May 28, 2010

Shape up or ship out

Plenty of frontline Indian players have serious work to do in the off season, none more than two who have let themselves go to seed

The off season, when there is no game tomorrow, no tour next week, no newspaper to read to know what columnists are saying about you, can be very nice, very therapeutic. And an opportunity to do things you wouldn't have time for when you are on the circuit. You could get a niggling injury sorted out, read a few books, tweet… Committed, professional sportsmen use the time to do strength training, some others could do much-needed sprint training. Or you can wait for the controlling authority, the BCCI in this case, to tell you what to do.

The last of those is the easiest alternative, and like with most easy alternatives, should present itself as the most flawed. The best sportsmen plan their own futures, they listen to voices they trust, one of which must lie within, and plan accordingly. The off-season work ethic is an indicator of commitment and of ambition. It tells you that a player is thinking of how he can present a better package to his team in the weeks ahead.

That is why this series against Zimbabwe, though it seems to give young players an opportunity, isn't the best idea. Yusuf Pathan, for example, would have done well to work on batting against the short-pitched ball, which is so clearly going to block his international career. Suresh Raina, who has much more going for him, could have worked on a similar theme to try and earn the Test place that seems so distant at the moment. And Rohit Sharma could have worked on trimming a few inches off his middle - but more on that later.

The short-pitched ball has, a bit surprisingly, shaken Gautam Gambhir too. Luckily for him all he needs to do is to iron out the niggle rather than make major changes to his style, and missing out on Victoria Falls will not hurt him too much. And Irfan Pathan has some work to do before reclaiming the spot that seems to be waiting for him - an opportunity few are allowed.

Dravid isn't an athlete, has never been, but he is giving himself the best possible chance of surviving in this game. He would make a great mentor for the next generation, if indeed they were willing to do what he has

The two who should be the busiest are Yuvraj Singh and Rohit, amazingly gifted players who are coming in the way of their own progress, and in doing so, showing a little less responsibility to the team they must proudly represent. Yuvraj, in particular, has a serious career-defining decision to take. It has nothing to do with his extended bad patch, for that can happen to the best. Rather, it is about the way he is moving on the field and the weight he is carrying. For someone who was an amazing fielder, he looks embarrassingly unfit, and I fear it is something that could end a career that I am convinced has much more to offer.

It could be because of a knee surgery delayed, but if indeed that is the reason - and I don't know if it is - then he must rectify it now. If it means a few months out of the game, so be it, for sitting on it any longer will do him and Indian cricket no good. Unlike a bureaucrat who can keep a file pending, a cricketer cannot keep his fitness pending. Hopefully he will take a call on his fitness, not the selectors, who I hope have already had a word with him.

Sadly Rohit Sharma treads the same path. For someone who has just turned 23, he is in terrible shape. It won't interfere with his game just yet, for he is in the prime of youth, a lovely phase when you can drag your body through hell and high water and it won't complain. But that he allows himself to possess these contours is indicative of a worrying mindset, maybe a slightly lackadaisical work ethic.

He doesn't have to look too far to understand the great value of a fine work ethic. Rahul Dravid turned 37 this January, which means he gives 14 years to Rohit, and looks in fabulous shape - the result of extraordinary discipline. Dravid isn't an athlete, has never been, but he is giving himself the best possible chance of surviving in this game. He would make a great mentor for the next generation, if indeed they were willing to do what he has.

Mentoring is an area the BCCI has never really believed in. But that needn't stop a young player from seeking it out on his own. But maybe that is for another day.

Harsha Bhogle is a commentator, television presenter and writer

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on May 31, 2010, 20:05 GMT

    cricinfo has this trend of finding hilarious pictures to point out at niggling instances of bad performances, low fitness/morale. india and specifically Rohit Sharma/Yuvraj singh/Zaheer khan: shape up or ship out!

