Old order has to make way for the new

Updated: 10 December 2012 14:48 IST

If India win in Nagpur, the old order will survive - and that means MS Dhoni will retain his job as skipper, and Sachin Tendulkar will have a few more weeks to make up his mind, meanwhile filling newsprint, the airwaves and cyberspace with lengthy, passionate and ultimately inconclusive debates.

Old order has to make way for the new
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The Indian team has a job on hand - specific, time-bound, and admitting of nothing beyond itself. And that is to win the Nagpur Test match and level the series against England. The selectors have a job on hand too - general, unbound by time or place, and with the focus on the big picture. And that is to build a team that was once No. 1 but has been ravaged by time and demoralised by defeats.

Yet, even if the tasks are different in nature, they are allied, and how the specific job is done will have a bearing on how the general one is approached. There is no escaping the fact that Indian cricket is at a crossroads. The big decisions may have been postponed by a week, even if they do not officially have to be made before the next series begins.

If India win in Nagpur, the old order will survive - and that means MS Dhoni will retain his job as skipper, and Sachin Tendulkar will have a few more weeks to make up his mind, meanwhile filling newsprint, the airwaves and cyberspace with lengthy, passionate and ultimately inconclusive debates.

A draw might see the end of Dhoni's reign after he becomes the first captain in 27 years to lose a home series to England and the first to lose any home series in eight years. A defeat should, in all fairness, definitely end it especially since the skipper has got away unscathed after two disastrous series abroad. At the end of the Kolkata defeat, he said it would be irresponsible of him to quit now when the team is down, which is an argument for not quitting at all. For, why would you quit when the team is doing well?

Indian cricket hasn't been big on accountability. It is a reflection of the policy of the cricket board which sees itself above either transparency or accountability.

The sight of an England team coming together under an inspiring captain has contrasted sharply with that of an Indian team disintegrating under a leader too concerned with the here-and-now and too slow to ring in changes even as he watches a once-great team slide down the tube.

Admittedly, not everything is his fault. Not all great teams have handled their transition well. The West Indies, riding on the conveyor belt of fast bowlers and attacking batsmen a generation ago didn't; nor did Australia more recently. Both teams had one thing in common with India. They were not a team of just very good players; they were a collection of contemporary greats who do not always come together in the same generation.

As early as in 2004 in Australia, there was speculation that India's top order might be the finest line-up from one to six of all time: Sehwag, Chopra, Dravid, Tendulkar, Ganguly, Laxman. The 1948 Invincibles' batting order in Bradman's last Test was: Barnes, Morris, Bradman, Hassett, Miller, Harvey. The West Indies at their peak in the 1980s could call upon: Greenidge, Haynes, Kallicharan, Richards, Lloyd, Gomes.

Only Tendulkar remains in the middle order, and in his 23rd year, he has been consistently misreading length. It is like a great poet struggling with metre - what was once taken for granted now causes embarrassment.

Any all-time Indian squad will contain at least half a dozen players who made their debut after Tendulkar; Kumble, Srinath, Zaheer Khan the bowlers to add to the batting list. It was the golden age of Indian cricket, and now that is history.

India must accept that and move on. And if the captain and the seniormost player are clogging up the system, they must be told. It is difficult not to feel sympathy for Zaheer, a warrior who had to be dropped. But that is the way of sport. The old order makes way for the new and selectors have to fulfil themselves in many ways lest one poor selection corrupt the team.

Topics : Cricket Sachin Tendulkar MS Dhoni England India England in India 2012
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