January 13, 2001

Selectors must ensure all cricketers play in domestic circuit

The general misconception floating around in cricketing circles is that the game has changed a lot. There is no doubt that a few improvisations have come to stay but as Sir Garfield Sobers said the game as such has not changed much. What has distinctly and definitely changed is the attitude of the modern day cricketers at least as far as the domestic circuit is concerned. It has to be said with sadness that the change is not for the better. It has been written in this column sometime earlier that the attitude of the administrators is disappointing with regard to domestic cricket. I must hasten to add that some of the cricketers also are guilty of being indifferent when it comes to playing premier tournaments like the Duleep, Deodhar etc.

A few well-established Indian cricketers have opted to rest in one or two of the Duleep Trophy matches as they have been playing continuously. It does help these cricketers to recharge their batteries before they get onto the field the next time around be it a domestic or an international fixture. What was inexplicable and incomprehensible was the don't-care attitude displayed by the new entrants and some fringe cases in the Indian team. It did seem that playing the premier tournament was more of a chore they could do without as far as they were concerned. A case in point was the Duleep trophy match between the North and South Zones played recently in Vijayawada. As many as 17 cricketers who have played for the country were on view but the overall commitment and indifference of most of those was pathetic. Chandu Borde, the chairman of the national selection committee was present and it remains to be seen as to what attitude he adopts when it comes to the selection of a few of those cricketers.

It was a shame the way some youngsters went about things in that particular game. Quite obviously they do it in all the matches they deem insignificant, which unfortunately are the domestic tournaments. All these modern day cricketers recognise and want to play are just the international fixtures and nothing else. The much-hyped about cricketer, Ritender Singh Sodhi, pulled out at the last minute citing reasons which was were not convincing enough. One wonders if he lost his bottle, as the pitch at Vijayawada was a sleeping beauty. It is not that the pitches were any different even in the past but the approach of the cricketers then was totally on a different angle. It is unfair to compare cricketers from different eras but that should be applied to only the ability and skill aspects.

Readers would remember that the Indian team management felt that the players were short of long duration match practice during the first half of the Test match in Bangladesh. At the moment there is every opportunity for the aspiring players to play enough matches before the Test series against Australia commences. The Duleep trophy, which is played on a league basis, would have the right type of matches for the players to try and iron out their shortcomings. Yet the reluctance shown by the majority of the cricketers is incredible and the same reasons may be cited if and when things go wrong in the next Test series. The popular belief was that John Wright, the coach of the Indian team was supposed to have told some of the senior cricketers to have a break. Borde dispelled this during a press conference, which only makes matters worse.

On comparison none of the big wigs of yesteryear in Indian cricket ever opted out of any of the domestic matches if they were fit to play. Even today, Tendulkar has shown high level of commitment by turning out for Mumbai in the Ranji Trophy, which is not really emulated by many of his colleagues. For that matter, cricketers all over the world do play in their domestic circuit if they are not on national duty. The grind is tough for all the top international cricketers but the tragedy in Indian cricket is that players who have just wet their feet in international cricket just about participate for their state and zone sides.

The selectors have to devise ways and means to ensure that all cricketers play in the domestic circuit. Borde who is currently watching domestic cricket along with his colleagues should not hesitate to read the riot act to bring a sense of discipline into the cricketers. Otherwise nothing is ever going to change, as the cricketers have no qualms in treating the stepping stone to stardom with disdain once they get to the top. After all, cricket today is probably the best profession in India and for professional cricketers to stay away from the arena is nothing but sheer sacrilege.

A pragmatist will certainly tell you that it is better to try and rectify the attitude of the cricketers rather than hope for the administrators to get into the act of rectifying the flaws in the system. The question is "Who is to bell the cat"?