cricket Academy. But I have my doubts.

“Rohit Sharma has missed out because, I thought, he went into a comfort zone. But youngsters like Virat Kohli, Piyush Chawla, Ajinkya Rahane and Dhaval Kulkarni need to be given opportunities at the right time.”

It is a question many of us have asked over the years [as late as yesterday on this blog] , in context of various players who have been dumped on the grounds that ‘he has no control’; ‘his pace has fallen off’; ‘he is vulnerable to the away swinging ball’ or whatever chink the wise men spot and use as the reason to wield the axe.

The problem does not lie in selectors spotting a vulnerability and withdrawing a particular player from the frame. The real problem lies in the fact that there is no ‘what next’ on the BCCI’s agenda. Axe, pick next guy, axe, rinse, repeat, just about sums it up. And that in turn stems from the fact that the BCCI is run like a bureaucracy — one, what is more, staffed by people who require no qualifications other than the ability to manipulate elections.

There is one other tangential point the BCCI and the selectors have overlooked. If I was coach of an international squad waiting for the next encounter with India, I’ll be taking a very interested look at these developments. And I’ll be telling my team, “Guys, the selectors have gotten this ‘short ball’ business firmly fixed in their heads — the Indians are going to come out wary. Use the short ball all you can — Rahul has been brought in there to play the short ball, you use it and he will slip into the mindset of defending for dear life, and the others will take the cue and make heavy weather of it.’

Related, Sharda Ugra has a different take on the return of Rahul.

What India is looking at today, are two tournaments where success could translate into the world No.1 ranking for the first time. Both those tournaments are worth winning in the now, rather than serve as theoretical stating posts en route to the Future. The Champions Trophy is being played in South Africa where India’s young batsmen were not exactly at home during IPL2….

Dravid’s return is a message not just to Rohit Sharma, the most exciting amongst Gen Next batsmen, but to the entire generation themselves. That if they are to be worthy of their place in an Indian XI, they need to show more proof of intent, to put that place beyond argument.

It is what Dravid did when he made his debut for India in 1996 – made it impossible for a batsman like Sanjay Manjrekar to play for India as long as he should logically have. It is how the guard has always changed in cricket.

If the selectors have “gone back” to Dravid, it can only mean that new hands cannot be trusted enough for the assignment ahead. If some distant, shining ‘Future’ is to be secured, it is imperative, now and then, for unpalatable truths like these to be told.

I agree with the basic premise(s): (1) That GenNext cannot take its place for granted; (2) That in pursuit of a shining future we cannot neglect the here and the now (a message as relevant for our cricket administration as it is for the national government); (3) That Dravid’s return lends a certain solidity that will serve India well in the short term.

My concern, like that of Vengsarkar above, is that a forward thinking administration/selectors cannot/should not stop with sending *messages*. Optimizing resources is a sine qua non of progress — and in cricket, it is the emerging talent that is our most valuable resource. To pick on promise, to dump on non-performance, and to move on to the next pick and the next dump is short-sighted in the extreme; a more astute governing body would evaluate the available talent, and work to eradicate weakness and enhance strength.

In all this back and forth about Dravid, that is the one question that is not being asked or answered: While we look after the short term, is anything at all being done for the longer term? Or are we content to repair a road here, build a flyover there, and leave the larger infrastructural needs up to the vagaries of fate?

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3 thoughts on “Ticket to the NCA

  1. Dravid’s inclusion suits the team’s short-term purpose but at the same time, it’s also an acknowledgement of the absence of India’s ‘mending mechanism’, as you’ve pointed out.
    An indefatiguable Kirsten kept throwing balls at Sehwag till the batter improved his short-pitch technique. But where does a Rohit go after his axing? To his Ranji coach? His personal coach?

    Truth is BCCI cares for you as long as you sport the Team India jersey. The momeny you drop off the radar, they wash their hands off you and let you languisht.

    Meanwhile, I have this sneaking suspicion that Dravid will quit ODI after Champions Trophy, paving way for the familiar home-track bullies, when the Aussies come calling.

  2. Prem,

    Since you have made this argument 3 times in 2 days, I suspect you are looking for either an affirmation or contradiction(!). So, let me put the devil’s argument: Is the skill development the responsibility of the individual or the contracting organization? (I don’t know the answer.) Do other organizations, such as the state / regional clubs, sponsors, etc. share a responsibility in this?

    Ram

    • The last question first — other organizations are all affiliates of the BCCI, as the parent body.

      To respond to your first question: You are a business. You have various products. One, on which you have invested much, is found defective. Do you trash it immediately, or do you first do some R&D to figure out whether that product can be redeemed, improved?

      Okay, never mind products. The purpose of HR is just this, no? HR hires me because it thinks I can fulfill a purpose. At some point it finds my performance doesn’t match my potential. At that point, I am taken aside, my problems are spelt out, corrective action is suggested and I am given opportunities to work on my defects and to improve. Happens in any organization. It certainly happens all the time in mine.

      And no, wasn’t looking for affirmation. 🙂 The repeat is merely because DV’s comments caught my eye this morning.

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