Number 1, and after

For a change, a nicely nuanced post on India’s becoming number one on the ICC Test table — from Harsha Bhogle, so that is not too surprising.

Besides asking why journalists in other countries seem to have such a problem with India’s new position, he makes a pertinent point:

And so while India must celebrate, it must be with a sense of history. This lot of players has put the ribbon on the box, but the cake was baked by many; they have scored a goal but you usually cannot do so unless someone has passed the ball to you. And that is why the only aspect of this moment that disturbs me is the cash award to this team. I am not a huge fan of cash awards to professional players – they are presumably paid to win anyway – but the announcement of this particular one ignores the fact that various others set it up over the last five years.

In particular, India have been served by three very fine captains before the hugely impressive current incumbent. Very few good teams win with inadequate leaders anyway. Under Sourav Ganguly, India realised that winning overseas was an option, and India have much for which to thank a player the world found very convenient to misunderstand. Rahul Dravid was the perfect captain to follow, with his strong commitment to the team and to the cause. It is easily forgotten that under him India won in the West Indies for the first time in 35 years and in England for the first time in 21. And Anil Kumble was the leader at a decisive moment in Indian cricket: in Australia in 2008, where the Test win in Perth must rank on par with the win at Kolkata in 2001 for significance.

Harsha has a point — too often, in celebrating the moment, we tend to forget that it is merely the culmination of a succession of moments that have produced agony and ecstasy in unequal measure; moments that we have lived through and promptly forgotten, without realizing where it was all leading us.

Harsha’s take-away:

But as with all success, India must celebrate the moment and move on. Australia and South Africa are fine teams and Sri Lanka have just the man to drive their transition. As business leaders will tell you, it is more difficult to stay on top than to get there. India need to groom batting replacements, and there are only two on the horizon: the scarcely tested Murali Vijay and the untested Cheteshwar Pujara. Harbhajan Singh desperately needs competition to take him to another level, but more important, India will have to find a way to ensure that players of serious ability, like Rohit Sharma, Sreesanth, Ishant and RP Singh, don’t lose their way. And it will call for people with vision at the top. They exist but they are in a bit of a melee at the moment with others of various hues and political colour.

PS: Stepping away from the blog for a bit. Thoughts about the second T20, if any occur, on Sunday.


14 thoughts on “Number 1, and after

  1. Prem, a question for you. Is it that important to give importance to a rather dubious system of ratings which has been responsible for throwing up anomalous rankings like Nuwan Kulasekara as no 1 ODI bowler in past? Should not we take it as just another step to achieve the status where the Indian team is undoubtedly the team to beat in world which currently it is obviously not than attach so much credit to it?

    • Sumit,

      I think the point everyone is making is that these noises are being made now, as soon as India is No.1. Also personally I feel that Team India has been at par with SAF in the recent past, Australia one step behind. So the baton will be passed on a few times between SAF and India. Same is true for Kulasekara. Over a period of time he has been performing consistently, so what is the problem of his being number 1.

      Again the rating system is not something exclusive for India. It is appplicable to all.

  2. If the two test series does go ahead, I just hope the BCCI and Indian team demands rank turners. If South Africa could do Durban in 1996 to India, can’t see anything wrong in giving them a real proper turner 🙂

    Ideally make South Africa play whatver practise match in one of the flattest tracks, and then give them a dustbowl and we’ll see how good they supposedly are !

  3. I loved the concluding lines of the article as well.
    “Isn’t it ironic, though, that for a country accused of devaluing the game, India are struggling in Twenty20 cricket but are atop the summit of the most traditional form of the game? Maybe there is a story there. ”
    While India’s absolute supremacy in test cricket is debatable (as in case of all other teams at the moment), its also a fact that no other team has improved their test credentials better than India over the last few months.

  4. The goal might be scored because of a pass from a team mate, but then the system only rewards the top goal scorer.

    Similarly, many might have played a part – even commentators, journalists, bloggers, fans, in making their voice heard to improve the system, make a better team, get the right person selected, – but we must and can only reward the ones who reach the summit. Not those who wished them well at home.


