Thursday, November 24, 2005

Pray, what about Balaji?

Such is the din created by the seemingly endless Sourav Ganguly saga, it has drowned out any other potential selection questions. I was watching a DVD of that historic series win in Pakistan in early 2004, and once again, it left me wondering why all of a sudden Lakshmipathy Balaji is out of the Indian squad and may be, even out of the reckoning. Not one commentator or media outlet has given much thought to this, and it just beats me. Balaji was superb right through that series and bowled like a dream in the first innings of the decider at Rawalpindi. Three of his four scalps were the result of fine swing bowling, the batsmen beaten fair and square in the process. Balaji has a natural out-swinger, which when used properly is also lethal against left-handers. He's also a disciplined bowler who doesn't seem to mind taking a big workload, a trait that was in evidence at Mohali early this calendar year in the drawn test, where he picked up nine. So what's gone wrong? Admittedly, there were issues with his action (nothing to do with the legality of it), but the word was put out that they were sorted out. He's also had his share of injuries and niggles, but then fit fast bowlers are a rare commodity these days. Besides, for a squad that is not exactly gifted in the fast bowling department with match-winners, Balaji is an asset. At the very least, there ought to have been an explanation for Balaji's exclusion from someone in the BCCI. Every 'stakeholder' (to use a term that Harsha Bhogle seems to prefer) in our cricket has been obsessed with Ganguly - will he, won't he? The BCCI and the selection committee have some explaining to do - if Ganguly's recent performances were indeed disappointing, as Kiran More was forthright enough to point out, why the U-turn now? If he wasn't good enough for the one-day side, he couldn't have suddenly become good enough for the test side (keeping in mind Sourav's record as a one-day player). So was it a decision that was prompted by the top echelons of the BCCI, in which case the selection is a farcical exercise? Why on earth should Ranbir Mahendra have weighed in with his opinions - completely out of turn - even before the selection process begun? People like Mahendra and Raj Singh Dungarpur, who have milked cricket enough to satisfy their egos, should have no place in the game, whatever else their contributions may have been. In any case, making a positive contribution to the cause of our game does not entitle anyone to a lifetime pass - everyone has an best-by date. That should apply in equal measure to Jagmohan Dalmiya and Sourav Ganguly. Dalmiya, N K P Salve and company did a fine job in raising the profile of India cricket and in showing the way to enriching the game by unleashing the commercial potential of cricket. Thanks Mr.Dalmiya, but we should really be saying good bye now. And Mr.Ganguly, however some may not like it, you're next (good luck for the series, though). - NK


Blogger Vikram A. said...

Nanda Kishore,

I had the same thoughts about Balaji. Agarkar bowled fairly well against Sri Lanka and RP Singh came onto the scene, so unless one of them falters, it will be tough to see Balaji coming back. He bowled exceptionally in Pakistan, and I hope he can find his way back


6:40 AM  
Blogger Michael Higgins said...

Hi Nanda
Are you sure Balaji is not injured? He isn't playing for Tamil Nadu in the Ranji match going on against Railways.

I would definitely pick Balaji over Agarkar for tests. I would pick any seemer over Agarkar in tests.

7:15 AM  
Blogger Deaths Head Roy said...

Its the usual suspect after all......good tamilnadu players....but the apathy continues.....from Raman to Balaji...there will be more....

7:24 AM  
Blogger anantha said...

Balaji seems to have been injured (if a side strain can be called that). This line is from a cricinfo round-up of first day's play of a set of Ranji games that started on November 23:
Earlier, Lakshmipathy Balaji pulled out of the match due to a side strain.
Incidentally that seems to be the same game that Balaji talked about here (subscription might be required)

8:42 AM  
Blogger Gameboys said...

Vikram: Yes, Agarkar and RP Singh did quite well against Sri Lanka, but why was Balaji dropped in the first place? Statistics don't always tell the story, but Agarkar has about 50-odd wickets at 46 each in test cricket. I hope he does some justice to the faith shown in him.

Michael: As anti has pointed out via the Outlook link, Balaji was slated to play that game (he was already out of the one-day squad by then). Even on the Zim tour, he was selected only for the one-day series, if I remember right. Bizarre, to say the least.

DHR: Not too sure about the conspiracy theory, but Balaji has certainly been hard done by.

anti: Thanks for the link. I read the same story in a newspaper.

- NK

1:49 AM  
Blogger Jagadish said...

Nice coincidence. I read the Railways-TN report in 'The Hindu' today and was wondering what happened to Balaji and why he wasn't playing in the game. If he is really injured, he better get himself sorted out soon.

When Pakistan toured here earlier this year, Woolmer felt that Balaji was more suited to tests than one-dayers since the balls he bowled were wider of off-stump, which meant he'd get clobbered in one-dayers. In tests, you're more likely to see them pass through to the keeper. That said, you won't get wickets if your ball goes through untouched to the keeper!

I think he certainly adds more value to a one-day unit than someone like Nehra, given that he can certainly bat and field better. I really did find it odd that he was dropped after playing one game in Sri Lanka. Come on, VB! Do your job :)

3:26 AM  

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