The national cap and its obsession these days

31 May 2010 by Mahendra Prasad in Cricket

Indian Cricket Cap

The ultimate dream of an aspiring, young cricketer is to book a place for himself in the national team. And the national cap is a proof of this. Indeed, the world population is increasing from time to time.

As a result, the number of people who wish to enter the world of cricket as players is increasing at an alarming rate. The top cricketing nations in the world want to continue to dominate so players, who have worked hard in domestic cricket, might easily get a call-up into the national team.

India, for instance, has emphasized on the importance of a mix of the young and old. Greg Chappell, the former India coach, started this tradition through the rotation policy in 2005, which allowed newcomers to prove their worth at the international level.

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Although Chappell’s tenure was forgettable in the history of Indian cricket, he could be given enough credit to have worked upon young players in order to win more matches for India in the future. RP Singh, for instance, earned his national cap in 2005 against Zimbabwe.

So did Suresh Raina, against Sri Lanka in the same year, at the time when the 2007 World Cup was just 18 months away and India was suffering a leadership crisis as well as team fighting.

These two players have turned out to be important for the Indian ODI team, and RP Singh is also a good Test match bowler. And since 2008, India has been giving away national caps to players than ever before. It is due to a phenomenon called the IPL.

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There are many examples in this case, such as Pragyan Ojha, who had an exceptional first year with the Deccan Chargers, considering his team’s poor performance. In the same season, Manpreet Gony, a talented fast bowler, did well to steer the Chennai Super Kings into the finals, which allowed Dhoni to pick him in the playing XI in the Asia Cup, soon after.

Ravindra Jadeja played a crucial role in helping the Rajasthan Royals win and this made Shane Warne, his captain recommend him to play for India. And his wish came true in February 2009 when Jadeja made his debut in Sri Lanka.

And recently, R Vinay Kumar of the Royal Challengers Bangalore also played a match in the World T-20, after a terrific IPL where he finished in the Top 5 wicket-takers category and a decent Ranji Trophy too.

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Abhimanyu Mithun also got his national cap in an ODI against South Africa in February 2010 when he ended as the highest wicket-taker in the Ranji Trophy last season.

It is not just India, even England are following the same method by keenly following county cricket. Jonathan Trott was picked first in 2007 after a fantastic season with Warwickshire as England were looking to build a strong team in all three formats of the game considering a poor Ashes series and an extremely disappointing World Cup campaign in the West Indies.

One of the toughest selections that England had ever made was for the Ashes series in 2005. A young, swashbuckling batsman named Kevin Pietersen was picked ahead of a far more experienced and reliable Graham Thorpe in the squad of 15.

Michael Vaughan and Duncan Fletcher believed that a youthful English side was all that they needed to beat a strong Australian team, and that proved to be correct.

The transition happened in one series where Ian Bell and Pietersen played memorable knocks to get the Ashes back in England after a long gap of 19 years. Thus, in a country like England, where soccer is followed passionately by many youngsters, the ECB is giving incentives by allowing young players to enter the cricketing fray, in order to make their careers in cricket and help England become a top nation in cricket in the long-run.

Australia and South Africa are ranked highly in all three formats of the game as they believe that it is through playing T-20 for the national side, that youngsters can be tested and then can make the cut in the ODI and the Test teams respectively.

The performances in the IPL and the KFC Big Bash are crucial criteria for selection. For example, Australia’s team which made it to the finals of the World T-20 in 2010 had many players who played first in the T-20 format and then the ODIS. David Warner, for instance, played for Australia first in a T-20 game against South Africa and he made a name for himself in the same match to qualify for playing in the ODIs.

Players like Daniel Christian and Steven Smith are established, young T-20 players who are trying to pave their way into the ODI team as well. Australia have a strong and an overall young bowling attack in ODIS which can help them rotate so that the best XI can be chosen in major World Events or in important series such as the Ashes.

South Africa too have players such as Rory Kleinveldt and Loots Bosman who are T-20 specialists and are bound to be in the ODI team if they perform well in T-20s and domestic cricket. David Miller, too had a good T-20 outing against West Indies recently, and as a result earned a call-up into the starting XI recently, with South Africa axing JP Duminy!

Other teams such as New Zealand and Sri Lanka already have a good amount of youngsters playing at the international level. So, giving away national caps doesn’t make sense, though they should be doing this wisely in the long-run, in order to rise in the ICC rankings.

Minnows such as West Indies, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh are not able to groom youngsters in order to mentally prepare them to play for their country.

Although the IPL and the Champions League has helped, yet their players are motivated my money and so would prefer playing more in such tournaments. And lastly, teams like Pakistan should be united enough to accept young blood in the side any further after the country has been suffering due to a callous administration, which has no interest in the welfare of the team.

Pakistani players also need to be taught that their country is more important to play for rather than themselves. It is only then that the meaning of giving out a national cap becomes more valid.

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