The capitulation for the second consecutive time inside three days, in the Delhi Test match, has riled up the Australian cricket fans, especially its former players who have been scathing in their assessment of the performance. There is a general belief among most of the current players that former players who are in the media space are simply waiting for an opportunity to have a go at today’s practitioners. Nothing could be further from the truth. Those in the media space are probably more involved with the fortunes of their teams and so when they see a disappointing effort from the current lot, then the pride they feel for their team takes a beating and sometimes comments are made in the heat of the moment. Mind you, during the time when the ex-players were playing, they themselves would have made the same errors or may have been part of teams that didn’t win much either, but the hurt is severe. Nobody likes to see their country’s team lose even when they may be knowing that their team is not good enough. And when the team is good but keeps making the same mistake, then there is naturally a fair bit of anger, too.
In the spur of the moment things are said, which could have been expressed in a better manner without causing hurt, but then not many have the smoothness with words that the one and only Richie Benaud had. Richie, of course, avoided criticising the players and, so, was extremely popular with the players. Only Richie could say of a forgettable stroke that ‘it’s a shot that the batter wouldn’t like to see in the highlights tonight’. Most of us would have said ‘it’s a terrible shot, pathetic attempt, a brain fade’ or some such which wouldn’t go down well with the current lot.
Baffling selection calls
While the ex-Australian players on the various media platforms are having a real go at their players, the ones who should be the real targets are the Australian selectors. How can they pick three players who they knew would not be available for selection for the first two Test matches? That is, for half the series, the team management had only 13 players to pick from. Then they fly in a newcomer when they had a similar player already in the team. If they didn’t think the player in the team was good enough, why did they pick him in the first place? That meant the team management was picking their 11 from 12 players. Ridiculous. If they have any sense of responsibility the selectors should resign even if Australia make a stunning comeback and win the next two Tests and level the series.
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Player power also meant that the Australians did not play any tour games before the series started. The argument was that they would get green tops and not the dry crumbling pitches that would be on offer for the Test matches. Even if that were to be the case, a green top in India also helps the spinner and playing against spin in a match gives the batters a better idea of how to combat the turning ball. However much net practice you do, the batter is aware that even if he gets out, he will still be there in the nets for the next ball and maybe 10 or 15 minutes more. The mental intensity is way different in a match where you know that when you are dismissed, that’s the end, and you now have to go back to the dugout and watch the others bat. The senior players who are sure of their places in all the Test matches, whatever be their performance, thus influence the management not to go early and play practice matches. It’s palpably unfair on the fringe players who are keen to play and show they are worthy of a place in the final XI. The Indians also tend to avoid practice matches and even if they do play one. The arrangement is all 16 play. So the batters will bat and all the bowlers in the squad will bowl when it’s their turn to field. So, there is no exchange of teams at the toss as the entire squad of 16 play. These performances don’t count in the records as it’s not termed a first-class fixture.
Host countries are also quite happy as they don’t have to look after the touring team for one week or so. Yes, the schedule can be tight, but the simple fact is that the player has chosen this as a career and is well compensated for it and so should be prepared to play or lose out on the earnings when he doesn’t play. Not many professions give the kind of time-off as a sporting profession does and they earn a fraction of the amount compared to what the star sportsperson earns. So, the schedule should never be an excuse. If you are tired, don’t play, make way for others but don’t complain about the schedule that puts food on your table.