As the Indian team begins arguably their most difficult tour of the late nineties, the questions on most Indian fans' lips are:
1. Will Sachin Tendulkar provide the same entertainment as he did in the previous series played in India ?
2. Will Azharuddin, not considered for selection be missed in the middle order ?
Now both these questions can be answered by any cricket fan worth his salt. Sachin Tendulkar was never able to produce the magic of the home tour series against Warne and company in 1998 and we definitely missed Mohammad Azharuuddin in the middle order.
Sachin's failure - and let me add here that I am going by his lofty standards - was due to the extra burden of captaincy he was carrying on himself. There was also the eagerness to prove to an adoring Aussie public that he was indeed the second Don in stroke production.
From the first test when he battled on a perfect Adelaide pitch to score at a decent pace until the last test in Sydney, he was unduly cautious. He seemed to restrain his free ... stroke playing nature, the fear of getting out having got to him for the first time in his career. Why? The only reason is the lack of any experience in the middle and later order to set things right if the seniors failed.
In between however, he scored a marvellous hundred at Melbourne and was sadly thrice given out LBW in the series - all poor umpiring decisions.
The pathetic performance by our openers except for that fantastic innings by Laxman when all was lost in the final test added to the pressure and somehow Sachin was not playing at his best. The failure of Rahul and Saurav in the tests also added to the misery of the Indian fan especially those in Australia who looked forward to a closely fought series.
The second question is also an easy one. Was Azhar missed? Of course he was. People may quote tons of statistics to prove that Azhar was not performing that well off late but the fact remains that he is streets ahead of Kanitkar and Bharadwaj as a test match batsman and would have certainly made the Aussies think. Kanitkar and Bharadwaj's wickets were gained without much thought or effort.
When the one-day series started, based on the disgraceful performance of our young brigade of batsmen, the selectors had the ideal opportunity to set things right and send reinforcements in the form of Ajay Jadeja and Azharuddin but it didn't happen. The result was a sound thrashing in seven of the eight games. The only win was due to a great one day hundred against Pakistan in Adelaide by Ganguly.
On returning to India, Sachin has spoken his mind and asked for the youth policy to be continued. My suggestion is play Azhar now, he may not be fit
Our team will continue to flounder until some new talent is found. Sadly the present bunch of rookies who toured Australia aren't good enough.
One final question to the selectors and people who make decisions in the Board - what in the world was Ajay Jadeja doing in Rajkot, Hyderabad, and other Indian locations, playing in domestic one-day competitions when the Indian team was making a fool of themselves Down Under?
Hopefully my answer will be received in the form of Jadeja's selection in the side for the matches against South Africa beginning shortly in India. The good news for the team is that a series win against them will completely wipe out the horrendous memories of the Millennium Tour in Australia. How easy it is to win back the adulation of the totally gullible Indian public! Read more
- Arjun Raja in Dubai, UAE
February 3, 2000
The views of this column are the author's own, and do not necessarily represent the views of NRI Online.
For a listing of past columns by Arjun Raja, please Know more.
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