Sunday, October 20, 2013

Playing Against Rahul Dravid

8:45 am: I get a call from my teammates saying, “Come fast, Rahul Dravid is here. He is playing”.

Since this game was close to where I coach, I had told the boys that I will finish a coaching stint and get to the match ground by 9 and be ready for the 9:30 start.
As I drove to the ground, I could feel my heart beat faster. After all, it is not every day that you get to play against someone with 13000 Test runs. It is not every day that you get to play against someone you have adored and idolised since the first time you saw him. It is not every day that you play against Rahul Dravid!

When I reached the ground, Rahul was already in his whites and was returning to the pavilion after having a talk with his team. I walked up and said “Good morning Rahul”. He replied, “Good morning Arjun, you are playing for them? That’s nice”. That relaxed me a little. Seeing him at my coaching camp every other weekend has sure helped me come to terms with his presence.

Now some snippets from the match:

The Ground

We played at the HAL ground which is mostly made up of rough mud and stones and has a matting wicket. The toilets are dirty. He still played. The only benefit he got was his car was allowed inside the gate, there is no parking inside for anyone else.

The Match

It was a KSCA 2nd Division League game between BUCC and FUCC, two of the oldest clubs in Bangalore. The top two teams in the league get promoted. BUCC are second right now but with a club close behind. That is why Rahul played, to ensure his team does well, to ensure they are promoted. It’s a 2 day game, points system more or less like the Ranji Trophy.

Shining the Ball

BUCC fielded first. Rahul was as usual at slip. By over No.10 a part of his pant was red. After every delivery, he shined the ball rigorously as if a Zaheer Khan was looking to exploit some reverse swing. It didn’t matter to him that it was just a local bowler bowling against some local batsmen. He gave his bowler every opportunity to swing the ball.

Fielding and Encouraging

Most senior players in these leagues, most former and current Ranji players do not necessarily field for the entire innings. They make the most of the services of the 12th man and often come out for a ‘break’. But not Rahul Dravid. He fielded for the entire 82 overs that we batted, he did not miss a single over. And he did not just field and feel like an immortal surrounded by mere mortals. He encouraged his bowlers, kept giving them tips. He asked his bowlers if they wanted water. He spoke to them in English, in Kannada and in Hindi.

He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not

I went into bat at around 200 for 5 with my team in a spot of bother as we had lost a couple of quick wickets after a good partnership. I edged the 3rd ball off a left arm spinner to slip. I was dropped by none other than the man himself. It was a tough chance, dipped on him, probably didn’t carry also but I was given a life. He dived front trying to reach it and falling on the mud in HAL is not as nice as diving in Lords. He felt the pinch a bit as he rubbed off the mud from his elbows. And then I batted on, had this interesting duel with their fast bowler. Copped a bouncer on the grill of my helmet. Then played one straight back to him which he threw back at me, quite dangerously. While he was going to throw, Rahul was shouting from the back “Easy easy, no”. The bowler later apologised to me. And then, the same left arm spinner got me edging again. This time Rahul Dravid took the catch, quite similar to the first one. I probably have never been happier getting out, after all it took a guy with 200 Test catches to catch me.

His Batting

We got the third wicket off the penultimate delivery of the day. At No. 5, to play one ball, walked out Rahul Dravid. We had a spinner bowling and with one delivery to go, thought he will just defend it away and so we had a couple of slips, a short leg and I came in really close at catching cover. It was pitched up, he stretched his leg out and drove it. It went like a bullet. We knew we were in for a long fielding day on Sunday and he did not disappoint. He scored a 100. When his partner who also scored a 100 was cramping a little, Dravid got down and stretched him. He had a go at the umpires a couple of times as they were missing out on no-balls. Yes, Rahul Dravid had a go at the umpire in a club game because they missed out on no-balls. And you thought club cricket might not be important to him. I told him inbetween overs that in our innings as well they missed a few and he was really angry and made a gesture with his hands suggesting that they are missing huge no balls.

When another boundary was scored and the ball went into the bushes again and our fielders were looking for it, he came up to me (I was at covers, he was non-striker) and said “What if there are snakes there?” We chatted for a minute and then he said “Want to take my bat and look for it?”

