Rahul Dravid and Zaheer Khan are Indian cricket icons. And irrespective of what one former Committee of Administrators (CoA) member breezily stated, following due process can never be a matter of humiliation.
On the other hand, diligently following process will help the Board of Control for Cricket in India shun ad-hocism and lead to strengthening the structure. Thus all right-thinking cricket enthusiasts must support the quest to set up best practices within Indian cricket’s establishment. The Cricket Advisory Committee (CAC) might have had its reasons to do what it did, just as the COA might have had its compulsions to shoot it down. But one must appreciate the COA’s effort to set right what was obviously the wrong move by the CAC. Former COA member Vikram Limaye in an interview to a leading national daily pointed out that CAC’s mandate was only to pick the head coach.
It was commendable that both COA and BCCI wanted to distance themselves from being a part of the machinations of the CAC’s non-mandated move.
Having said that, and with Dravid and Zaheer probably kept on standby, it would be prudent to put the services of these iconic cricketers to good use, although not in the manner that the CAC envisaged. Sourav Ganguly, CAC member, recently stated that Zaheer should be engaged for 150 days in a year. But how and where his services should be utilised is something that should be explored to meet everyone’s satisfaction.
It would be ideal if the senior selection committee headed by MSK Prasad and head coach Ravi Shastri can identify a huge pool of emerging or discarded fast bowlers who could be readied on short notice for the Indian national team. Once that pool of eight to 10 fast bowlers outside the Indian squad are chosen, Zaheer’s experience and expertise could be engaged to fine tune them for the various overseas series as standby or reserve pacemen.
If he can devote 150 days of time and energy to bring these fast bowlers up to speed, he would have done yeoman service for Indian cricket. Obviously maximum work ought to be done after the IPL season and before the start of the domestic season. Following that, short camps during the home season, or shadowing the touring Indian team would be in order.
This selected pool of fast bowlers could even test and gradually improve the batting technique of emerging domestic batsmen.
It is an accepted fact that Rajasthan, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Jharkhand among other states have enviable fast bowling potential. Some of the emerging names — Aniket Choudhary, Avesh Khan, Deepak Chahar, Basil Tampi et al — come from these states where the cricket culture is many notches lower than Mumbai, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu or even Bengal.
It may be recalled that Umesh Yadav, from a shanty mining town off Vidarbha, had stumbled upon the sport only because he was rejected for the post of constable. His transition from tennis ball cricket to the regular variety was rapid. The point is that he was only a chance discovery.
How many more such unpolished gems could be found in the myriad by-lanes and playing fields of India is simply staggering.
It is an accepted fact that fast bowlers, even if they have swing and seam bowling abilities, must be able to bowl around 140 kilometres per hour to be really effective. Modern bats, batsmen’s strength and fitness that encourage terrific bat speeds have ensured that bowlers at lower speeds are taken to the cleaners on a regular basis.
It is in this context that the emerging fast bowlers in India could be trained under a Zaheer to learn the nuances of constructing an over at various stages of a match and to adapt to various conditions and batsmen.
Zaheer’s inputs would fast-forward their development and subsequently feed the national team with ready replacements.
The same could be said of emerging batsmen. Dravid could hasten their learning process and contribute substantially, rather than travel with a team filled with set, matured batsmen.
More than the working with national team it is the effort on emerging batsmen and fast bowlers that would be the real game changer for Indian cricket.
But to fine tune the system and get it cracking like a well-oiled machine, all the key personnel — selectors, coaches, head coach and even various state association office-bearers — need to be on the same page.
Now that’s easier said than done!