Tuesday, July 19, 2005

ALLROUNDERS IN INDIAN CRICKET

Read with interest the lament on the lack of allrounders in Indian cricket(Wisden Asia Cricket, June 2005-'Whatever Happened to the Indian allrounder?') In the history of the game there have never been instances of quality allrounders purveying in large numbers; always it has been a case of few genuine players who could bat and bowl with authority and become match winners. Indian cricket is not blessed on this count, especially after Kapil Dev and Ravi Shastri. Manoj Prabhakar was the last of this category of unique players. He was a genuine allrounder in more ways than one! Of course, the other test playing nations have been blessed either. England have the services of Flintoff long after Botham became a regular before the microphone. Australia had the services of Steve Waugh for a while before he relinquished bowling. New Zealand had Richard Hadlee and then Chris Cairns. The all conquering West Indies teams of the 1980's did not possess quality all-rounders. It is Pakistan who are somewhat lucky to have players like Abdul or Abdur Razzaq to inherit the slot vacated by Imran Khan. Right now, South Africa have Jacques Kallis. Of course, there is a long way to go for the present generation to be compared with the likes of Kapil and Imran. I have a simple argument on the dearth of allrounders in general and in particular on the Indian scene. It is the batsmen who always hog the limelight and with the heroics of Sachin, Rahul etc., everyone budding cricketer dreams of making it big with the bat. Now we have allrounders of the quality of Yuvraj and Dinesh Mongia whose bowling shall not cause any alarms even to players like me. The young cricketers of today might never have gone through the exploits of greats like Kapil, Vinoo Mankad, Salim Durrani, the father and son duo of Lala Amarnath and Mohinder Amarnath etc. All they are good about is to think of becoming a good batsman. The young players start with the aspirations of being allrounders but then the physical stresses and strains put an end to them. Also, the present trend of instant gratification in every walk of life has deterred young players from taking the hard route to mastering the trade of an allrounder.. It is the lack of a fast bowling all-rounder that is often the difference between India winning or losing. The victory of India in the world cup of 1983 was not due to the batsmen or the bowlers, but because of all-rounders. It were the bowlers like Roger Binny, Madan Lal who were instrumental in Kapil going to 175 not out against Zimbabwe after being reduced to 17 for 5. It was Jimmy Amarnath who got important wickets in the finals and the semi-finals and also excelled with the bat. It is difficult for the youngsters since they have no role model to idolise and become good all-rounders. Kapil Dev was a freak in more ways than one. He was a fast bowler from the land of the Guptes, Bedi, Chandrasekhar, Prasanna, Venkataraghavan etc. Secondly, he could win a match either with the bat or with the ball. Thirdly, he was a good fielder at a time when Indian players in general were averse to run after the ball or stop the ball. All we now have is VVS Laxman improving his bowling skills to fill the vacant all-rounder slot at least in the one-day squad.

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