He ran his singles hard. Pushed our fielders by running the first one hard and converting any kind of a fumble into two. They were chasing 298. He lost his partner who was retired hurt and the rest of the batsmen weren’t the best. We put pressure on him by trying to keep him off strike and build the dot balls. We would like to feel that he did feel a bit of pressure as he saw a couple of wickets fall but he went on.

Dropped off My Bowling

I came on to bowl my part time offies with Dravid on strike. That there, was already a mini-dream but what happened off the first ball was as close as I will ever get to dismiss a batsman with over 23000 International runs. He punched a short ball straight to cover. It went low but the fielder caught it and in the process of rolling over dropped it somewhere. No one saw the ball going down as he was over it. Not me, not the umpire not Rahul himself. But the fielder said he put it down and well with Dravid wearing the MCC Spirit of Cricket cap and T-shirt, it was kind of fitting. He took a single off the next ball and I said to him, “Now that would have been a real dream come true.” He laughed. In my next over, he mis-hit one and it went just over deep midwicket’s head for six. Another, fell just short off short midwicket. I surely had this guy in some spot of bother. As he took another single and I smiled at him, he said “that is some old fashioned loopy off spinners you are bowling”. I will take that as a compliment although he probably ‘struggled’ cause he hasn’t faced slow crap like that since his school days. Eventually, he launched my extra flighted full toss (had to try something to get him out) out of the ground and that was the last I bowled in the game.

Disappointed at Getting out

He had got a 100, he had got his team to within 10 runs from taking the lead and the all-important 3 points when he edged behind and was caught by the keeper. He walked out to a standing applause but he was unhappy and was cursing himself and hitting the bat on the ground (not Kohli level upset, he was gentlemanly even in anger). He was upset at not having finished off the chase which the tail eventually did.

After getting out, he sat with his sons and wife and was seen explaining something to the boys.

The Crowd 

There is usually a dog and a cow maybe watching us play league cricket. But there was a constant traffic of people coming in for this match. There was no security. They did not let him change, did not let him eat and kept hounding him for pictures and autographs. I don’t think a single person went home unhappy. He posed for everyone and never got angry despite them not giving him a moment of privacy. The only time he showed a semblance of anger was when someone gave him a 50 rupee note to sign on. He supposedly said something on the lines of, “What is wrong with you? I don’t sign on money!”

Thank you

He gave a few of his teammates bats. He gave the guy who scored a century for us, a pair of gloves. He ate with the team, drank water and was like just another cricketer plying his trade on the club circuit.

At the end of the match, he walked out to shake hands and said to me “Well played, Thank you Arjun”.

Well, thank you Rahul Dravid for giving us the opportunity to play against you and a weekend that we will never forget. Thank you for giving us another lesson in humility. Thank you for being an inspiration. And thank you for showing us that some dreams do come true. 

Wednesday, May 16, 2012


There has been so much talk about match fixing that it is now becoming hard to ignore. At the very outset, I would like to state that ‘I do not believe a match can be fixed, although there may be instances of spot fixing’. This article speaks about why the result of a match cannot be fixed? If you are among those who are adamant that matches are fixed, I request you to read this with an open mind without any preconceptions.

This IPL has witnessed a number of last over finishes; a few have been won off the last ball. These wins off the last ball are being looked at suspiciously by the common man. People are saying that ‘the bowler purposely bowled a bad ball’, ‘why did he not bowl a yorker’ etc. Firstly, learn to appreciate a great cricket match which has gone down to the wire. Secondly, a full toss doesn’t automatically go for six, neither does a half tracker. In all my years of watching cricket, I can say with utmost confidence that more than a fair share of full tosses have cost a bowler less than 6 runs. In limited overs cricket, a low full toss was and sometimes still is, considered to be a very useful ball to bowl in the death overs. So it amazes me how people say that the match is fixed because a batsman hit a full toss for six. What if he mis-hits it? What if the bowler attempting to bowl a full toss ends up bowling a Yorker or a very low full toss which the batsman can’t hit for six? What happens to all the money then? And even more surprising is how does the bookie know that a particular bowler is going to bowl the last over? And how does one know that the match itself will go to the last over? I would really like to know the answers to these questions. If you then argue that the whole match is fixed and the players are playing to a script, I would say its as impossible as having a man on the sun. Cricket is a sport which is played live in front of thousands of people and millions watching it live on TV. It is not a movie where the actor is allowed to make mistakes and have re-takes. A batsman can get out to a bad ball, a ball he was ‘fixed’ to have hit for 6. What happens to the script then?

