June 19, 2011

India's riches, Australia's need

One country lacks the young talent it needs to replenish its national side with, and the other has too many in the wings, waiting for the fading stars to leave

In Australia a debate is raging over selection following Simon Katich's controversial omission from the list of 25 contracted players. This argument highlights one area of major difference between two successful cricket nations, Australia and India.

As Australia currently go through a rebuilding phase, there's a need to inject youth into the Test side. However, the difficulty for the selectors is the paucity of talent among the youthful batting and spin-bowling prospects. The will has always been strong among Australian selection panels to move fading stars aside for young players with potential. However, apart from a few talented openers, there's precious little young batting talent hammering on the selectors' door.

In India the problem is of an entirely different hue: there's ample talent among the young batsmen, but there isn't the same will among the selectors to gradually phase out ageing stars. The Australian selection panel would be delighted to have to choose between talented young batsmen like Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, Suresh Raina, M Vijay and Cheteshwar Pujara. However, the Indian selectors are loath to move aside ageing stars to feed some of those younger players into the team. The odd opportunity those players have received in the Test side has come about through injury to an incumbent.

By being reluctant to blend youth with experience in the Test batting line-up over the last couple of years, the Indian selectors are risking two unsavoury outcomes. One, they will have to replace the three big names, Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman, at approximately the same time. Two, they might find that when it comes time to rely on the new breed at Test level, they are not up to the task.

Often good young players who are left on the sidelines too long develop bad habits. They don't find it sufficiently challenging to continually play at a lower level, and consequently there is a tendency to become sloppy. Graeme Hick, a prodigious young talent, was forced to wait for Test selection while he qualified for England. By the time he arrived at the international level he was a flawed player through having constantly hammered lesser opposition.

This problem is exacerbated in India by the huge earnings young players can derive from playing in the IPL. Nothing diminishes desire and hunger in youth quicker than quickly acquired wealth. In such circumstances a young player can find it difficult to focus on maintaining a high standard.

Rohit Sharma is a player in danger of falling into this category. When I first saw him play ODIs in Australia in 2008, I felt he was the best of the young Indian batsmen. It's hard to fathom that at 24 he still hasn't played a Test. His talent is in danger of being under-utilised.

India have achieved plenty of recent success at Test level. However, the selection policy has smacked of making the most of today's talent, in the hope that if the future turns sour, that'll be a problem for the next panel to clean up.

By allowing young players to grow in confidence with guidance from a strong supporting cast, selectors can cater for the present and prepare for the future. A strong selection panel can achieve this aim, but only if the young talent exists.

While Australia may lust over some of India's young batting talent, the reverse is the case in fast bowling. Australia currently has a really good group of young fast bowlers - albeit some who are injury-prone - while India are desperately looking for someone to groom for the important role of Zaheer Khan's successor. In Josh Hazlewood, James Pattinson, Patrick Cummins and Mitchell Starc, Australia have a talented and varied group of quickies. That's the one shining light for the beleaguered selection panel. A good side can be built quickly around a strong attack.

These are two proud cricket nations who are used to success. Australia's is a lifelong craving, while India's has become an acquired taste. It'll be interesting to see which system prevails in the future in what is a fast-changing cricket world.

Former Australia captain Ian Chappell is now a cricket commentator and columnist

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on June 22, 2011, 1:14 GMT

    Re: Tigg.. Perhaps you would like to see the individual ranking of the players to suffice your queries. The world cup wining squad had 8 relatively less experienced and young players. out of which 6 players had not even crossed their 80th ODI and look at the current crops' performance. And short ball and bouncy tracks, its almost a myth now.. know why?? Cuz the team is nearly the best in all 3 formats of the game... and if they lacked the metal they would not be there.. And Srilankans always played great at home but had their problems away. Bt talk about the current form of India and the result of the recent away games, you surely will get your answers.

  • Rakesh on June 21, 2011, 13:25 GMT

    Australia during it's peak had many of it's great players making debuts in there late 20 's and early 30 s like Haden and The Hussies, that's simply because Playing Aussies were too good to be replaced If I am not wrong the great Gilcrist only got to play @ age 28 after Ian Healy hanged up his boots, any one with equal to Gilli's talent would have made to into others teams at a very early age than him, young players always had to wait cos the shoes they had to fill were way too big, that does'nt mean they will loose there sheen if they are really talented as proved by Gilly, Hussies, Hayden .

