Dear Sachin, Rahul and VVS,
Hope you are all enjoying the pleasant Australian weather at this time of the year. It sure is a good time to take out the family on sight seeing visits or shopping trips, and I don’t half blame you for wanting to finish the games quickly, so that this can be accommodated in the schedule. After all, who needs 5 days when you can lose in 4?
Oh, I’m sorry. Did that sound too bitter? You will have to forgive me, as I’m not in a particularly good mood. Apparently, it was not enough that my favorite cricket team got whipped in the first two Tests of a much awaited series; my favorite NFL team got knocked out of the play-offs today as well.
I digress. This letter is about you. More specifically, it is about your cricket. As you very well know, the series against Australia has not gone to plan so far. And that is stating it lightly. In any other time or era, that would have been accepted as standard fare; but in this series, we have had one of the most experienced batting line-ups in the world (barring number 6), a canny wicket-keeper/captain, a couple of talented spinners and a not too shabby pace attack led by Mr Khan. A lot was expected of you.
Instead, what we got was, embarrassing batting implosions, defensive captaincy, thoughtless bowling and ragged fielding. For a legion of fans who tune in to the game at odd hours and for a multitude of supporters who have invested so much in attending the games at the grounds, this is most disappointing. Again, note the understatement.
Now, when it comes to the bowling and captaincy, there is not much we can do. MS Dhoni is the best leader we have, for lack of viable alternatives. His captaincy can be defensive at times, but apart from hoping that he does a rethink of his strategies, there is nothing much one can do about it. As for the bowling, don’t get me started.
Gautam and Viru are an enigmatic pair. You never know when the mood strikes them, so that they will put on an attacking partnership and set up a platform for you guys. Don’t hold your breath though. As our dear captain likes to say, let us ‘control the controllables’.
That brings us to you – The Three Musketeers. Or as Rahul put it eloquently, ‘creaking terminators’. Sadly, you seem to be going out of your way to prove it. Not you, Sachin! You look in delectable touch. Rahul and VVS, you guys have contributed a couple of 50s, but it has not really inspired much hope for your supporters.
Now, I’m not going to rant about how you are pulling the team down, or anything. You guys are legends. You have served the team incredibly well over the last two decades. At the peak of your collective form, you were the envy of all opposition teams. Mammoth scores, incredible rear-guards, and thrilling chases (courtesy Laxman) were the staple diet which the cricket world got to engorge on, when you guys were in prime form. That is why, it is painful that it has to come to this.
You know, I was one of the innumerable supporters who rejoiced when the team won the World Cup last year. It was a victory that I will never forget. My dad’s generation has 1983, mine has 2007. Even then, I knew that only one event could complete the cup of joy for an Indian fan. A series victory down under.
When you guys lost in England, it was scarcely believable. It was not just the loss which hurt; it was the manner of capitulation, which was depressing to witness. Even then, we went along with the BCCI’s excuse list of injuries, insufficient practice games and seaming conditions. It was just bad luck, they said even as they quickly swept memories of the series under the carpet. Australia would be different, they promised.
We had a fully fit squad. Two practice games before the start of the Test series. The pitches were traditional Aussie pitches, but mostly without the lateral movement seen in England. To top it off, the first two days of the Melbourne Test promised so much.
Since then, it has been a depressing ride. While the opposition rejoices on its come-back men, new bowling sensation and a leader who has enhanced his reputation with giant strides – we are left with nothing but pieces of our shattered expectations and fading memories of a batting order who once bowlers across the world used to dread. Where do we go from here?
Now, there are a lot of voices in the media (print, TV, social) calling for this player to be dropped and that player to be given a chance. Apart from providing a possible quick-fix, what would it solve? We might lose 2-0, 3-0 or 4-0. Ultimately, we are still leaving with a humiliating scoreline.
Now, knowing the BCCI and the selection committee, they will react to this result in the same way they did after the England tour. Putting it down to bad luck and concluding that it is a one-off phase – and with no away series scheduled till November 2013, they would feel very secure in the knowledge that they will be invariably right.
This is where you, giants of the game, have to take a stand. If the powers that be are not going to take the corrective steps that will benefit Indian cricket, then you guys will have to. You owe it to the fans, you owe it to yourself and most importantly, you owe it to the game. We don’t want our last memories of you as out-of-sorts veterans who didn’t know when to leave the game.
We are not asking you to retire en-masse; but we hope that you will formulate a phased out retirement plan among yourselves, if you have not done it yet! Don’t worry about lack of worthy replacements. Thousands of runs and hundreds of match experience cannot be replaced overnight; but we are willing to lose for the initial few months with the inexperience of youngsters, if that will result in the Indian team regenerating a strong middle order in a few years’ time. And given that we have Che Pujara, Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane, Abhinav Mukund and Suresh Raina chomping at the bit to be given an extended run, I can safely say that it shouldn’t take too long.
Sachin, you are in good touch. You have rolled back the years with some classic stroke play, and in many ways, it is the 90s again, with you standing among the ruins of another batting collapse; but even you know that you cannot go on forever. While it may be uncomfortable to face a future without playing cricket (after all, that is what you have been doing for more than half your life!), life isn’t too bad for former players. So, give it a year, and leave on a high. As they say, leave when they ask ‘why’ and not ‘when’. By the way, stop getting bogged down by a record that does not statistically exist, and get on with the business of heaping misery on Australian bowlers!
Rahul, you are one of the last gentlemen cricketers of the game. You have endured criticisms and calls to quit, for most part of the last three years. This despite, scoring tons of runs in the last year, especially in England where you were the only Indian batsman whose reputation was left intact after a grueling tour. Then again, this series has shown that despite your hunger for runs and bloody determination to stay at the crease, the end is near. The mind is willing but the body is weak. Your reflexes have slowed down, resulting in a now familiar sight of uprooted stumps while batting and dropped catches while fielding. You are arguably the most sensible cricketer in the team right now, and you know that a decision has to be made in the bigger interests of the team. With no major away series for a while, it is up to you to plan a graceful exit. The Indian fans expect nothing less.
Finally, VVS. The most graceful among them all. While Sachin has form to fall back on, and Rahul has the records in England to lean on, you have no such comforting stories. Yes, you did score a 176 in your last Test series and you are still the youngest among the trio; but take those two factors away, and your record, particularly in the last few overseas Tests are not encouraging. So, the money is on you to be the first to leave. You have served the team hard and long, but when it is time to go, it is time to go. Hopefully, you will make your last two Tests in Australia memorable and leave on a high.
So, that is what I wanted to get off my chest. I trust that you guys will do what is necessary to set the team off on what is going to be a long and painful journey back to the top of the rankings. Cheers and best of luck for the remaining games of this series.
An Indian fan