To fix the result of a cricket match, you need to ‘buy’ the captain. Look at some of the captains in the IPL – Rahul Dravid, Sourav Ganguly, Adam Gilchrist, Sangakkara..... Would a bookie even dare to approach these men with money to throw a game away? I doubt they would throw a game away even if held at gun-point. MS Dhoni has achieved everything a captain can, would it make any sense for him to think of using unfair practices to influence the result of a match. Then there are players like Sachin Tendulkar, Kallis, Jayawardene who are legends of the game. Would a bookie dare to approach them? How much does money motivate them now? And players like Virat Kohli, ABD, Raina and Rohit Sharma are on their way to becoming legends, why would they do anything silly to jeopardise that? Captains, legends and rising stars constitute about 50-60 percent of every team. The remaining are the Indian domestic players. These players work so hard, have made huge sacrifices to pursue their cricketing dream and are on a constant struggle to get where they are now. All of them dream to play for India and continue to work towards achieving that dream. By accepting money to throw a match, they are putting themselves at immense risk. Yes they can earn a quick buck, but what after that? They may be dropped from the team and might not get a contract for the next season. What will they fix then?

There has been much spoken about the money in Indian cricket – mostly criticised. The BCCI must be commended for marketing and managing the game and the funds well enough to become one of the richest sport bodies in the world. BCCI was not born rich; it grew into its current position. A lot of credit must go to the players for making India a team to reckon with on the world stage. Equal credit should go to the administrators for managing the game well and creating the infrastructure that we see now. What this money and richness in Indian cricket has done is invaluable. It has ensured that players on the domestic circuit are well paid. Ranji trophy cricketers can lead a comfortable life from what they earn. Add to that IPL contracts for 30 lakhs a year and you have a more than comfortable life. One bad incident, and the player is set to lose all this (include pension to that).

At the same time, I would say that there may be cases of spot fixing. When you have so many players, there may be one or two who would want to take the short-cut to success. This is why the game should be monitored closely at all times and it is. Players found guilty should be banned for life. Young players should be educated about how to deal with agents.

Cricket is a sport, not a movie. It does not follow a script, it cannot. Matches cannot be fixed, it is impossible. Respect the game and respect the sportsmen – their human and are allowed to bowl a bad ball or drop an easy catch. 

If you are still suspicious look at the way a Dale Steyn runs into bowl, look at the passion with which these guys play their cricket! Respect!

Sunday, March 25, 2012


April 2012

The news of Dravid’s retirement is yet to sink in completely and I don’t think it will happen anytime soon. It will not happen till the next Test series comes around, it probably will not sink in till India lose the first wicket in their next Test match and we will see a batsman, who doesn’t go by the name Rahul Dravid. To me, Dravid was not just a cricketer, he was my role model in the truest sense, and his retirement is a loss which I will find hard to cope with.

There have been a number of accolades written about his cricket and this article will talk very little about his batting. It will consist of some anecdotes which makes Dravid God-like for me.

One afternoon, our school cricket team was practicing in the School Ground and the school had rented out the ground for some emission testing program and there was a huge crowd. We were pleasantly surprised and delighted when we saw Rahul Dravid walking towards us. Yes, he had decided to pay a visit to the ground where, as a Josephite, he had honed his cricketing skills. The one thing that caught my attention was he still parked his car outside the ground, and walked in despite all the rush. He could have easily driven right in and avoided the crowd but he respected the ground where he took his first steps as a cricketer and that really amazed me. Today, when I coach at the same ground, it hurts to see a number of parents driving their cars right in to drop off their sons and I fail to control myself from repeating this story time and again to the boys so they understand and learn from the great man.

