Two Prodigals and Three Shooting Stars!
Quite contrasting two guys who went about their business and the three stars that appeared on the horizon, hope the selectors dont mess with them to let them fade away.....
When Rahul Dravid was made to make way for younger generation in the Indian ODI side, he rarely said a word. But there was no other arena for the same format for him to prove his worth. So he remained outside the ODI side (barring an odd selection in between when the middle order was failing against the bouncing ball). He was the captain of the Indian side when he and his three other senior members of the team, Tendulkar, Ganguly and Kumble, dropped out of the T20 World Cup side letting MS Dhoni and a few youngsters go on to create history and build a strong foundation for future success.
But when Rahul Dravid was turned away from his dear home side, Bangalore for IPL4, many eye brows were raised, many fans, fanatic fans and even die-hard fans left the shores of Royal Challenge. They had flown with the Wall to support a team that is coincidentally owned by a Kannaditi (Shilpa Shetty). Indeed, they could not fathom the possibility of seeing a Bangalore side without their hero in it. Of course, the side had also lost many other key players and had retained only Kohli and Mithun.
Knowing his worth, Shane Warne led Rajasthan team management smartly picked the Wall to be an able ally to the marauding Shane Watson. And by playing some memorable and solid knocks of 30s and 40s, Rahul Dravid has let his bat do all the talking, of how valuable he is for any team, and in any version of the game. Wish there was an IPL like event in 50 overs cricket, we would have seen what this ever so young and ever so fit Mr Reliable could have done. Well, when we have Vengsarkar like thinkers for Indian cricket, we will have to see sacrificial lambs like Dravid.
While one gem moved away from RCB, another came in, through perhaps the side door. Chris Gayle hadnt performed to his billing in the recent world cup for his country and together with Chanderpaul and Sarwan, Gayle was looking like a mini dust storm that would cause only a minor eye irritation than any useful rain. It appeared as if the senior 3 were still on the negotiation table with the WICB when they were out there in the middle in Caribbean colours. Well, only them and the WICB knows the reality of why they were not enthusiastic in their game, but another management, of RCB, thanks to a timely injury to Dirk Nannes, roped him in with open arms. What has happened after that, I dont need to write. All have seen how Gayle can bat and demolish opposition. One country's loss is another club's gain - havent we seen it in the last football world cup as well?
So, the story of two prodigals goes thus. One left the shores and proved that he still has a lot to offer and another who came in and proved that if he wants, he can, so better pay him well!
My article wont be complete unless I speak about the 3 shooting stars in this IPL too - some young and fascinating domestic stars in this IPL.
One man, was forgotten for a few years by his state side Mumbai, but when his colleague (Abhishek Nayar) was picked at auctions by the Punjab side, he duly recommended this man from the domestic player category. Paul Valthaty has joined quite a few bhangra moments for Punjab since then, brought innumerable dimple-smile moments for the pretty owner, and during this IPL has proudly worn that Orange Cap at some time. His opening flurry of strokes made his team forget quite a few failures at the top for his captain, who finally broke his shackles and came into his own groove, against the Bengalooru boys at that most scenic ground of the hills, Dharamsala. Quite a shooting star he has been, Paul Chandrashekar Valthaty.
The second one actually traveled away from the Bhangra land to the second IPL franchise from Maharashtra. Well, before he could know that his international mentor Adam Gilchrist was actually getting the reins of his own state IPL side (Punjab), Rahul Sharma had been snapped up by his statemate, Yuvraj Singh for Pune. Rahul Sharma's fight against his sudden illness to his right eye is just another story of a youngster's grit and determination, but the figures of 2 for 7 in 4 overs for any bowler, leave alone spinner, and that too against a formidable opponent, is an achievement par excellence. Rahul Sharma is the second shooting star of this IPL.
Then, back to our own RCB. During the auction, two left arm fast bowlers were picked, one India's everloved hero Zaheer and the second, a proven success for Delhi last year, and the one who has turned out for two international sides, Netherlands and Australia, Dirk Nannes. With a left handed spinner given the mantle of captaincy, making a mention of another left hander could make the talk quite boring. But not when one mentions Sreenath Aravind. The team had let Vinay Kumar go to Kochi, but it had still retained Abhimanyu Mithun in the auctions and as the third pacer in Karnataka's domestic attack, Aravind's name was not much heard by the nation earlier. But the way he has bowled during this IPL, even when the better known Zaheer and his gang was carted around the park, was very memorable.
One is a dashing opener, second a left arm pace bowler and the third, a magical leg spinner. What more do we need? Well, we only need some thinking on the part of India's selectors to give these youngsters an opportunity when they are at their peak. Else, it will be a story of the Ashwins not getting much opportunity to showcase their talents at the right time in India colours. Or it will be like the story of Piyush Chawla, who was not picked for 2007 world cup when he was in his prime (rather, Amit Mishra was taken), but was chosen for the next world cup 4 years later (when actually Mishra and even Pragyan Ozha were better spinners). Or, just the way how a Badrinath is getting a chance after so many years and past his prime, or the way how an energetic fast bowler like Mithun is taken to the docile pitches of Sri Lanka (where he did not disappoint) but misses the bus to a fast bowler friendly South Africa.... the stories of ifs, buts and the misses go on in Indian cricket.
We only hope that the selectors dont use this queuing theory further (in which, a Badrinath gets a chance now, for being in top of the queue for 4-5 years!), hope that they dont continue to have the Harbhajan/Zaheer obsession for long and count the current form of younger players for international selection and consistent opportunity. I had hoped that they would rest more seniors for the tour to the Caribbean, (especially Harbhajan and take a young spinner like Rahul Sharma in his place), but that was not to be.
Let us see if, and when, these shooting stars shine at the international arena, or if the prodigals return back to their origins!