January 19, 2009

Mike Holmans

The Irreplaceables

Mike Holmans
Rahul Dravid and Sachin Tendulkar pose in front of 'the wall' unveiled to honour Dravid for reaching 10,000 runs in both forms of the game, Bangalore, October 6, 2008
 © AFP
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Politeness dictates that when a long-serving player retires, it is said by all and sundry that he will leave a big hole and be missed greatly. For Shane Warne, it has obviously been true or we wouldn’t have had people wishfully hoping that he might come out of retirement for the 2009 Ashes, but for plenty of others it’s merely a gracious fib.

Nobody will miss the Matt Hayden who played in 2008, for instance. Were the 2007 version still available, it would be a different story, but Hayden’s retirement was that of a man who in earlier times would have been provided with a bottle of whisky and a pearl-handled revolver. After his horrible performances against South Africa, there’s little doubt the selectors would prefer to see Phil Jaques playing instead. Since Jaques had almost established himself before his injury and Katich has since done so, Hayden’s departure simply completes the handover from a great opening partnership to at least a pretty good one.

It is only partly a reflection of the merit of the retiree, though, whether he is missed. Losing the greatest batsman of the age in Viv Richards caused the Windies only a year or so’s worry before Brian Lara exploded on to the scene. Assuming Ajantha Mendis is not this generation’s Narendra Hirwani, Muttiah Muralitharan will be able to make his farewells without inflicting on Sri Lankans the deep feelings of bereavement which Warne’s departure has caused Australians, and Amit Mishra is already easing the pain of Anil Kumble’s passing.

Fred Flintoff was the end of a search for the new Ian Botham which had lasted 20 years – for the first seven or eight of which England made do with the old but very unreliable one. But when Fred rides off, England may well be able to take it in their stride: at least one of Adil Rashid, Stuart Broad and Matt Prior should then be a convincing No. 6 and worthwhile out-cricketer while the other two will make for a very strong lower middle-order.

I will not be surprised if Sachin Tendulkar is replaced fairly quickly. It’s pretty unlikely his successor will be as near to being a replica as Lara was of Viv, but finding a forceful middle-order batsman who can dominate attacks should not be too hard. Despite my long-held doubts about him, it could even be Yuvraj Singh. What will be much more difficult is replacing Rahul Dravid; what’s the betting that five years from now, as India have their third embarrassing collapse in five innings, people will be shaking their heads wondering when a new Wall is going to be erected?

Sometimes, what people miss most is not a player’s primary skill but his back-up. Sanath Jayasuriya was usually unrecognised as the allrounder he was, but his left-arm spin was very much of Test class. From his final really-and-truly retirement until Mendis turned up, Sri Lanka got themselves involved in various experiments involving Farveez Maharoof in an effort to balance the side, with little convincing success. Underwhelmed by his bowling though I remain, it’s not Jacques Kallis’s batting that South Africa will miss. Prince can easily do what Kallis has been producing recently with the bat, and quite probably more, but he is no more a bowler than any of the others in the SA top six (since the spin of Graeme Smith or JP Duminy are little more than mildly amusing jokes), which will leave them rather unbalanced.

But problems like that pale before the humdinger soon to confront West Indies. Where in a group of countries whose batsmen have always accentuated the positive do you find someone to replace Shivnarine Chanderpaul?

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Posted by zack on (September 14, 2009, 9:19 GMT)

I think what Mike means by comparing Tendulkar and Dravid is that, someone could replace Tendulkar in the sense that they could dominate attacks and play forcefully(ala Yuvraj Singh). They need not be as good as Tendulkar(Yuvraj averages less than Tendulkar) but just fill in for the role. As for the expectation Tendulkar carrys, Yuvraj has done that since he pummeled Australia in his debut series. Dravid's technique, overseas record and ability to see out fiery spells though would be missed sorely as the 20-20 debacle proved.

Posted by sankar on (February 2, 2009, 6:10 GMT)

Mr.Keyur you are just spot on and am myself is a grate fan of test cricket and knows something about it, dravid is the best test player india have ever produced behind Mr.sunny nobody else will come near their class. And mere numbers cann't reflect the value of a player, Sachin may add plenty of runs but the quality of Dravids runs stands apart.