He respects everyone, poor or rich, famous or not. When he was the Chief Guest at our school Sports Day, he actually stood up to greet Abu – ‘the canteen man’. He was sitting with a host of dignitaries but actually took the effort of getting up and greeting Abu.

Another story which I would like to share is the one Father Michael John (school Principal) told me. On a Sunday morning, Father caught Rahul Dravid walking around the corridors of our school with his wife. When father bumped into him, Rahul Dravid first apologised to Father for not seeking his permission and told him that he just wanted to show his wife where he studied and grew up and so was walking her around and sharing some ‘good old stories’. As you may expect, Father was a bit taken aback and asked him, “Why did you not inform me that you were coming?” To this Rahul told him that he intentionally did not inform him as he did not want Father to take the trouble of organising anything special for him and he just wanted to go unnoticed. So typical of the man, he even retired in a similar manner - just walked away quietly.

He is probably the most well spoken cricketer and it came as no surprise that his Bradman Oration was applauded by people across the world. His interviews are always clean and have never created a controversy. Once, when a journalist was waiting for a while to interview him, he said something like, “Why are you waiting for me? I will give the same boring answers. You must interview someone like Dhoni.” As a Guest Editor of the Times of India, he was unhappy that sports (cricket in particular) and Bollywood got so much space so regularly on the front page of the paper when, he believed, there were more newsworthy events and individuals who deserved to grab the headlines.

There is just so much in this man that one can admire. His humility probably tops that list. He has contributed hugely in making me the person I am and for the past 16 years I have loved and worshiped him. This one line which he said at his retirement press conference, when asked why he did not want to play a farewell match, makes me admire him even more.

 Just to keep playing for the sake of one Test, I don’t think it was right.   
  I needed to play for the right reasons

Saturday, January 14, 2012

The Golden Generation – We Love You!

The year 1989 was a significant one; it was the year when a certain Sachin Tendulkar made his debut and was identified as the man to carry Indian cricket to the next level. The Kapil Devs, Ravi Shastris and Amarnaths were at the brink of their careers. After 22 years we can say, Sachin has not disappointed. He certainly has taken Indian cricket to the next level, he did it, not on his own but with the ‘Class of 1996’.

Yes, 1996 is probably going to be the most significant year for Indian cricket. Sourav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman entered the Test arena to join forces with Sachin Tendulkar. Often referred to as the ‘Fab Four’, they gave us hope; hope to compete away from home. Despite winning the 1983 World Cup and despite Sunil Gavaskar, India did not necessarily compete away from home. We were considered to be ‘Lions at home and lambs away’. However, this new generation of Indian batsmen were intent on changing the way opponents looked at us. They were willing to fight and India were not pushovers anymore.

Like in the education system, where the first few years you are a nervous young child in primary school and then move on to become a more confident senior, the start of the 21st century marked this transition for the ‘Fab Four’. Sourav Ganguly was handed over the captaincy and we also saw our first foreign coach, John Wright. We instantly saw a change in attitude. One name which often doesn’t get enough mention is that of Anil Kumble. He defied cricketing logic to become one of the best spinners in world cricket. This ‘new and improved’ attitude of the Indian Team got them more die-hard fans than they ever had. People believed in the team and took pride in being an Indian cricket fan.

Apart from Anil Kumble, we also had the likes of Javagal Srinath, Harbhajan Singh and Zaheer Khan. Virender Sehwag at the top of the order put pressure on the opposition straight away and played a match winning knock every now and then. We beat Australia in our own backyard in 2001 which is considered to be one of the best Test series ever. India also started winning Test matches away from home. We won Tests in Pakistan, Sri Lanka, England, West Indies, New Zealand and South Africa. We even beat Australia in Adelaide in 2003 and Perth in 2008. The one constant in all these wins would have to be the contribution of the ‘Fab Four’. It is hard to imagine a single Test match which India has won, without some kind of a contribution from this wonderfully gifted set of batsmen. Indians all over the cricketing world were ‘respected’; yes respected for being from the same country as these ‘Greats’. I say it again, this special lot made us proud to be Indians.

