Ravi Shastri traces a bullet.
What he said:
Ravi Shastri, the Indian head coach, can’t stop gushing about latest boy sensation, Prithvi Shaw, and his exhilarating debut against the West Indies at home.
What he really meant:
“Shaw bats like a dream. He’s a kaleidoscope of the bright colours of Tendulkar, Sehwag and Brian Lara. He’s my rainbow.”
What he definitely didn’t:
“Why did I omit Viv Richards in this comparison? Kohli wouldn’t permit me. That’s why. He insists that sobriquet’s exclusive to him.”
“One-day cricket is an exhibition. Test cricket is an examination.”
“When it comes to Test cricket, like the purity of its concept, what is also needed is purity of skill. Hence, a pure batsman or a pure bowler is precious, because he has focused on only one skill all his life, so he is very good at it.”
“Those that shatter glass ceilings have to put up with multiple indignities along the way, and any softness or weakness will be pounced upon.”
“Cricket is an art, not a poor relation , but a full member of the community. It belongs with theatre, ballet , opera and the dance. ”
“The challenge is that you should be making newer mistakes. Newer mistakes means you are learning.”
—Sunil Subramanian, Ravichandran Ashwin’s mentor, describes his evolution as an off-spinner.
Should India take on Pakistan in the international sporting arena?
BCCI boss Anurag Thakur doesn’t believe so.
The BJP leader, while ruling out resumption of cricketing ties with the rogue neighbour after the latest attacks from across the border at Uri, said:
“Keeping in mind that the government has adopted a new strategy to isolate Pakistan and in view of the public sentiment in the country, we request ICC not to put India and Pakistan in the same pool of the multi-nation tournaments. If the two countries reach the semi-finals and have to clash at that time, it is another situation which can’t be avoided.”
The statement above reeks of political opportunism while ignoring commercial considerations and the future success of ICC tournaments.
While it’s no one’s case that Pakistan is a sponsor of terrorism, to ask the ICC or any other sporting body to accommodate the Indian government’s views would be setting a bad precedent—if accepted.
What happens if Bangladesh or Afghanistan make similar demands? Will the ICC oblige?
What about other sporting events such as the Olympics or World Championships? Are Indian sports persons to refuse to take on Pakistani athletes in group encounters but not in knockout rounds?
Can the US decline to play North Korea or Iran in international competitions?
India last toured their north-west neighbours in a full-fledged series in 2004. The last bilateral series occurred in 2012 with the visitors drawing the T20 series and clinching the ODIs.
India are grouped with Pakistan for the 2017 Champions Trophy.
ICC President Dave Richardson said:
“No doubt we want to try to put India versus Pakistan in our event. Its hugely important from an ICC point of view. Its massive around the world and the fans have come to expect it as well. Its fantastic for the tournament because it gives it a massive kick.”
It’s unlikely that the ICC will oblige Thakur by moving India out of the group. If the BCCI insists on making a political statement in the cricketing world, Team India might have to forfeit their game against their arch-rivals.
The men’s team are the only ones affected. The women’s side are slated to play Pakistan in a bilateral series. Should the tour be called off, their ODI ratings will be affected that may reduce their chances for automatic qualification for next year’s World Cup.
Thakur’s statement was greeted with disdain across the border.
Mohammad Yousuf said:
“I just don’t understand what he wants to say. For the last eight years India has avoided playing us in a proper bilateral series even when relations were better.”
“The ICC keeps on saying it will not tolerate politics or government interference in member boards and the BCCI President is making political statements. Either he speak as a BJP leader or BCCI head.”
An unnamed Pakistan Cricket Board official said:
“It is an out and out political statement from the President of the BCCI. We are disappointed as we have been trying hard for a long time now to normalize cricket ties with India and we have always believed in keeping sports and politics apart.”
In another news report, sources within the PCB revealed that they do not take Thakur’s tirades seriously.
“If they really don’t want to play Pakistan at all would they be willing to forfeit the match against us in next year’s Champions Trophy. No changes can be made now so what is the purpose of such statements except to play to the galleries.
…But for public consumption he (Thakur) gives different statements.”
Were the UN to declare Pakistan a sponsor of terror and impose sanctions, then it’s possible that sporting bodies across the world could declare it ‘persona non grata’, much like South Africa was for its heinous policy of apartheid.
But until then, it’s downright foolish to expect to be able to avoid Pakistan in multilateral contests.
At the same time, to simply claim that sports and politics shouldn’t mix is being naïve in this age of realpolitik.
Sports is a metaphor for war without weapons or bloodshed.
It is also a vehicle for peace such as when the Pakistani premier visited India for the crucial quarter-final encounter during the 2011 World Cup paving the way for resuming cricketing ties even if it was short-lived.
