.html> sam's terrain: cricket news, views and controversies

So he was lying all along...

One thing can be inferred from Sachin Tendulkar's outburst about the team he has been asked to lead in the Asia Cup: the man has been lying all along. He said it was a B-grade team and that he could not lie any more; this means that he is admitting to lying about such matters all along. Frankly, it does not do him any credit, this kind of outburst, not unless he turns it around and makes it serve a constructive purpose.

There is an element of cunning to it; he made the comments to a vernacular paper, one from West Bengal, so that he could always deny them and say he had been misquoted. A man speaks in Hindi to a Bengali reporter and the remarks are then published in Bengali; the gooey stuff hits the ceiling only when his comments are translated into English and appear in the English papers. The chance of a misquote is, thus, always present and if Sachin wants to get away scot-free he can always blame it on an "irresponsible" journalist. People have done this in the past and will do so in the future too.

There are two options open to him after his bravado: stick it out for the team he wants or else refuse to lead. If that means he stands the risk of being omitted himself, he has to take the risk. He has to put his reputation where he put his mouth and if he has chosen to question the decisions taken at a closed-door selection meeting, then he has to follow it up with some equally brave actions. Else, it will be taken as just so much hot air from a youngster and the next time he says anything it will be the proverbial water off the duck's back. Like the boy who cried wolf.

What the chairman of selectors will tell Tendulkar when they meet is not possible to predict but knowing Indian officials, I have no doubt that they will try to evolve a means whereby everybody comes out looking as though it was a storm in a teacup. This approach, that of smoothing everything over, is historically a mechanism of the East and it is the one which is employed even today. But if Tendulkar is in a militant mood and wants to ram home what he sees as his advantage, then things could just get a bit difficult.

I can't see the board deciding to drop him. There would be too much of an outcry and the possibility of a boycott may even arise. That is if players want to ensure that zonal politicis are not the prime criterion for team selection in future. Of course, the possibility does exist that everyone will want to save his own skin even in the event that Tendulkar is dropped; money is the sole motivating factor for the Indian cricketer and the only kind of principles they are aware of are the type one finds in schools (with a different spelling, of course, though some of them would not know the difference).

One captain who did stick it out for his players was Clive Lloyd; when Haynes, Austin and Murray were dropped from the team for the second Test against Simpson's Australians, Lloyd questioned the omission of the trio. When there was no satisfactory reply -- they had been dropped because they had signed up for Packer -- Lloyd resigned the captaincy. The respect he enjoyed was so great that within hours every other member of the team, sans the turncoats like Alvin Kallicharran, had pulled out as well. There are two things to be borne in mind here -- Lloyd was by then a very senior cricketer, mature and had his head placed right on his shoulders. And, more importantly, there was a principle at stake: the West Indies board had come to an agreement with the players about their participation in World Series Cricket. This had been broken.

Tendulkar is a young chap; the captaincy is already proving to be something of a millstone round his neck. He hasn't even been captain for a year and already his performance is under the microscope. The selectors made him aware of this recently when they met without him to select the squad of 27 and then named him captain until the end of September. That means he is still on trial. And it is not a situation he particularly likes. He has to put up with players he has not even heard of being selected -- Noel David is a classic case -- and then he is expected to win and win and win.

The other side of the coin is something he would not like to contemplate. Let's assume he is dropped and the captaincy given to Kumble. The leg-spinner has shown much more maturity than Sachin and it is unlikely that he will ever get into a situation like this. Kumble is young enough to hold the captaincy long enough to put Sachin out of the reckoning altogether. After him, there is the talented and steady Rahul Dravid who can definitely stake a claim. Tendulkar's days as captain would be over if he loses it now. The captaincy of the Indian team is something he would not like to lose in a hurry.

The truth is, he was elevated too early. Somebody else could have served as a stop-gap captain for three or four years, until Tendulkar was mature enough to take the reins. The West Indies selectors are not the brightest of folks but they did realise that putting the talented Brian Lara in charge after Richardson could well have ruined his career and also spoilt things for the team; he needed a few years to settle. Walsh was elevated and this is clearly only for a few years until Lara takes over. A similar thing could have been done in India. But it is too late to contemplate such a scenario. Things were done in indecent haste. And when they are done in a hurry, somebody always has to pay a price.

previous reportnext report