Sourav Ganguly and Anil Kumble retired with a series win against Australia and probably left at the right time. Sachin, Dravid and Laxman continued to pile on the runs but were closer to the end of their careers. India reached the No. 1 ranking in Test cricket but talks were now centred on what happens after the retirements of these three. Neither of Sachin, Dravid nor Laxman were considering retirement, but speculations were on, not just in India but around the world. Experts said that its time for the selectors to start looking at the future, but these legends let their bats do the talking and kept silencing the critics.

The recent humiliation in England and now in Australia does hurt, it is most probably going to hasten the retirements of atleast 2 of the 3. Virat Kohli has shown us that India’s next generation of batsmen is ready to take on the world. Rohit Sharma, Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane are waiting for an opportunity. As much as we hate to admit, it is probably time for the ‘Class of 1996’ and Sachin to graduate from the school of Indian cricket and make way for a fresh batch. We can only hope that the ‘Class of 2012’ will be able to fill in the boots of their predecessors, they are huge boots to fill, but do not make the mistake of not hoping.

My only request to the Indian Board is to allow each of these 3 greats to retire. They deserve to have a special farewell in front of a jam packed stadium at home, our tears – the least we can offer for their service to Indian cricket.

Do not remember them for these last 2 tours, remember them for what they have given us over the last two decades. Sachin, Laxman, Dravid and the rest of the Indian team – we love you and will always do so.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Dear BCCI, Please Wake Up

For the first time after a long time, if not ever, tickets were not sold out for ODIs in India during the India v England ODI series. It did raise eyebrows but people weren’t really losing sleep. Then the West Indies Test series and after the second Test match, people are beginning to get worried. It is probably the lowest crowd recorded at Eden Gardens for atleast 20 years. Sachin was on 99 hundreds and even that did not fill up the stadium, VVS and Rahul Dravid were continuing their love affair with the Eden but there were very few people to watch it. This is worrying people across the cricketing world as everyone realises the importance of Indian fans to international cricket. Everyone except the BCCI...

It has always been taken for granted that fans would throng to the stadium for any fixture featuring India. Officials were more prone to facing problems of fans overcrowding at ticket counters, waiting in queues overnight, managing crowds trying to rush into the stadium and it may be said that the officials had not really mastered the art of such management and had often cursed this ‘fanaticism’. Now they are facing a completely new problem, a problem which does not make their phone go tring tring every two minutes with people asking for passes for a cricket match, but the fact that there are probably more security guards at ticket counters than fans seeking tickets. This has probably made their job more hassle-free but only for the short term. Falling attendances at stadiums will lead to reduced revenue through sponsorship and broadcast, for starters. There are more far reaching consequences and consequences that could hurt the international cricket community.

So what can the BCCI do? Firstly, stop relying on cricket to sell itself. It used to happen all these years but the times have changed. The men in power must start formulating strategies to bring people into the stadium. It is time the BCCI themselves invest in advertising. In the current scenario, they could have used Sachin’s 100th hundred as a major driver to increase footfalls. Hire advertising boards at prominent places, put up attractive taglines like “Don’t you want to be there when God hits the 100th 100?” or more creative ones. Yes people already know that Sachin is on 99 but when you have a huge ad-board with Sachin staring into your eyes and asking you to be there, it will get people thinking. What after Sachin’s hundred? Well we are never short of milestones in cricket and watching players like Sachin, Dravid and Laxman in the twilight of their careers should be motivation enough. We’re at the stage when these motivations need to be communicated to the fans, and communicated again and again. I am sure we will pass this stage and get back to the ‘tickets sold-out’ stage but this is like a passing shower and the BCCI need to pull the covers out, or else, the match could be abandoned.

