Ageing Woes for Cricketers

Rahul Dravid“Mr. Dependable”, “The rock”, “Mr. Consistent”, “The wall”; all titles, all conferred by critics and legends and opposing players as well as teammates who hold him in awe, all referring to one man- Rahul Dravid. Captain till a month ago and a representative of the Indian cricket team till last week, or so it seems. For the BCCI has decided that the man is after all expendable. This would remind everyone of another episode involving yet another ex-captain Sourav Ganguly. Maybe we can call it a captain’s curse.

What is it about Indian cricket that makes headlines for all the wrong reasons? Why do we have an everlasting raging debate about the “seniors” vs. “juniors”? No other cricket playing nation has this argument. No other board feels it’s necessary to axe a long and distinguished career as soon as there is a hint of twilight or even glimpses of bad patches. Do the BCCI even know of an adage which goes “form is temporary but class is permanent”?

There is no doubt that we boast of some mercurial talents who are still in their teens. After all we are a cricket worshipping nation. Infants lisp Tendulkar before they can say mama. Teens know the Indian statistics better than their twelve times tables. No wonder we have some of the best youngsters in the world who have proved themselves on the biggest stage by bringing home a world cup after 24 long years. Kudos to them! But are they really ready for the longer formats? Are we not forgetting that experience still matters a lot? The best example being the fact that every time we bowl first against an opposition which piles on a huge score, immediately the focus shifts to the opening pair who are arguably the best opening pair in the world, namely The little master and the Bengal tiger. If they click, we romp home in style. But if they fail, we more often than not concede the match humbly. And immediately fingers are pointed with whispered accusations and remarks about ageing players and their fitness levels. We are quick to explode with joy and pride at our nations’ triumph but quicker still at hanging our heroes.

I think it’s shameful that a player who has represented his country and continent at the highest level and proved to be one of the best players to have ever graced the biggest stage for his country has to be given such a shameful farewell. Have we forgotten the numerous occasions he has stepped up and put his body and heart on the line to bring home some amount of respect from our usually disastrous foreign tours down under or elsewhere? There is no doubt he is going through a bad vein of form. He may not be the batsman he was half a dozen years ago but yet he is still a better player than some of the youngsters. Ask the opposing captains who’d they fear more and the answer will be clear.

I hope the BCCI remembers that this man still has a lot of cricket left in him. Let them not waste it by making ridiculous statements like seniors should stick to test cricket. There is still a world of difference between twenty 20’s and one day internationals. The recent fiasco against the world champions clearly proved that. And with two of the biggest events in our cricketing calendar – arch rivals at home and the long series down under – do we really think we can do without him?

It took a year, a coach’s head and a nationwide agitation along with some fine gritty knocks for Ganguly to make it back. What will it take to bring our talisman back? Prayers and pujas? Because if that will work, call the pujaris and book a temple. And someone please invite the BCCI to grace this occasion.

Budhaditya Bannerjee