Adopt horses for courses policy

V. V. S. Laxman is indeed experienced. But it won't be proper to push him to open the innings.-V.V. KRISHNAN

IN a democratic country, opinions do matter but to have an opinion poll on whether Sourav Ganguly will play under Rahul Dravid is ridiculous. Thousands of words have been written on the Ganguly episode (though he did play under Dravid in the IndianOil Cup tri-series). The folly of the outcry every time things go against one of our favoured players is so extreme that we are fast becoming divided into a nation of groups of fools, each to `champion' their own favourite. Thankfully, nobody has yet thought of a protest march.

Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi was India's youngest captain but never led Hyderabad. He played under Jaisimha for Hyderabad when he was leading India. Isn't Tendulkar playing under Ganguly? Didn't Kapil Dev, Srikkanth, Tendulkar, Shastri and Vengsarkar, all five India captains, play under Azharuddin? Or do we think that Dravid isn't captaincy material?

Cricket is a simple game. Indians are making it complicated. We accept the rules but keep challenging them every time our players are penalised. The cribbing and complaining tone we read and hear when an Indian player is penalised is not heard as much even in the Parents-Teachers Association meetings.

Whether it's a team or an individual sport, one can't afford to lose focus. Were we really focussed during the past one month? First the Ganguly episode, then the de bono theory advocated by coach Greg Chappell. Suddenly a day before the team was to leave for Colombo, a story is circulated about the coach wanting Laxman to open the innings.

Laxman too shows keenness to open. What's this drama? We are informed none of the selectors were aware of this development, nor was it discussed in the selection committee meeting. Combination is the base of any selection. Once the slots are decided, names are discussed for the slots. One can understand the team management's keenness to utilise the experience of Laxman but to push him to open when he has failed in the same slot earlier is illogical.

Ending all speculation Sourav Ganguly did play under Rahul Dravid in the IndianOil cup tri-series.-V.V. KRISHNAN

Go through the history of India's batting and you will observe that those who weren't sure of finding a slot in the middle order opted to open the innings and failed miserably. Dilip Sardesai, Ashok Mankad and Sanjay Manjrekar would have played more had they not compromised their batting position. There was no other reason for them to opt to open the innings other than getting into the final eleven.

Sometime this think-tank business stinks. It has more holes for some weird thinking to keep getting into the tank. In the 1992 World Cup match against Sri Lanka in Australia, the Indian think-tank suddenly thought of asking Kapil Dev to open with Srikkanth. After two balls, the match was abandoned due to heavy rains. One coach jokingly said, "No, it didn't rain. All the great openers of the world in heaven got together and wept bitterly. To them facing the new ball was an art and courage. To our think-tank, opening was a gamble".

Greg Chappell keeps talking about the flexibility in a team game. Perfectly understandable to be flexible in the approach but to disturb the batting line-up at the beginning of the season when things have not yet settled down is inviting risk. Whenever India has experimented with the batting order, it has never clicked. A few years back, when Tendulkar was making bowlers dance to his tune when he opened, the selectors asked him to bat in the middle order. Their reasoning was that if he got out early, India would not be able to score 200.

Tendulkar struggled in the middle order. When Sunil Gavaskar opened for India, coach Polly Umrigar never asked him to bat in the middle order. Opening batsmen and fast bowlers are not made. They are born. Their temperament and application of skill level determines their success. Last season, India asked Yuvraj Singh to open the innings and that too in Tests when slips are ready to pounce on deflections. Yuvraj Singh failed.

Doesn't Greg Chappell feel that any makeshift opener should at least have opened for his state before opening for the country? Has Laxman opened for Hyderabad? By asking Laxman to open, isn't the team management shattering the confidence of Dhoni? The trend of getting into the final eleven by agreeing to options given by the team management has always had disastrous consequences.

Greg Chappell needs to slow down a bit. You can't let Derby horses run on the road nor can you expect horses pulling carts to win races. `Horses for courses' is always the safe policy that is applied by all coaches in a team game. The problem with the Indian team is the think-tank is getting bigger in its size without any better material floating in it.