BCCI's benevolence

Former Indian cricketers with their families during the BCCI's benefit fund ceremony at the M.A. Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai.-S.R. RAGHUNATHAN

The BCCI's decision to reward former cricketers during the IPL play-offs was a great gesture. The beneficiaries felt nice to be remembered, and nicer still to be rewarded. But most importantly, the occasion provided cricketers of different generations the chance to catch up with each other.

Kolkata Knight Riders tamed the lions in their own den to win the Indian Premier League-5 in an emphatic manner, thereby denying Chennai Super Kings a hat-trick of title triumphs. Knight Riders' chase was executed with confidence and, as it happens more often than not, a relatively unknown player made the stage his own on the day it really mattered.

Manvinder Bisla, the back-up opener coming in place of Brendon McCullum, was the hero for the winners. Bisla's magnificent knock catapulted him to greater heights. Hopefully, after his heroics his fervent search for a permanent spot in a Ranji team will come to an end in the coming season. The triumph would have given immense pleasure to Gautam Gambhir, who was keen on making a point or two after being stripped of vice-captaincy in the wake of a none-too-successful Australian tour.

Unlike in the last edition, Gambhir opened right through the tournament and provided a solid base to his team. His conviction in retaining the core team paid off, and for a side that was desperately wringing changes to win the coveted trophy, success came at a time when it was least expected. The triumph will serve to prove that impatience on the part of the owners in changing the set-up in the earlier editions was detrimental.

Despite a few controversies off the field, IPL-5 was a success in more ways than one. And this has reaffirmed that the brand value was only getting stronger.

That being the case, the BCCI decided to reward former cricketers during the play-offs which was a great gesture. The beneficiaries felt nice to be remembered, and nicer still to be rewarded. But most importantly, the occasion provided cricketers of different generations the chance to catch up with each other. As usual, I was pleased to meet Salim Durani (as I was, meeting the others) after a long time and it was interesting to hear of his experiences at the MAC Stadium. He admired the new stands and the quality of cricket played these days, but could not help speak fondly of the dressing room that was used during his days. The opportunity to meet others and regale was the highlight of the occasion of the one-time benefit presentation ceremony. The largesse from the BCCI will no doubt come in handy for all the recipients, but the icing on the cake was being honoured by the BCCI.

It will take some time for the IPL bug to get out of the system, if only temporarily, but the players will get a much deserved break after the hectic hustle and bustle. However, the younger lot, who are looking to force their way into the Indian team, have no such luxury. Some of them had to embark on a tour to West Indies.

The India A tour of West Indies will give the aspiring young cricketers the opportunity to stake their claim for higher honours. And halfway through the first Test (unofficial), the match (at the time of writing this column) is tantalisingly poised. A healthy battle amongst the batsmen is on the cards as there are a couple of slots to be had in the Indian Test team.

Cheteshwar Pujara is back in the fold after having missed most of last season due to injury. He has made his presence felt with a half-century first up. Of course, the cynosure will be Rohit Sharma who is rated very high by one and all. However, for all his talent, he does tend to give the impression of being a wee bit casual. But then that is always the case with touch players who are immensely talented and have enough time to play the quickest of fast bowlers. They will enthral and exasperate in equal measure, but that's what makes the touch players what they are. Even the likes of David Gower, Mark Waugh and V.V.S. Laxman have gone through this mixed pattern, but it has to be remembered that they have made great contributions to their respective countries.

The scramble for batting slots apart, exciting young fast bowlers like Mohd Sami and Bhuvaneshwar Kumar will need to utilise these opportunities. Sami has come along nicely in the last couple of seasons and his attitude is his standout quality. He can generate good pace and not playing in the IPL might be a blessing in disguise for him as he will be fresh and raring to go.

Ashok Dinda, the senior pro in the fast bowling department, will be watched closely and the Test matches will be the ideal platform for him to dispel the doubts about his ability to succeed in the longer versions of the game. The only issue with the current tour is its timing. The purpose of the A team tours will be better served if the team goes to a country three to six months prior to the visit of the senior side. As the saying goes, one can't have it all, and it is all about the experience that is gained while playing in unfamiliar territory.