Sachin Tendulkar has highlighted factors beyond statistics, particularly the skill to absorb pressure, as vital indicators of fresh talent. Former India captains Sourav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid and GR Viswanath were in agreement with Tendulkar, during a discussion on the ingredients that make a good cricketer, at an event to commemorate the platinum jubilee of the Karnataka State Cricket Association in Bangalore on Saturday.
“It’s about vision,” Tendulkar said. “When it comes to selection, one has to analyse a player. Even if he fails in a few matches, one needs to see if he has the ability to withstand pressure and execute at the international level. I have seen players who are exceptionally good at the domestic level not being able to perform as well in international cricket.”
That’s a scenario that is not entirely unfamiliar to Karnataka. From dominating the Ranji Trophy in the late nineties, capped with three titles in four seasons from 1995-96 to 1998-99, and at one time boasting six players from the region on the Test side, Karnataka have had no new representatives at the highest level since Vinay Kumar’s only Test in January 2012 – though Stuart Binny is currently with the A side on tour in South Africa.
Dravid, the last Karnataka regular in the Test side, identified experience and a desire to learn as remedies to bridge the gap between domestic and international cricket. “Hitting it off the middle in the nets is well and good, but it’s different out in the field and under pressure,” he said. “Watching the seniors helps. Sachin and Laxman and Sourav, the way they approach the game, the kind of shots they play, the kind of shots they don’t play, the way they build an innings …”
Viswanath continued in the same vein, saying hard work is an ally to talent. “When you look at four or five players, there will be somebody a little better [than the others]. But you can’t just sit on your talent,” he said. “You have to practice. You have to learn from your seniors. You have to keep working hard. Even Sachin did not become who he is overnight and I’m sure he is still working hard to stay on top of his game.”
Ganguly, though, was swift to point out that every player, while picking the brains of his seniors, must trust in his own style of play and be careful not to copy another’s game. “No two players’ techniques are the same,” he said. “It’s all about the basics, going back and going forward.”
Dravid agreed: “Individuality is important. Everyone has unique skills. You need to build on your game and keep improving. I was never going to succeed if I batted like Sehwag.”
The mantle of teacher need not necessarily be limited to one’s seniors, Anil Kumble, the current KSCA president, suggested. He said he considered himself fortunate for having high-quality players of spin in his dressing room. “Bowling against Tendulkar, Ganguly, Sehwag, and Mohammad Azharuddin was a great education for me,” he said.
Video footage is another useful tool for a young player, the panel indicated, which had not been available before. Tendulkar remembered his debut series against Pakistan in 1989, when practice sessions were not as organised. “Now we have laptops which provide direct access [to match footage] within seconds to help plan better,” he said.
Though far from perfect, as evidenced in the recent Ashes series, Bishan Bedi believes the DRS is here to stay. “In due time it will improve and everything will fall into place,” he said. “Cricketers of the modern generation could also help eradicate umpiring blunders by being honest with themselves.”
“I see a lot more shots in Tests. We are getting more results,” Ganguly said, when the conversation turned to Twenty20 cricket. “Scores of 350, 400 in ODIs. There has been innovation in the game, no doubt.”
“Captains are also being creative,” Tendulkar added. “They are taking more chances [even if it means] going for runs and trying to get wickets with the ball.”
But the fundamentals for success in the longer format still apply, Dravid said: “If you look at Chris Gayle, Michael Hussey, AB de Villiers, they are all very good players in Tests. It is easier for a player with good basics to adapt to T20, but it rarely happens the other way around.”