There would have been no fuss had someone else, other than Wisden, brought out a table or a ranking of the game's best batting and bowling performances. The name Wisden still carries considerable weight and we still assume, in the manner of Rome has spoken, the case is closed, that a Wisden list is authoritative.
The table that Wisden has brought seems seriously flawed. Not only does Sachin Tendulkar not figure in it but also Hanif Mohammad. His 337 against the West Indies must surely rate among the greatest innings ever played. It was more than endurance, he saved a Test match against impossible odds. He was the boy who stood on the burning deck. Then there was his 187 at Lord's in 1967.
How can Azhar Mahmood's 132 against South Africa at Rawalpindi be compared with this or with Asif Iqbal's 146 against England at The Oval, also in 1967? I have no objection to anyone or organization drawing up lists of rankings. They are, in the main, a harmless pastime but Wisden is something else. Wisden itself must do some soulsearching. Has it lost it? Its objectivity.
India has finally opened its account in the triangular tournament in Sri Lanka. But I have feeling that there is something not quite right with Indian cricket at this time. I know only what I read and don't always believe what I read. But it seems to me that there is something of a personality-clash between Saurav Ganguly and Tendulkar and it may have to do with the captaincy.
That's the perception. It will not be the first time that there has been a falling out between senior players. Both India and Pakistan are well-known for it. I have really never understood why anyone wants the captaincy. It is a thankless job. There are not many in the subcontinent who left the captaincy with honour and dignity. They have either been sacked or hounded out through conspiracies. I realise that to be the captain of your country's team is the highest accolade. But it comes with a price. The question is: is it worth it?
Though the evidence may not be conclusive, captaincy has affected the form of some of the greatest players, Brian Lara being one example. He not only failed as a captain but as a batsman and has never fully recovered his batting form. A captain who does not have wholehearted support of his team members is doomed to failure and if strings are being pulled off the cricket field to stir the pot, then both the captain and the team have had their chips.
Perhaps, we might try rotating the captaincy so that every senior player gets a look-in. I offer this suggestion in the interest of the team. It may not be the best solution but it could bring in-fighting to an end. I don't know what ails Indiancricket when a team is underperforming, not playing to its potential, leave alone above it, then there is a problem. It seems to me to be as simple as that.
England's woes continue and Nasser Hussain will miss the Trent Bridge Test as well as Graham Thorpe and to fill the cup of cheerlessness, Ashley Giles too. But it is Nasser Hussain who England misses the most. He was or is a captain in the Steve Waugh mould. That is to say, he is not easily intimidated and is one who makes his presence on the field felt. Trent Bridge was one of the loveliest Test grounds in England when I saw it last and this was some years ago and I don't know what 'improvements' have been made. I also remember that it was always a good batting wicket.
If it still is, then this could be England's chance of preventing a whitewash which seems very much on the cards. England needs to bat many more overs than it has been doing. This means that the batsmen will have to apply themselves, build an innings. I think England could take a leaf out of Pakistan's book. Routed at Lord's this summer (technically, May is summer in England) Pakistan re-grouped and turned the tables at Old Trafford. It was heroic stuff, a great comeback but it came about because the team was stung by the defeat at Lord's.
England gives the impression that it has got used to losing and that nobody would be more surprised if it were to win than the England team itself! Prosperity is difficult to handle but one gets accustomed to adversity.
The squad announced for Trent Bridge contains five fast bowlers and a solitary spinner, Robert Croft who has played best man too often and the groom too infrequently. Surely there was a case for Phil Tuffnel as well. Better than playing mediocre seamers, England would be better off with a couple of spinners. They could have used, at least, one at Lord's. It would not surprise me to see Colin Miller in for either Brett Lee or a batsman. There is no set battle-plan in Test cricket. You have to keep the opposition guessing.
The Pakistan selectors have met with the chairman of PCB and finalised the list of players for the training camp to start in the first week of August. The list has not yet been made public but I would imagine that there won't be any surprises. I don't think New Zealand should be taken lightly both as a one-day and a Test team.
Pakistan has a poor Test record playing at home, a statement that deserves an exclamation point. Pakistan has lost the last three Test series, to Australia, Sri Lanka and England and, therefore, cannot afford to experiment too much. But here's the Catch-22. It needs to bring in some fresh blood. It also has to keep in mind that it may be playing India in the Asian Test Championship, if all goes well and the Indian government does nothave a change of heart.
Political rivalry apart, a Test match against India is something special. Pakistan will need to play its most experienced side. On the England tour earlier this summer, Pakistan had got it right, the balance between youth and experience. It will have to do so again. But, as I wrote last week, the premium should be on fitness. I would like the training camp to be more of a conditioning camp than just batting, bowling and fielding practice though I would place fielding in the `conditioning' category.