  5. This is my first comment ever on your blog, though, I have been following you since 1999.

    When Saurav retired last year, you said that you will do a kind-of-his-career-review sometime in the future. I don’t recall seeing it though you have brought up his name along with John Wright a number of times here & there.

    Now that India has achieved its target of being ranked number one, I have a request for you. Will you do a piece on Saurav (and others as well) looking back on their careers & contributions that helped India reach its current ranking?

    Saurav started what I thought was impossible to even dream of. To expect India to win matches on a more regular basis home & away. Remember we lost to SA at home 2-0 in 2000 under Sachin. Most don’t remember but the last ball of the second & last test, I believe it was in Bangalore, was the last ball of M. Azharuddin’s career when he got out after reaching his century and then playing an utterly irresponsible shot. That last ball was when Indian cricket hit its lowest in all aspects of the game on & off the field. Things have consistently gotten better since then and Saurav/Sachin/Rahul/Laxman/Kumble/Sehwag have played stellar roles not only on the field, but off the field.

    I would love to see an article from you on Saurav (and others as well) on what he did to Indian cricket that no one else could do. And don’t forget, no one else other than Saurav so far (Dhoni, Rahul, Sachin, Yuvraj, and Kumble pale vastly in comparison) has shown an ability to identify the players of high caliber. Zak, Viru, Bhajji, Nehra, Yuvraj, Kaif, and even M. Vijay, all have been identified by Saurav. He was what Imran was to Pakistan. A true leader.

    I would love to see a piece on him and others with the number one raking being the backdrop.

    And before anyone jumps the gun, I am not a Bengali, am not from Bengal or any place close to that. I am an Indian who has followed Indian cricket for a long time and have liked (and hated) Saurav for the things he did.

    • It’s a thought I’ve been toying with for a while, SK — but a considered analysis of the captains, and players, who had a part in pushing India towards the number one ranking calls for a lot more mind space than I have right now, when I am doing my regular work plus working towards my move to Bangalore and Yahoo. Suspect it’s going to be this way all through January — so tell you what, will do that post before the SA two-Test series. In any case, that is in my mind the next big one: between the number one ranked team, and one of the two teams with the credentials to claim that spot.

      • Prem – I understand. That kind of analysis & thinking requires one to take a step or two back and to look at the bigger picture that just went by. I wasn’t sure if you had any intention to do that. So there was I pinging you with my request.

        I thought this was a very appropriate time to look at the passage of time/events (and the last 9-10 years or so) and comment on it. It also blends in with the fact that you have spent a lot of time writing (and me reading) on cricket all these years and landmark like this (If you had said in 2000 that India will be # 1 in 9/10 years, I would have considered you someone really insane) deserves comments.

        Moreover, I think Saurav deserves that check of Rs. 25 lakh more than anyone else in the current team just for the simple fact of not shying away from the huge responsibility of leading India at that time (remember Sachin stepping away after losing to SA). Though he deserves to lose that check immediately for NOT shying away from the huge responsibility of leading Indian team around 2005 when his game had clearly declined and he should have been focusing on his game instead of insisting on being the captain.

        The last time I came close to commenting was after the 4th day of Kolkata test against Australia in 2001. It is a good feeling to see India ranked # 1 in at least one sport somewhere. Though it will probably not last forever. But, I will take whatever little come my way.

        Keep up the good work and All the best.

        • SK – Great suggestion.

          Prem – Look forward to your post on Saurav / rise of Indian cricket. I am continually amazed at how you find the time to juggle work, home, and this blog! Don’t give up on the blog though. 🙂 It’s a must visit site for me on a daily basis.

      • I can’t imagine almost everyone involved in this discussion missing out on Kapil Dev’s name. Sorry, but that accounts for a blunder.

        In all probability, along with Ajit Wadekar, the proposed article needs to start with Kapil without an iota of a doubt.

        Waiting to know what all of you think about this.

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