Raw talented cricketers are a rare breed amongst a growing garland of professional cricketers. They lie beneath the soil; eagerly trying to protrude out, but more often than not they go unnoticed or stamped upon. They don’t carry a bagful of wickets nor do they have the backing of hefty runs, but they are prodiges of highly specialized skills and technique.
There is this Tasmanian player in recent times who has amazed me with such immaculate batting skill, technique and temperament. He never had the backing of batting average (a mere 39) to earn the prestigious baggy green. He took the green field not having managed to even score a half-century in his last six first class matches. I thought he was about to see the worse. He took guard; his team was crumbling; he is waiting at the other end; he is facing the most lethal bowling attack of the current generation at the most gifted bouncy and fastest cricketing track- the Gabba. For Ed Cowan, it was not just another innings, but a realization of a dream. My heart waited in desperation for a wicket to fall, so that I could see Mike Hussey play a majestic innings, but Cowan’s batting made my heart pump as I was taken aback by his strokeplay. I pushed myself back to the armchair to enjoy that hundred.
I remember Sanjay Manjrekar quoting “If a selector is going to only pick top run-getter and wicket-takers all the time, a computer can do his job”. The difference between ordinary professional cricketers and raw talented ones is very simple. The former becomes a liability while the latter cements themselves as assets. These raw talents have to be molded, handled with extreme craftsmanship and nurtured.
This is where the selection panel and the coach have to take extra responsibility for picking up the purest form of cricketers. It does not end there, but the road ahead have to be laid which is smooth, packed with rattling experiences, unforgettable exposures and bundled together as a complete package before he makes his debut for the national team. If you are going to keep waiting for a 18 or 19 year old to make 50 first class appearances, see if he averages above 55 or a bowling average of under 23 then, you will have to probably keep waiting and see his talent vanish in thin air.
There has to be a broadening view and rational approach in managing such talented cricketers. The best way to start is to develop a pool of such raw talent. They will have to be exposed regularly to high quality first class cricket by consistently making the cut to their respective domestic teams. Their short failures have to corrected and not ignored. Allow them to battle for a test cap. Only then there will be a competition. Rather than easily picking the top scorers or top wicket takers, it is nice to have a headache on whom to choose amongst the pool of such raw talented cricketers.
There will be certain players who would just score 30-40 odd runs or bowl long spells only to be denied by lack of wickets. But the skill, technique and application involved will astonish everyone. It is only then we realize that we have had a glimpse of raw talent. They need extreme care and efficient man-management to meet the international standards. But once you have laid the groundwork and ensured they take guard at the international stage, the reward is handsome.
It is very sad to see that India, in recent times, has produced more overrated cricketers and underachievers and at the same time there is an increasing count of underrated cricketers as well. Winning at home and thereby burying the humiliation of overseas defeats is not the way forward, but the way backwards toward progress. It is high time that Indian cricket go on a quest for hunting such raw talented cricketers, so that a well deserving #1 ranking no longer remains a far sighted one.
PS: I am deeply disappointed with the words such as “hatred” and “revenge” being littered throughout the way. Yes, cricket is not just a sport for millions, but will always remain as a battle only between bat and ball.