Friday, August 22, 2003

"Bad Attitude" - A fine excuse to foist someone's preferences on the whole country! has posted this question by one of its readers in its Ask Mohandas Menon column. Read this.

"Question: Could you please give the statistical comparison of Sadagopan Ramesh, Sanjay Bangar, Shiv Sundar Das, Deep Dasgupta in Test cricket when they opened the Indian innings? Why was Ramesh is not selected even for the India 'A' tour?"

In response, Mohandas Menon, the official statistician of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (or whoever is ghost writing the responses to these questions) has a table with statistics. It had the stats of four players that the questioner had asked about. I have taken the liberty of adding one more player to this list whom I think is another valid choice for opener. That is Wasim Jaffer. I have also removed Deep Dasgupta from this list, because he does not figure in the list of 36 probables and his entry into the team is surely not possible in the light of the presence of two specialist wicket keepers, Ratra and Patel. Hence, I have below, a edited version of Rediff's table with Wasim Jaffer's stats added. It is to be noted that the stats are only for the opener's slot and these players may have scored more runs in other positions as the case may be.

SS Das23402132611034.89293
S Ramesh19371136714337.97283
SB Bangar81303277725.15-31
W Jaffer71302618620.07-3N/A

The other players that should be compared are Sehwag and Laxman. For different reasons, both of them have been omitted from this table. Sehwag, has publicly stated that "he is a middle order batsman". This, I think is enough hints (going by the past record of public statements from the Indian team and its management) that Sehwag will bat at a position lower than that of opener. Laxman on the other hand has said that he is ready to bat, regardless of his official position in the past, at the top of the order. So the positions of these two certainties to the Indian test team seems more or less certain. The other probables for the choice of openers are players who haven’t played any Test cricket at all. Going by the Indian team management's strategic moves in the last couple of months, an experiment with unknown faces at the top of the lineup is not apparent in the horizon. So as per my thoughts, it is going to be Laxman and one the two between Jaffer and Das.

But as the question and the list indicate, there is one other person whose records are either better or at best par with these two choices. But he does not figure in the 36 at all. At different points of time, reports indicate that he is "short of technique" and is loaded with "attitude problems". But haven't we heard these words before, more famously to describe another southpaw, who is slowly developing into the best captain India has ever had. To quote Partab Ramchand,

"But even as he ran up a Test average of 50 plus in his first half a dozen Tests, there were the cynics who pointed out to his faulty footwork and awry technique. Then there were the detractors who said he would never get runs away from the sub continent and he would come up a cropper against the Australian pace bowlers on the faster and bouncier pitches `Down Under.' Taking up the challenge, Ramesh proved that he could get runs in any conditions and while he did not exactly set the Yarra River on fire, he did enough to show that he is here to stay. He and Shiv Sundar Das have the makings of a long term opening pair for the country."

Partab Ramchand may not be the best judge of a cricketer, but those words can be corroborated with the numbers from the table that’s has been featured above. After a lay off from cricket due to a back injury which forced him out of even being considered for the infamous 2001 South African tour, he was rankled by a bad run of scores. But he is back in form. The Hindu reports (Google cache of the article titled 'Ramesh's omission surprising') that among his string of three figure scores this season in the Chennai first division league is a record unbeaten 307. The Chennai league is reputedly the best in the country and the best of the country (Dravid, Srinath et. al) regularly play for First Division teams in Chennai. Hence it is certain that the man has regained his form. So why keep him out? The coach, at different points of time in the last two years, has offered some words of consolation, but words are often not enough to mollify the hurt of such magnitude. Will something change or will Ramesh still be the "Afghan of Indian Cricket". Fifteen months after my initial thoughts, I have still not lost hope. I hope this is the case with Ramesh too.

QOTD: "He has to take it in a sportive manner." - Indian coach, John Wright commenting about the no-show of S.Ramesh in the list of probables

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