  • Jay on June 21, 2011, 10:02 GMT

    Ian - Wrong again! The real problem: Both Chappell's hangups about this whole AGE issue! Simon Katich put it so succinctly: "He [Sachin Tendulkar] is an inspiration to all of us older guys, because he was written off a couple of years ago, ironically by one of our selectors, and the fact is he has proved him wrong." Recall Greg's abysmal record as India's coach: He antagonized older stars like Tendulkar, Ganguly, Kumble & Co; he even demoralized young guns like Zaheer, Sehwag, Harbhajan & Irfan Pathan! A total failure: Greg was fired in 2007. Soon Ian jumped into the (brother's) fray with his ill-advised dictum to Sachin to retire at 34! A false prophet: Wrong then; Wrong again now! Ian sounds like a broken record, with his lingering miscues about "ageing/fading stars" & "imminent" departures. Where's the evidence? Are Tendulkar, Dravid & Laxman all "fading"? How's he sure they'll quit "approx. the same time"? So when is Sachin's "imminent" retirement? All speculation. Talk is cheap.

  • Jay on June 21, 2011, 2:08 GMT

    Compare Australia's approach with India's. Look at Aussie veteran stars who've left prematurely: Warne, McGrath, Langer, Gilchrist and so on. Were they pushed out? Did they feel they were not wanted? Or did they get the strange "35-year Oz-itch" to go fishing? Whatever, it's evident this faulty hangup - "35+ & it's over" - is adversely affecting Australia's ability to sustain its top position. Some "retirees" have shown there's "plenty left in the tank" as evidenced by their IPL records, debunking yet another myth that 20-20 is a "young man's game." The reality: It's possible - with modern sports medicine, healthy diets, mind-body training, personal conditioning regimens, better protective gear - to prolong cricket careers to age 40 & beyond. Check out baseball & ice-hockey in USA: There are many superstars & hall-of-famers playing into their 40s with 20-year+ careers! Remember the great Don played productively till 40! The new normal could be 40-45! Stop playing the age card, Ian!

  • Jay on June 21, 2011, 1:53 GMT

    It's evident the Aussies, led by the Chappells & their ilk, are in denial. Look at Ian's contradictory arguments: 1) If there's a "paucity of (youthful batting) talent" then why axe a proven batsman in Katich? 2) If sidelined youngsters tend to "develop bad habits" then how did Michael Hussey so ably break into Tests at age 30 & also his brother David in ODIs? 3) If Indian selectors face a risky future in replacing elite veterans, then of what use are "India's riches"? Totally flawed logic, Ian! If at all, BCCI has done a remarkable job - apart from wisely axing Greg - of managing Team India. Its Mission: Build a large & varied roster patiently and rotate players sensibly. Strategy: Field a team around a strong nucleus of elder stars supported by a critical mass of rising stars & young guns. Upshot: A good mix of experience & youth, maturity & talent, mentoring & learning, leadership & teamwork, and (yes) coach & captain harmony! Result: India is at or near top in the game's 3 forms!

  • Varun on June 21, 2011, 0:33 GMT

    Mr. Chappell, kindly go through ICC test rankings top ten players( especially Rank 1) before calling for Indian Senior players' head. 2 youngsters find place in Indian team even when all seniors are present and its enough exposure to young talent. You cannot get ride of top performers to make way for youngsters.

  • Simon on June 20, 2011, 22:10 GMT

    Re: James Howlett.

    Constantly producing run machines? Maybe on your flat roads the new players are run machines but on anywhere with a bit of spice their technique is exposed. Look at Sri Lanka who are in a similar position (lots of high avg batsman who played in England and got found out).

    Nobody denies the class of Sachin, Dravid, Sehwag and Laxman but the rest? Even Sehwag is very suspect against the rib tickler. Steyn got him consistently cheaply in the recent series. The modern Indian batsman cannot play the short ball, and the struggle against good swing bowling.

  • Rupesh on June 20, 2011, 20:08 GMT

    This has nothing to do with selection philosophies, it has to do with success. Players are replaced infrequently when the team is winning, and often when the it is losing. How many 18 or 20-year-olds go a chance to play for Australia in the last 15 years? Hardly any, because there were too many good players around, and the team was winning. The youth and blending business arises now only because the team has started losing. India wasn't that good and so many youngsters got their chances, including SRT at 16. Pak has given a lot of youngsters chances. Then people were writing articles that India and Pak should be more like Aus, with players seasoned and toughened in the domestic league, so they are fully ready when the arrive. Now the situation has partially reversed. Now people are writing articles that India should be like Aus and give young players a chance! Seniors should be dropped when they start underperforming consistently, not for the sake of change.

  • Dummy4 on June 20, 2011, 17:38 GMT

    Mr Ian Chappel

    I think you got answer today after watching how Mukund,Vijay and Kohli played.

    Hope you do not talk about retirement for quite sometime now

  • waves on June 20, 2011, 16:40 GMT

    if someone sayin dravid to retire better u stop watchin cricket... U may be a new comer in watchin this game. He is a perfect stroke player. Replacin dravid place in test cricket is mission impossible. So v need him till he wish to play cricket. Not only him we need the likes of sachin laxman too.

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