On a more long term basis, the BCCI should have its own ‘Fans Relationship management’ division like a number of teams in different parts of the world. The Indian fan is known to be the most passionate and it is important to make him feel valued, make him feel that his passion is noticed; make him proud to be an Indian team supporter. The BCCI would do well to revamp its website, make it more interactive and get the fans involved. It is a hard thing in a passion-charged country like ours but allow registered users to have occasional online chat sessions with officials, selectors, team management and maybe the players too. Make the fans feel like their views are heard. Yes you may have a million people giving advice on selection issues which may not always be correct and considered even, but you may have a few thousand give you vital inputs on areas that can be improved like stadium facilities, ticketing and the overall desires and complaints. For that part of the population who do not access the internet, and its a majority in India, the BCCI could reach out through social activities, distribute India team jerseys and other merchandise, put up a big screen in remote areas, distribute free tickets and so on. With the enormous revenue that the BCCI has made, this concept should be a feasible one or atleast make an attempt.

Another method that can be adopted by the BCCI is to follow preferential allotment of games among venues. At present, there is a rotational policy in place to ensure that all venues get an equal share of games which provides no motivation to the Heads of State Associations to work on getting people into the stadium. Instead the BCCI could initiate a policy where a stadium which ensures maximum footfalls gets more games. This will certainly push state associations to increase ticket sales and also people from that state may want to go to the matches either with the hope of getting to watch another more exciting match in the future or with the fear that their stadium may not get to host another match anytime soon. I do realise that it is not as easy as it sounds as there are a lot of stakeholders involved who could lose if this policy came into effect. It may be complicated, but BCCI should draw up a transparent policy and get this into effect.

And a really simple suggestion would be to not start Test matches on a Monday! Please use the weekend for either the start or the finish of a match. Cricket fans too have jobs and schools to attend.

Also, make the experience of watching a match at the stadium a comfortable and an enjoying one. This will get cricket fans, who prefer the comfort of their arm-chairs and couches at home, to come to the stadium and watch a long day of Test cricket. Offer good quality food and beverages, clean stands and toilets and basically make the customers ‘feel at home’.

Let us hope, for the good of International Cricket that people in India become ‘crazy’ over cricket, just like before.  

Tuesday, October 18, 2011


A Spanish friend in my course who is quite keen to learn and understand the game of cricket, after listening to me for a while on the rules and stuff said, “The game is quite complicated.”  Another French friend of mine said, “Why do only such few countries play cricket?”

Well the answer is probably because it is a game which requires a very special set of skills and also because it is a little complicated and being further complicated by the ICC. I have just read about the new playing conditions and I am quite bemused and wonder what the ICC want to achieve by making such changes?

Firstly, the idea of using a new ball at each end in ODI cricket. This move could probably be the final nail in the coffin of all bowlers (except in England, maybe).  For starters, it completely kills the art of reverse swing in one day cricket. And even at the 40th over, a bowler will be bowling with a hard, 20 over new ball. With the quality of bats improving constantly, these hard balls will probably travel further and more often at that. What about the spinners? Yes, there are some spinners who prefer a hard and slightly newish ball, but in one day cricket? I’m not too sure. Add to that the fact that 10 of the ‘middle’ overs where spinners weaved their magic and aimed to control the game will be Powerplays. So an off spinner bowling in the 30th over, will have a 15 over ‘new’ ball and may be allowed only 3 fielders in the deep. After bringing the boundaries in across different grounds in limited overs cricket, is this the next step to killing the art of spin?

Next we come to the fact that the non-striker can be run out if he takes a start. This can work both ways. Yes it is unfair that a non-striker is, or rather was, allowed to be halfway down the pitch before the batsman even hit or missed the ball but this new rule could just lead to a lot more controversies. Just imagine, an India v Pakistan match, say the final of the World Cup, and with 2 runs to win off the last ball, the bowler decides to run out the non-striker who has advanced a couple of steps. It could lead to a war between the nations. This rule will again raise the importance of the ‘Spirit of Cricket’ and we could have more captains like Dhoni, recalling batsmen. Are we further complicating the game?

And then the most ridiculous one – changes to the ‘obstructing the field’ clause. We have been taught, probably since the day we were taught how to play the forward defence, that ‘you must value your wicket and while running make sure you come in the line of the ball, even if you get hit it is ok but do not get run out’. And now, a batsman can be run-out if he changes his running path and the fielding team appeals. This will again come down to ‘Spirit of cricket’ and raise the job description of the umpires. It will come down to the perception of the umpires and the third umpire. How do I explain this kind of dismissal to my French friend? We’re complicating it......

