By Rajesh Ramaswamy
There are millions crying hoarse about how the national selectors collectively broke wind - and the hearts of IPL fans worldwide - by not giving due respect to India’s glamorous T20 tournament whilst choosing the national ODI team to tour the West Indies.
Gimme a break! Are these fans suggesting that an abridged version of the game, which is more Roulette than cricket, should be the basis for selecting a team for a relatively more traditional format?
How’d you like it if the effort you put at your work place right through the year on real projects, is disregarded in favour of a newbie who does well on a ‘simulated’ project while attending a two-day ‘team building workshop’ and consequently promoted as your boss?
Isn’t this whole brouhaha about selection as weird and irrational? I mean, everyone and his aunt across social networks are getting hot under the collar at the injustice done to Ambati Rayudu - apart from 42 others who SHOULD have been accommodated in the 15-member squad. Now, don’t get me wrong, but the only injustice done to Rayudu over the years, has been by Rayudu. After all this was the lad who scored 177 in a limited-overs match against England Colts in 2002, and then scored a double ton and a ton in the same match on his debut Ranji season, before taking over as captain of the India under-19 squad. With such a start and such talent, he had no business losing his way in a self-destructive quicksand of intra-team squabbles, indiscipline and rebellion against authority, to finally end up with a below par record in the domestic game. An average of 42 in Ranji Trophy games and 32 in domestic limited-over competitions isn’t exactly going to set the Ganges on fire, is it?
“But what about his IPL form?” the fans wail, “Shouldn’t he have been taken as the second wicket-keeper?” What bunkum! Unless, of course, people are suggesting that given Parthiv Patel’s legendary butter-fingers, a second ‘keeper may be necessary - preferably standing behind the first! Even in that case, there are others, more qualified for that post. Rayudu’s not even the best ‘keeper for his club side, leave alone his state or zonal sides, and here we are, anointing him as the next big thing behind the stumps. If we encourage this trend, we’ll be incentivising the Sunny Sohals (God forbid) of the world to wear the big gloves as a way into the Indian team. We already have a Robin Uthappa who’s trying to figure out if he’s a part-time ‘keeper or part-time batsman, and seems more confused than an earthworm in a bowl of Maggi!
Of the players whose names are most on the ‘unlucky’ list, Rayudu has, I grant, perhaps the strongest case. But if he’s to be considered, it should be as a batsman, and in that department, he has competition from Ajinkya Rahane, Abhinav Mukund, Manoj Tiwary, Shikhar Dhawan, Manish Pandey and others who’ve got a way better record. And none of them is even in the framework.
As a parting shot, I’m not, despite my diatribe, suggesting that the IPL is just ‘hit and giggle’ and is bereft of skills, but that the skills needed here are different to those needed for a Test match or an ODI. And it scares the hell out of me seeing how so many otherwise knowledgeable cricket buffs are missing the woods for the trees.
Meanwhile, I’m off to hone my wicket-keeping skills. Who knows when the call up may come!
(Go ahead, hurl those brickbats. I’ve got gloves on now, and may even catch a couple.)
(Rajesh is a former fast bowler who believes he could have been the answer to India's long prayer for an 'express' paceman. He regularly clocked speeds hovering in the late 80's and occasionally let fly deliveries that touched the 90's. Unfortunately for him, the selectors were talking 'mph', while he was operating in the metric lane with 'kmph'. But he moved on from that massive disappointment which resulted from what he termed a 'miscommunication', and became a communications professional. After a long innings in advertising as a Creative Director, he co-founded a brand consulting firm called Contrabrand. He lives in Chennai and drives down to work in Bangalore...an arrangement that he finds less time consuming and stressful than getting from one end of Bangalore to the other.)