The issue at hand is complex. Simplistic statements from the BCCI chief muddy the waters especially when he must and should know better.
Mohinder Amarnath, in his latest column, anointed Lokesh Rahul as the next Rahul Dravid.
He may be right, he may be wrong.
Much earlier, Cheteshwar Pujara was Dravid’s logical successor.
Then, it was Ajinkya Rahane.
Now, it’s KL.
It’s never easy to step into the shoes of colossuses.
I’m sure each of the above would rather be recognised for themselves rather than somebody’s clone.
And it will take some doing to match Dravid ‘s feats and consistency over a sustained period of time.
Greatness doesn’t occur overnight.
In some way, Dravid seems a little short-changed by these comparisons.
Is it because his achievements are the result of constant improvement, endeavour, discipline, technical correctness and correct temperament rather than simply genius, wristiness or off-side godliness?
No one points to any of the current lot and claim that they’re the next Tendulkar, Ganguly or Laxman.
Comparisons are sometimes drawn between Kohli and Tendulkar, but the Indian test skipper has etched out a stellar place for himself.
Coming back to the question, is Lokesh the next Dravid?
He’s surely the next Rahul.
“If Test cricket was a shop, it would have been shut down a long time ago for lack of customers.”
Anil Kumble is the newly appointed Team India coach.
That must be the most important job in the country after the Prime Minister’s, right?
Wrong, dead wrong.
Sanjay Manjrekar , in his column for The Week, describes the job thus:
“’Tell me, who is this guy with the Indian team, is he a player?’
‘No, he does not step onto the field.’
‘Is he a selector, does he pick the players?’
‘No, he does not, the captain and selectors do that.’
‘Okay, then, does he make the critical game-changing decisions on the field, with regard to bowling changes, field setting, batting order, etc?’
‘Nope, that again is done by the captain.’
There you go, that is the actual reality of an Indian coach and his position within the team. Hence the media excitement, every time, around the appointment of an Indian coach, baffles me.
In contrast, when a far more important and influential position outside the players is filled, it’s only duly noted by the media. That is the chief selector’s position.”
This is not to deride or belittle Anil Kumble’s credentials in any way.
Much has been said and written about his stellar cricketing record, his courage facing the West Indian quicks and his mental strength,
Kumble recognises the above reality and claims that he’ll be more of an ‘elder brother’ to the side.
“I certainly believe that as a coach of a young team, you need to be hands-on and you need to really get your hands dirty as well – train with them, be a part of their training. And be with them more like an elder brother, in every aspect, not just on the field, but also off it. That’s something I will be focusing on.”
Manjrekar concludes his piece thus:
“In Indian cricket, the captain and a couple of senior players basically chart the destiny of the Indian team. The selectors have an important role to play in this journey. If the captain is able, there is nothing wrong with this kind of culture; many great teams have been built like this.
So what an Indian coach really does is facilitate the needs of the captain and the core group and try and keep them in good spirits.
The coaches that actually make a difference to Indian cricket are those that coached players like Tendulkar, Dravid, and others, when they were kids. The grassroots level coaches.”
Kumble made a three-year-plan presentation to the Cricket Advisory Committee but has been appointed for only a year.
Ravi Shastri’s stint as Team Director and the results under his tutelage paved the way for the selection of an Indian coach.
Can Kumble prove as adept as John Wright or Gary Kirsten in handling this young side?
India play 13 Tests at home and his tenure includes the Champions Trophy.
‘Jumbo’ does not have a long rope and there is speculation that he was not an unanimous choice.
Kumble has no formal coaching experience but then neither had Shastri.
That appears to have made the difference since he was not in the initial shortlist.
The CAC selected Kumble—possibly—because he is a much younger candidate and can keep pace with the youngsters in the side. John Wright and Gary Kirsten were not too long retired when they took over the reins of the Indian side.
A younger person can be more hands-on; Kumble certainly believes he can be.
Is hands-on what the job requires? Depends on how you define it. Kirsten felt that it played an important role while he was coach. He used to spend hours bouncing balls at the senior players. His ability to handle fragile super-egos cannot be underestimated.
Kirsten’s right if we are go by what Manjrekar writes. And he is an expert.
Players like Virender Sehwag and Virat Kohli prefer to consult their old coaches on technical aspects of their skills.
Is it less likely that it’s not the same for the current batch of players? Ajinkya Rahane and Robin Uthappa have retained Pravin Amre as their go-to person for improving their willow skills.
It does appear that what a coach brings to the side is intangible but the results are visible and rewarded or penalised with much more alacrity.
Simply put, the coach is the fall guy should anything go wrong.