What are the ICC thinking to change next? Some ideas – use only 2 stumps for ODIs, that’s it I don’t want to think of more...

Dear ICC,

Please do not complicate our game further.

Your Sincerely,

Fans of Cricket

Monday, September 19, 2011


On April 2nd 2011, every Indian in every part of the world was overjoyed, jubiliant and proud to be an Indian. Just over 5 months later, all of us Indians were relieved that a tumultuous English tour had come to an end. A tour on which Team India did not win a single international encounter spread over the 3 formats of the game.

Going into the tour, we were the number one ranked Test side and the 4 match Test series was the most awaited Test series in recent times. We looked forward to it as much as we look forward to the World Cup and as much as the BCCI look forward to a successful IPL. But alas! We lost 4-0. It had been a while since we lost a series; we had forgotten that we too had a set of humans who turned out to play for the country. Yes, the way we lost, without a fight, was heartbreaking but then it is ok to lose a series. Take into account the number of injuries, and I dare say that any team would have struggled.

However, we must not just brush this aside completely. We are now entering that phase where one generation, a generation of greats, will slowly leave us and pass on the baton to a younger lot. Are they ready to take up the mantle? We will never know till they actually take to the battlefield but we must ensure that they are fully prepared. It has been a couple of years since Anil Kumble retired, and where is his successor? First, Piyush Chawla and then Amit Mishra were tipped to take over from the leading Indian wicket taker, but both have not risen to the next level. While Piyush Chawla has declined quite considerably, Amit Mishra still hangs onto his place in the squad and plays a Test now and then. We have Pragyan Ojha, but I do not think the skipper believes he can be a match winner in Test cricket. So, from the land of spinners, why are we not able to produce any quality spinners? And then we laugh at Australia, saying that they haven’t found a successor for Warne. It is here that the BCCI will have to pull up its socks. We have all the money we need, why cannot the BCCI have a specialised spin bowling centre where the top ten spin bowlers of the country ply their wares and learn the tricks of the trade from an Anil Kumble, an EAS Prasanna or a Bishan Singh Bedi? It is time we look at this seriously as the time has come to find a world class spinner. Unfortunately Harbhajan Singh seems to be fading away quicker than we thought.

And now coming to our next biggest concern – the fast bowling department. The MRF Pace Academy has been in existence for quite a while now, yet, our hopes of competing in a series are dashed as soon as Zaheer Khan pulls up with an injury. How long will Zaheer play? He is at the twilight of his career and even in his years before retirement, he will probably miss more matches than play.  If our pacers could not make an impact in English conditions then they will not in any known cricket playing nation. We have 26 teams in the Ranji Trophy, can we not pick the best pacer in each of these teams and work with them throughout the year? Have someone like Venkatesh Prasad appointed full time and have atleast ten bowlers ready to wear India colours at any given point of time.

And now the batting. Sachin, Dravid and Laxman will not be there forever. They might leave very close together and these are really big shoes to fill. But I do feel that we are a little better equipped on this front compared to our bowling. In Kohli, Yuvraj and Raina we have established one day performers. Cheteshwar Pujara looked impressive in the couple of Test innings he played. Rahane, Parthiv, Badrinath, Mukund, Tiwary and there appears to be a good reserve. Again, all these, let’s say, top 20 batsmen in the country must be constantly monitored and trained by the likes of Gavaskar, Ganguly and Sachin and Dravid once they retire.

Yes the former greats that I mentioned, all have media and other commitments but I am sure they will be willing to do this for the country, atleast on a rotational basis. The BCCI is in a position to compensate them sufficiently and should not hold back. Another important aspect is county cricket in England. This golden generation all played county cricket and honed their skills and technique there. The younger lot do not have that much of an opportunity now to play in the English summer because of the IPL. The BCCI must work out an arrangement where the top youngsters get to play atleast a season of county cricket.

Will the BCCI wake-up now? We might already be a bit too late but its better late than never. The new BCCI President has taken office and has straight away focussed on the IPL by terminating the Kochi Franchise. Right now, Indian cricket and its future, and not the IPL, needs more of the Board’s attention!