Does cricket in the sub-continent breed selfishness?

MATTHEW HAYDEN should remember that an Indian cricketer Rahul Dravid, the ICC Cricketer of the Year, is also arguably the greatest team-man in contemporary world cricket. He can teach the Aussie opener a lesson or two in selflessness and team spirit.

But still Hayden is partially correct in saying that cricketers from the sub-continent play more for themselves than their teams. It holds good for Pakistan and to a lesser extent India, but not at all for an extremely well-knit team such as Sri Lanka. Also, the hero-worshipping mindset of the fans in India and Pakistan is somewhat responsible for this. As Ian Chappell had once said in an interview in The Sportstar that the Indian fans are happy if Tendulkar gets a hundred even if India loses, whereas Australian supporters don't mind Steve Waugh getting a duck, if their country wins. Sourav Ganguly, Dravid and coach John Wright have transformed the attitude of the current Indian team. But still at times, a team-man such as the great Sachin Tendulkar has acted otherwise. Tendulkar had stated in the media time and again that he preferred to open the batting in ODIs, when he briefly batted at No. 4, which was mainly to bolster the middle-order in the interest of the Indian team. Also the little master had no business cribbing in the media about the team declaration by stand-in captain Rahul Dravid (done in the interest of the team), when he was batting at 194 not out against Pakistan in the Multan Test. So, there are still undertones of selfishness against team interest in Indian cricket. However, the Pakistan team epitomises Hayden's statement about selfishness.

Shubhodip Pal Chowdhary, Kolkata

I feel Matthew Hayden is right to a large extent. The India-Pakistan series recently witnessed two such classical cases.

The first one was that of Pakistani wicket-keeper batsman Moin Khan angrily indicating to the umpire that he had hit the ball and that the runs should be awarded to him rather than be counted as wides during a crucial phase of the one-day series decider at Lahore.

Moin was so desperate to get the two runs to his name than get three runs — one extra run for the wide — and the extra ball which could prove to be so crucial in an ODI game! The second such instance surprisingly featured Indian batting maestro Sachin Tendulkar, when he stated that he was disappointed with Rahul Dravid's decision to declare the Indian innings when he was batting on 194 in the Multan Test.

The very fact that even a great player such as Tendulkar was putting his individual record before the team's interests was shocking to the supporters of the Indian team. Another area where the players from the sub-continent let their teams down is in the slog overs of the one-dayers when a batsman is approaching a century.

Instead of trying to hit the boundaries and up the run-rate, batsmen invariably look for singles till they reach the three-figure mark. This means a loss of 15-20 runs, which often makes the difference in a closely-fought one-day game.

So taking into account all these factors one has to agree with Mathew Hayden rather unhappily!

K. Paul Abraham, Kottayam

YES I agree with Matt Hayden that cricketers from the sub-continent are selfish and play for themselves, particularly for their own records, and not for their nations.

Mainly the batsmen are very selfish. Take our own Sachin. When he is in his 90s he will only push for singles and will go not go for big shots. Even Sunil Gavaskar and Javed Miandad are no exceptions. Miandad, though past his prime, got into the 1996 World Cup team only to have the tag of being the first player to participate in all the World Cups from 1975 to 1996 — six-in-a-row.

So, I feel they give preference for their own records and do not think of their contribution to the team as such.

V. Balamurugan, Chennai

INDEED it is true that the players from the sub-continent players are selfish as stated by Hayden.

It is clear from the matches we've witnessed till now.

For example Sachin spends more time at the crease just playing defensive strokes while he is in his 90s, though the team may need some big shots at that point of the game.

Look at England's Andrew Flintoff. He tried to go for a huge shot, trying to get maximum runs and unfortunately top-edged and missed his century by just one run in the recent NatWest Challenge.

Even a dashing batsman such as Sanath Jayasuriya will feel the heat at 99 and will show a sense of relief after picking up that single.

This is not the case with the Australians. Adam Gilchrist never hesitates to run a tough single at 99 once he gets a call from his partner. It was clear when he was run out during the 2003 VB Series, which also involved England and Sri Lanka just before the World Cup.

Hayden, too, narrowly missed his century in the second innings of the first Test against India, during India's recent tour down under, as he wanted to give his team a decent total in quick time. These are a few examples of selfless playing by the Australians and that is why they win even in the toughest of situations. Hence it is high time for the Indians to take a leaf out of the Australians and play as professionals with teamwork.

G. Keerthi Ganesh, Chennai

ONE cannot agree with the Aussie opener Mathew Hayden's remarks that cricketers from the sub-continent play for themselves than for their team. One also cannot understand why a batsman of such a stature had passed this sort of a comment on the players from the sub-continent. I don't think there have been instances in the recent past indicating a selfish approach to batting by our batsmen.

Take for instance Rahul Dravid. Put him in any position, he bats for the sake of the team for he is a guy who gives 200 per cent every time he is on the field. As for Sachin, it's a well-known fact that he is a player who can instil fear in the minds of the bowlers even before a ball is bowled. If a batsman tends to play for his own records, he has little chance of decimating a bowling attack. Further, one-day cricket has become so competitive that players can't afford to take their places for granted, if they don't perform after being given fair amount of chances.

A player can't be called selfish, if he takes time to score, when he's going through a lean patch and this is precisely the case with some players. If Sehwag plays for the records, he wouldn't have reached 101 from 95 against a team with Shoaib Akhtar in the attack. It seems the Aussies can't really digest when other players shatter records. Note Ponting's remarks when Lara slammed 400* recently. This is a case of Hayden targetting a team when it is not really living up to its reputation in world cricket.

Siva Shankar, Chennai

IT has become quite common hearing famous sports personalities making some infamous remarks. Some are made in the anguish of defeat, some out of personal vendetta and some are uncalled for. Matthew Hayden's statement is a funny one due to the fact that it has been made when Australia is on the top spot in world rankings. At first glance, it may seem 100 per cent legitimate but on further inspection it shows traces of arrogance. May be all that time on top of the rankings has gotten to him. But it is easy to eschew advice. India, in the recently held `ICC awards for cricketing excellence' had gotten about seven nominations or so in the individual category but not even one in the team category. This justifies the fact that there are many individual gems in the sub-continent but all these gems don't seem to shine as bright when together as they do as individuals. But contradictory to this is the fact that Indian batsmen have also sacrificed their personal glory many a time for the team's sake. Just because he is a good batsman doesn't give Matthew Hayden the certificate to make comments otherwise made by men who have born and died for the game. I am sure he is not one of them yet!

This statement might be more out of conceit than out of a thorough analysis. Many a time Australians have been made to put their foot in their mouths thanks to their own baseless and conceited statements.

S. Madhusudan, Chennai

LET'S not talk about the past. What happened in the past should not be counted at present and I totally disagree with Hayden. The Indians are not playing for individual records.

Just look at these few points. Recently at Lord's against England in the last ODI in the NatWest Challenge, India needed quick runs to improve the run-rate. Ganguly was batting on 90. He tried to pull the ball and got out when he was just 10 runs short of his 23rd ODI century. Also Ganguly loves to open in the ODIs. He has most of his runs and records as an opener. But in the team's interest he bats at No. 3 or 4.

Rahul Dravid does wicket-keeping in the ODIs. This is not his original job. He does this because the team needs him to do so. Had he been selfish then he could have easily denied this extra duty.

Sehwag was a middle-order batsman. Due to his batting style the team management asked him to open the innings. These points are proof enough that the Indians play for the team and they are not selfish.

Rajarshi Ghosh, Kolkata

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