India vs. Sri Lanka, World Cup finalists of 2011, as we all know – but of the 11 who played and won the final for India, five of the players are not there – Sachin, Yuvraj, Harbhajan, Sreesanth, and Munaf – for various reasons – some sad, some predictable, and some avoidable.
Sachin – he has chosen not to play, and no one can question him.
Yuvraj is recovering from a most devastating illness, and the amazing display he put on in the 2011 World Cup becomes all the more amazing. Also, the weight increase and lethargy he often showed over the last few years is partly explained.
Harbhajan – is turning to English County Cricket to redeem himself.
Sreesanth – health problems, and problems of the heart and soul.
Munaf – the mystery man.
Sachin has been picking and choosing for a decade, so we can hardly criticise him now – if we did not ten years ago. But to play for India in any form of the game is the ultimate honour, and it has never made sense to me to pick and choose – unless seriously injured – which Sachin is not. He turned his back on T-20 at the international level, and stuck to his decision, fully understandable, but if he could play for India to get his 100th century, he could surely still play. Except for IPL, he has played no cricket since the Asia Cup – and he needs to play. For himself, for his game – for after the World Cup, his form dipped badly. We have to admit that, he has to admit that – and when he plays regularly, that is when he plays well.
Of the players out of the team, Sreesanth is the saddest case – just six years ago, he was tearing South Africa apart, in South Africa – he was full of energy and a wildness, but not the wildness was not in his bowling – it made it his bowling so dangerous – when he twirled his bat and leapt about, he was a free spirit, and his bowling was free and spirited - -but we had to rein him in, had to tell him to behave – and that was a mistake – we had a fast bowler with menace and madness, and we turned him off –
Munaf was not wild, but his bowling was as dangerous as Sreesanth’s – and we turned him into an off-cutter, and praised him for that – telling him that he could have a long career this way – and he agreed – only in an odd IPL match would be touch 140 in speed.
And now we have Umesh Yadav and Aaron – how will we handle them? – Kapil Dev bowled non-stop for 15 years at the international level – Tests and one-dayers – he played in three World Cups – he still has the most wickets in Tests against Pakistan of any bowler – and he never picked or chose his matches, never broke down – and he was captain in the two greatest overseas victories for India since ’71 – the World Cup of ’83 in England, and the Test series victory against England in ’86 – surely he could have something to say to the Munafs and Sreesanths of today.
But, he is a bad boy – he dared to challenge the BCCI – and he has been forgiven.
And in a fascinating, absorbing Test, Sri Lanka and Pakistan go into the final day of the series which any result possible – not many people may be watching, but the two teams are playing as if nothing was more important in the whole wide world.
And Sunil Gavaskar just celebrated another birthday – may he score a century in his life-years, and share his true wisdom with the lovers of the game he graced like few others.