Posted by VIRARAGHAVAN on (February 2, 2009, 5:41 GMT)

I am a fan of both Sachin and Dravid, more so of the former. In the last two decades, Sachin has singlehandedly transformed the way cricket is played, at least from an Indian perspective. The passion he brings to the game while at the crease is still there after all these years.His presence in the dressing room lifts the side. The youngsters look up to him and his is still the wicket all opposition bowlers want. Couple this with the way he has carried himself makes him one of the greatest the game has seen. Forget the katest ICC rankings. Together Dravid and Sachin have shown India can win abroad and consistently at that against the best of teams. Let us not argue as to who is better. Reminds me of the long arguments we used to have about the greatness of Sunny and Viswanath. When Sachin and Dravid finally say goodbye, they will be missed.Let us enjoy them while they are still at it.

Posted by keyur on (February 1, 2009, 18:30 GMT)

i read the above comments and couldn't but think: The crowd and the sachin fans will miss sachin more but the team (and real test fans like me) will miss (are already missing) the steel of dravid. he is one of the chief reasons why india started winning a lot away from home. even if one compares the contributions of sachin and dravid in away wins against good teams, it is clear that india needed dravid to fire to win.people will say batsman dont win you games,but in tests 100s dont count, you need to give the full value of your wicket as per the pitch: be it 233 and 72 in oz 2003, 93 in perth 08, two 50s in jamaica, 270 in pakistan.. thankfully sehwag has taken over the mantle of matchwinner with big knocks(note 151 in oz last match led to draw and 200&50 in galle lead to win.

Posted by Riverlime on (January 29, 2009, 21:27 GMT)

Hey Mike, See what I told you about the boy Barath! He has just confounded England to the tune of 132. And wait till you see Dwayne Bravo's younger brother Darren. (The Bravo brothers come from the same tiny village as a certain BC Lara.)

Posted by DEEPAK on (January 26, 2009, 17:26 GMT)

On a different note. When Sachin is at the crease, its well documented that the Country comes to a standstill. THE STRRETS ARE DESERTED & every person is glued to Tv/radio.Its claimed that the "Crime Rate " rises during this time.!!! Hence ,Will Sachin"s retirement will have the positive influence of bringing this crime-rate DOWN !!!!??? But, I"ll definitely miss watching a Genius .

Posted by shaz on (January 26, 2009, 2:19 GMT)

Man are you serious?? Sanath Jayasuriya will primarily be missed for his bowling?? Have you seen jayasuriya bat, no one in the history of cricket plays the shots he plays! that's what he will be PRIMARILY missed for, his unique strokes! get it right.... this is your job!

Posted by davo on (January 24, 2009, 2:34 GMT)

there is no one like SHIVNARINE CHANDERPAUL...he has the most unique style of batting & has all the credibilities of being the perfect number 4 or 5 batsman in any team or any form of cricket...have any of u ever seen SHIV open in a ONE DAY?wel he change a match in a few minutes!!!!!i am a true west indian & a diehard fan of west indies cricket but the most important thing for all young aspiring windies cricketers is to learn to have DISCIPLINE...because windies are on the rise currently but when SHIV,GAYLE & SARWAN goes,it wil be a tough task for the youngsters.....but the way i see it...GREAT PLAYERS CAN'T BE REPLACED. no one can replace SACHIN,VETTORU,KALLIS,PONTIN,BRIAN CHARLES LARA & of course, SHIVNARINE CHANDERPAUL!

Posted by Shafaet on (January 23, 2009, 14:45 GMT)

Others player may fill the void of players like sachin,kallis on a particular day or two. but how many players got the ability to keep in good form in match after matches, years after years? A guy may replace sachin and play very well in a series or two and then he is very likely to decline in nexr & selectors have think again. but when a player begin to perform in successive years only then he becomes great. in SAF in ODI Albie is doing good wth bat & ball. but can he serve the nation as pollock did for 8-10 years or so?if mendis can keep on his good job as murali did year after year than we may say he replaced murali. dont get overwhelmed by the performance of a year or two. when a player serves his nation in 100+ tests we can easily realise how good he was for the team. dont disparage their contribution to the game by saying that they can be replaced easily. SACHIN,DRAVID,KALLIS,PONTING,SHIV,VETTORy will only be replaced when someone perform like them in good 4-5 years.

Posted by Riverlime on (January 23, 2009, 14:24 GMT)

Tyrone, you and I are both looking forward to this Tour Match. There is much promise there, but the endemic problem is not one of talent or enthusiasm, but of ATTITUDE. They all want to run before they can walk. The recent form of Kieron Pollard springs to mind, since his abilities are obvious but his self-control is non-existent.

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