Some of the Indian Players like Sivaramakrishnan, Sadananad Viswanath and Pravin Amre were a wasted talent © Getty Images
Some of the Indian Players like Sivaramakrishnan, Sadananad Viswanath and Pravin Amre were a wasted talent © Getty Images


By Abhishek Navratan Jain


Greg Chappell said the other day that Australia can’t afford to waste talent like India does because India has talent in abundance.


I completely agree with Chappell that Indian cricket has enormous talent which the Board of Control for Cricket in India wastes. Although India won the World Cup and are No.1 in Test cricket, the Indian team has to keep performing to maintain their glory, for which it would require a large pool of talented players. But while the talent is there, the Indian cricket board has not been able to encourage, nurture and make good use of many of the talented players who have been allowed to fall by the wayside.


Let’s look at history of Indian cricket.


Sunil Valson, a nippy left-arm seamer, was a member of the 1983 Indian team that won the Word Cup. He did not play a single match for Indian before, during or after the World Cup to end his career without having the satisfaction of representing the country after coming so close to achieving it.


Laxman Sivaramakrishnan, a very talented leggie, captured six wickets in an innings in three successive innings against David Gower’s Englishmen in 1984 in his first three Tests. Yet, his Test career lasted just 13 more months in which he played just six more Tests. And it ended two days after his 21st birthday! And here was a player who was not only a match-winning bowler, but one who could also bat decently lower in the order and was also a very good fielder. It was a criminal waste of talent.


Another youngster of his time was Maninder Singh, who took 88 wickets from 35 Tests.  But 35 Tests in ten years for a bowler as talented as Maninder was quite poor. Here was another promising spinner who should have been nurtured with care, but sadly allowed to go waste. And, like Siva, Maninder was a match-winning bowler and a top class fielder as well.


Another talented young player who played alongside Siva and Maninder was Sadanand Vishwanath. But this brilliant wicketkeeper-batsman, one of the stars of the victorious Indian team at the 1985 World championship of Cricket in Australia, played just one series and three Tests in Sri Lanka in 1985 before he fell out of favour.


Narendra Hirwani made a dream debut against Viv Richards-led West Indies in Chennai where he picked up eight wickets in each innings to equal the Test-best record of Australia seamer Bob Massie. But his career lasted just 16 more Tests in which he got 50 more wickets.


Off-spinner Rajesh Chauhan played an important role in India’s success in the ’90s. His bowling action came under a cloud of suspicion and he underwent tests to prove that his action was legal. But he did not get the support of the cricket administrators in India to eventually fade out. Chauhan, who was part of the team that white-washed English team in 1993, formed a match-winning spin trio with Anil Kumble and Venkatapathy Raju.


In a country that has consistently failed to unearth quality fast bowlers, the list of talented new ball bowlers allowed to quickly fall by the wayside runs long… Atul Wassan, Vivek Razdan, Subroto Bannerjee, Salil Ankola, Abey Kuruvilla, Tinu Yohannan, Thiru Kumaran and Debashish Mohanty to name just a few.


If India has not managed to produce great fast bowlers, it’s the board’s inability to persevere and preserve the talented young hopefuls. One or two failures and these bowlers are history.


Remember David Johnson? I cannot anybody for not recalling that name. He was India’s fastest bowler once who bowled with a lot like Lasith Malinga. He played for India in few games in the ’90s. But once his action came under suspicion, he too fell by the wayside. The administration did not come to his aid.


Middle-order batsman Pravin Amre, protégé of famed coach Ramakant Achrekar and Sachin Tendulkar’s school mate, was a very talented batsmen. He got a hundred on his Test debut in the 1992-93 series against South Africa against the likes of Allan Donald, Fanie de Villiers, Brian McMillan and Craig Mathews. Amre’s Test career lasted just nine more months and 10 more Tests in which he got three more half centuries. And even a batting average of 42 plus was not good enough to save his career.


Mukund Parmar, captain of Gujarat Ranji Team in ’80s and ’90s, scored tons of runs in domestic season and hit centuries and double-centuries consistently. But he did not even get close to making the national team. The same is the case with Yere Gaud, very talented batsmen who represented Railways in Ranji Trophy.


Others who got little or no opportunity despite their brilliance at the domestic level are players like Jacob Martin, Hrishikesh Kanitkar, the hard-hitting Atul Bedade, Shiv Sunder Das and Akash Chopra. These are others who emerged on the scene like a storm but lost their way and never made a comeback…Irfan Pathan, Robin Utthappa being the most prominent in a long list.


Indian cricket was never short of talent. If there is anything wrong it’s the system, which fails to preserve these diamonds. The focus of the Indian administrators is towards raking in more money and appeasing vote banks through biased selections, which is to the detriment of the genuinely talented.


Take the example of Murali Vijay, who failed miserably in the ODIs. He has been getting chances because he hails from Tamil Nadu from where chairman of selection committee hails. India has more talented players than Vijay but they are not getting enough opportunity because they don’t have any godfather. We have likes of Robin Utthappa, Sourabh Tiwary, Manish Pandey, Abhishek Nayar, Umesh Yadav, Bhubneshwar Kumar, Varun Aaron, Deepak Chahar, Pankaj Singh, Joginder Sharma, Faiz Fazal, Chetehswar Pujara, Ravindra Jadeja, Ajinkya Rahane, Manoj Tiwary, Ashok Menaria … the list continues, but these players are not getting chance to play for India because they don’t have special reference. These are men who can vouch for Chappell’s statement.


(Abhishek Navratan Jain is a System Engineer and is involved in family business. Cricket is his passion and loves to discuss the game anytime. He has had the distinct privilege of watching all the 99 centuries of Sachin Tendulkar and that too live! He is proud to have never missed a Tendulkar century.)