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