  • masood on May 31, 2010, 11:26 GMT

    @dhanno.look son and don't take me wrong.the last decade had been best of india and worst for pakistan.and this is an independent assesment and yet in this decade pakistan and india playing each other have almost similar best of india is equal of worst of pakistan.but stats comparing pakistan with india will surely be not good for you.pakistan is far better in cricketing records than india.and even if you compare there records of them playing each other you will be highly disappointed to see your indian team is behind.i really didn't want to say this but its interesting that team in your opinion"""with 6 guys taking oath to oust the captain and do everything to bring national team down, a WK cribbing and dropping dollies/missing runouts 'cause he is pissed, another guy who mistakes ball for an apple, some take drugs, some live on drugs!"""is better than your own team.cheers and must reply after seeing stats guru

  • Par on May 30, 2010, 22:06 GMT

    Article title: Shape up or ship out Intellectually challenged: Harping about India becoming Bermuda Oops.. my apologies to Intellectually challenged, maybe I should not compare these to you guys..

    Still the essence of article: players, be fit physically and mentally and if BCCI does not warrant it to take action against Yuvis of India, then in 5 years Indian cricket will be like that of the nation on our west. Where Yuvis will play when their egos allow, Kohlis will have swagger from T20 success; so if you wanna avoid that, shape up or ship out!!

  • Shahzan on May 30, 2010, 20:35 GMT

    @ Dhanno! Just wait till the World Cup. The world will see the so called Top ranking India replacing Zimbabwe and Bermuda!!!

  • saif on May 30, 2010, 19:12 GMT

    For those who are saying that this is indias B team, then it is a scary thought that in 3-4 years time this will be there A team. Tendulkar will probably retire from ODI after worldcup, and who is there to replace him? murali vijay and dinesh karthik. These guys are good in ipl where each team has only one good bowler, but in international cricket they wont be able to cope. Indias bowling is especialy worrying, i dont see any good bowlers on the horizon, dinda might be eventually though. This article riminds me about another article i read about west indies cricket. All the young indian players think about is fame and money, and dont play patriatism, but at least the west indian players are fit. I only see suresh raina as indias only good fielder, everyone else is very poor indead. Pakistan used to be asias worst fielding side, india are on par now.

  • Alexander Samuel on May 30, 2010, 16:39 GMT

    Think Rohit Sharma has started to read cricinfo LOL ..btw, great article Harsha..

  • D on May 30, 2010, 16:08 GMT

    Pak lost a test match to Zim by an innings, England, Aus, all have lost to Zim, so let us not get carried away by India's defeat. That said, yes it is a little embarrassing to lose to a weaker team

  • Dummy4 on May 30, 2010, 15:15 GMT

    ya i completely agree with harsha bhogle

  • Par on May 30, 2010, 14:34 GMT

    Yeah Shahzan.. its weak, not week !! Besides its funny people who live in glass houses (with 6 guys taking oath to oust the captain and do everything to bring national team down, a WK cribbing and dropping dollies/missing runouts 'cause he is pissed, another guy who mistakes ball for an apple, some take drugs, some live on drugs!) have so much time throwing stones (or statistics about India's losses to Zim) on others. Only honest assessment of this Indian team is: with mismanagement, by allowing indiscipline we will be like Pakistan in few years. And if ever there was a scary thought, this is it!!

  • Shahzan on May 30, 2010, 10:01 GMT

    @ Croc_on_mara says in his comment that the Current Indian is Team B. One wonders whether India has got Team A also. We have been looking for India Team A since ages. If they call the current Indian Team , a Team B because of the absence of Tendulkar, Dravid and Yuvraj etc then what one should say about their performance when they couldn't stop Zimbabwe in chasing their big totals many times. Take the statistics of India vs Zimbabwe, you will see that not only this time Zimbabwe beat India but former has been humiliating India in India also. Shame for the so-called top ranking India..huh!!! I'm India's fan but I can't see them losing to Zimbabwe and other week teams so sheepishly!!!

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