The same old excuses

Zaheer Khan is good enough for Tests but not the one-dayers.-V. GANESAN

INDIAN cricket is not a joke. It's a cricketing comedy. One doesn't know whether to laugh or cry. First it's the appointment of the coach. Then the statements of the coach. We begin to be optimistic. We are told of the progress each cricketer is making in the camp at Bangalore. We are led to believe that each cricketer is supremely fit. What we watch at Dambulla and Colombo is totally different.

They forgot to tell us our cricketers were rusty in Sri Lanka. The coach on return said we could have won at least two out of three games against Sri Lanka. Oh, sorry, we lost all the three games against Sri Lanka. We were again told we are not mentally strong. We need to improve our fitness and fielding.

The entire cricketing fraternity is disgusted with these lame excuses. This column has time and again written about the fitness aspect. The support staff for fitness has to be sacked. Why do we need them if they can't get the cricketers fit for the tournament? One doesn't have to be a fitness expert to know whether a cricketer is fit or not. Barring a few, a majority of the Indians were unfit in Sri Lanka.

When the team was announced (Aug. 13) for the Zimbabwe tour, every player was again declared fit. Someone commented at the press conference it's not the Board of Control for Cricket in India. It's the Board of Control for Cricketing Comedy in India. The unstated affiliations become clear in instances like when we are informed that "Zaheer Khan had an off-day and we don't have a better bowler than him at the moment".

Now Zaheer Khan is good enough to bowl in Tests and not in one dayers. Rudra Pratap Singh, a genuine left arm medium pacer who swings the ball both ways, is being groomed in the one-dayers. Why can't he replace Zaheer Khan in the longer version of the game? We have some good medium pacers in India but there is a lobby which is working overtime to push their horses. Take the case of J. P. Yadav. We are constantly told we need all-rounders and now we have one and we don't play him in even a single game. Yadav is not only an ideal hard-hitting batsman but a very good medium pacer. More than 6500 first class runs and over 190 first class wickets and yet we don't play him. Probably he doesn't fit into the off-field scheme of things.

Anil Kumble, a victim of the flexibility syndrome.-AP

The flexibility aspect is so intriguing that one Venugopala Rao must be going through the dictionary to find the meaning of the word. He scores impressively when the team needs it and for the next one week he is made to carry drinks. We are told: "His time will come. At the moment he has to watch and improve." This inexplicable stand is explained as `flexibility'. They don't want to be `rigid'.

They haven't yet given the reason for not playing Anil Kumble in the earlier matches in Sri Lanka. Now he is dropped from the ODIs. Has anyone seen a senior cricketer being dropped after getting more than 350 wickets in the ODIs? He is the victim of the `flexibility' syndrome. The biggest Indian cricketing comedy was when the five wise men sat to announce the name of the captain. What a drama! Greg Chappell arrives in time from Bangalore to Mumbai, but is asked only to brief the selectors and is not invited to attend the meeting. When John Wright used to get invited to attend the meeting for choosing the captain, why not Chappell? Is it because the selectors would have found it difficult to counter any arguments if Chappell had proposed the name of Rahul Dravid?

We were told it was a unanimous decision of the committee to appoint Sourav Ganguly as the captain. If Ganguly was the unanimous choice, why did the committee need nearly two hours to come to a decision? This encouraged speculation about the extent of backdoor lobbying. Hopefully Greg Chappell has learnt the first lesson from the Sri Lanka debacle. Getting someone from Australia to assist him when better personnel are available in India is no solution.

The BCCI President must act quickly and get the coach-appointment committee members — Sunil Gavaskar, Ravi Shastri and Srinivas Venkataraghavan to be the approving authority. We accept Greg Chappell as a coach of stature but the cricketing fraternity has a right to feel angry when we permit him to get support staff and the results are so ignominious. The coaching and the support staff are expected to perform their duties.

There is no transparency and no accountability. Chappell may not have a magic wand but he has to show that he has put the boys on the right track. That was not visible in Sri Lanka. Hope the situation changes in Zimbabwe.