Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Adventure 13

One More Chance

A star-studded India just got humiliated by a depleted England squad. One hundred runs was all the 'youth' brigade (incidentally it consisted of young veterans like Sachin, Dravid and Sehwag - who have all reached the 200 run mark more than once) could score. Which got me thinking. Should the older, more experienced players, who have given their entire lives to cricket be resurrected? Those forgotten hopefuls; shouldn't they get another chance?

Here is an alternate Team India, sans the 'stars'. Semi-veterans (mostly in their thirties) who may just do the trick. No airs, no inflated egos, no affairs with bollywood starlets - only a passion for the game. Here's my India Sans Glitz (ISG) - XI.
In batting order:

Playing Eleven

1. Sadagoppan Ramesh
2. Vikram Rathour
3. Hrishikesh Kanitkar(VC)
4. Vijay Bharadwaj
5. Vinod Kambli
6. Sairaj Bahutule
7. MSK Prasad (WK)
8. Sunil Joshi (C)
9. Gyanendra Pandey
10. Doddanarasaiah Ganesh
11. Debashis Mohanty

Substitutes
12. WV Raman
13. Laxmi Ratan Shukla
14. Vijay Dahiya (WK)
15. Harvinder Singh
16. Dinesh Mongia
17. Nilesh Kulkarni

Coach
Sourav Ganguly

Sunil Joshi has been a consistent performer, and a shrewd and intelligent performer for Karnataka. He is a born fighter, who made it from a small town to the big league by sheer grit. He is a shrewd left arm spinner, superb fielder, and a handy bat. The natural choice for captaincy. The interesting thing to note here is that only Laxmi Ratan Shukla here has the benefit of youth on his side, but he too is a veteran, given that he has been playing first class cricket for over eight years now, and was exposed to the rough and tumble of international cricket at a rather tender age (ok, everyone is not of the caliber of Irfan Pathan!)

Vinod Kambli and Hrishikesh Kanitkar are talented players who lost their way at some point. Kambli in full flow was a joy to watch. The fame got to him, and somehow his off-field antics got the better of him (Zaheer Khan is threatening to go the Kambli way). Kambli was the Brian Lara that never was. An ideal foil to Kambli's aggression is his Mumbai teammate Kanitkar. A cool, composed and thinking cricketer, one can never forget the last ball four he hit off Saqlain Mushtaq to take India to a historic win in Dhaka. Also a useful slow bowler, Hrishikesh Kanitkar deserves another chance.

Nilesh Kulkarni. Bad luck is his middle name. He had to run into Sanath Jayasuriya. The man who destroyed the careers of two of the world's (then) best allrounders - Phil DeFreitas and Manoj Prabhakar in a single series (World Cup 1996). That too on a Colombo Dustbowl. With Roshan Mahanama for company, the butcher for Matara made Nilesh pay for his first-ball wicket (Atapattu) with his career. Debashis Mohanty can swing the ball. He forged a deadly opening partnership with Ganguly in Toronto, to torment Pakistan to no end. Though his chest-on technique cost him several yards of pace, he can swing the ball genuinely, and has surprisingly managed to keep his shoulders intact!

Gyanendra Pandey is the level-headed captain of UP, who led them to the Ranji title this year. Sadagoppan Ramesh is a stylish opener who was discarded unceremoniously. Ditto with Vijay Bharadwaj, touted as the next superstar, but never given a chance. India needs a stylist like Vikram Rathour also, to take the shine off the new ball, before taking on the spinners.

Now for the important part. The coach. Why Ganguly? The coach should be one with whom the boys can identify. One who has undergone the same harrowing experience of being in the wilderness for many, many years, before making a glorious comeback, to be one of the most celebrated Indian captains ever. One, who, though he never contributed too spectacularly with either ball or bat, showed the boys how to fight! To stand up to the opposition and pay the supremacists back with their own coin. One who always stood up for talent, irrespective of the region the player belonged to. One who resurrected a (now celebrated) batsman's failing career by fitting him in a new role till he found his bearings. One who showed us that a team following on can also win. One who overcame his natural temperamental flaws to give a sense of direction to Team India. Even though he is younger than many in the team, his wealth of experience and natural killer instinct can galvanise the ISG-XI to be a parallel India squad, capable of beating the best in the world.