Irreplaceable... No More
The idea that a few bad performances would do no harm to one’s cricketing career is long gone. The current cricketing era is faster than that; they want quality and consistent quality.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni, the current ODI and T20 captain, had led India to much glory in the cricketing world. Yet, he fights for his position in the Indian squad today because of his recent failures. Despite being India’s most successful captain, he has lost his place of the leader in the Test squad because the selectors found his replacement, Virat Kohli.
Today, youngsters get more opportunities in the first team and it is upto them and their performance to seal the place and chance they get. The BCCI selection committee currently comprises of Sandeep Patil, Vikram Rathour, Saba Karim, M S K Prasad and Gagan Khoda. The current selection scenario provides a picture such that talent matters more than politics.
The kind of selections that are made nowadays show that the players performing better than the competitors get the deserved spot. BCCI came under fire when the inclusion of Stuart Binny in the World Cup 2015 squad arose sentiments that Roger Binny, being in the selection committee, may have pulled strings to get his son the place. BCCI, subsequently, replaced Roger Binny with M S K Prasad but denied the accusation.
The then BCCI President Shashank Manohar said, “As I said, the perception has to change. I said there should not be injustice on Stuart Binny also. If he is a deserving player he should not get not flak from media, that he is playing because he is Roger Binny's son.
We can't destroy his career also.” Players like Ajinkya Rahane, Mohit Sharma, Mohammad Shami have all made it to the national squad after performing well in the Ranji Trophy and that says a great deal about the selection process. The politics of old times where the state of the players and their sources mattered has dissolved to an extent and the talent has started speaking for itself.
But the question that pops up when one talks about the change is, how did these changes happen? Of course, alterations like these do not come over night and so, one thinks that who brought about these amendments.
The Indian cricket has many people to thank but arguably, the biggest gratitude goes to the Bengal tiger, Sourav Ganguly. The former captain, as the experts say and like the fans proclaim, changed the face of Indian cricket. Ganguly, as an individual, was very competitive, tough and aggressive and that is exactly what he induced in the squad led by him.
In the 90s, the Indian team was full of players who were individually very skillful yet together as a team they failed to make a great impact on the cricketing world. All those players, including Rahul Dravid and Sachin Tendulkar, had individual honours to their name but the Indian team never really managed to achieve great success. Of course, there are lots of factors to an unsuccessful campaign, but Indian defeats may be attributed to the fact that the players were very mild in nature and non-aggressive.
When Ganguly became the captain of the national side, the selection committee was immersed in politics and the selections were not made purely on the basis of talent. For the selectors of those times, even the birth state of the players mattered and was the reason for their selection or non-selection. When one takes a look at the older team, most of the players belonged to Maharashtra, Bengal or South India; the selections were hardly made from other areas barring a few.
As Dada strengthened his position and status as the captain and consolidated his place, he initiated many changes in the selection process, the fruit of which India reaped years later. He used his position to enable inflow of talents from everywhere. With his power, he began to recruit players in the team on the basis of capabilities.
Ganguly is responsible for giving Indian cricket many such players who have gone on to achieve great success for the Indian squad. The likes of Zaheer Khan, Virendra Sehwag, VVS Laxman, Harbhajan Singh, Gautam Gambhir and Yuvraj Singh all found themselves a place in the national squad because Ganguly stood by them and enabled them to nurture the talent they possessed. In fact, Ganguly even left the opener slot selflessly for Sehwag because he felt Sehwag would do good there. Such actions from Ganguly showed the way he moulded the Indian squad and made them thirsty for wins.
Ganguly, in 2003, became only the second Indian captain after Kapil Dev to lead the team to the final of the Cricket World Cup. His century in GABBA Brisbane 2003-2004 helped India to draw the series to Australia for the first time in 20 years. That was the kind of mental alteration he brought about in the team.
Dhoni was the first cricketer from Bihar to make it to the national squad and it is a belief that it wouldn’t have been possible if not for Sourav Ganguly. One can say, Ganguly started the work of pottery and Dhoni completed the pot. With the onset of these changes, performances started playing a pivotal role in consolidation of one’s position in the cricket team and therefore, no player remained more important than the team.
Today, the country has innumerous cricket academies and there’s no dearth of talent. With cricket being a religion in the country, youngsters flock towards the sport and since cricketers even earn very well these days, it has become a good choice of career.
Whenever a player is unable to produce results for the country, the board does not find it difficult to come up with the replacement. Looking at recent examples itself; after Sehwag lost his form, it became very difficult for him to get back his place in the squad because someone had efficiently replaced him.
Similarly, when Yuvraj Singh moved out of the team due to his unfortunate circumstances, he was an integral part of the Indian set-up, but when he was fit to be back, he struggled for the same place. Players are no more unparalleled and it’s not difficult for another to fill the vacuum.
Another crucial factor that makes the team flexible is the continuous fixtures for the team. The Indian squad has to play in a series of competitions and for the health of the players, they need to be rested. In such situations, younger and newer caps are given and that makes the scenario even more competitive.
In the current scene of the Indian cricket, Virat Kohli is an impeccable part of the squad, yet, he is rested for the series against Zimbabwe and other players have stepped up and performed for the nation. In today’s time, the struggle for holding on to one’s status is immense.
A few bad performances would definitely do much harm; so much that a player may never see oneself get the same position and importance. Such is the Indian cricketing scenario of today.