Cricket Uncut

A group blog run by professional cricket writers from across the world

Thursday, March 24, 2005

A generational shift

I was just having an interesting chat at tea with Ramachandra Guha, the fine historian from Bangalore. He made an interesting point about Rahul Dravid.

"Dravid," he said, "is the only vice-captain in India's history who has never schemed for the captaincy." And in the same breath he added, "[Sachin] Tendulkar is the first Mumbai cricketer who is not parochial."

Well, I believe that it isn't just these individuals who are exceptions, but their generation that is different. And I think satellite television had everything to do with it. The generation of Indians who matured as cricketers after satellite television came into India, in the early 1990s, imbibed an entirely different set of values than the ones previous generations grew up with with. They watched teams like Australia and South Africa (at their pre-Cronjegate peak), and heard commentators like Richie Benaud expound upon the importance of things like professionalism, fitness, running between wickets, and so on. They watched Mark Taylor declare his innings when he was on 334 not out, they saw the athleticism of the top sides, they saw the pride for the Baggy Green that the Australians had, and it made an impact.

There used to be a cliched belief that Indians don't dive on the field because Indian grounds are hard. Well, the grounds haven't changed, but Indians have. Go to any under-19 match on any of the "hard" fields of India, and you'll see the players are harder, and without exception ready to dive. All young players work hard on fitness now, spending hours in the gym, and the pot-bellied Indian batsmen of the 1980s, the likes of Ashok Malhotra, would never get a look in today.

The change shows in more than just their cricketing skills and their fitness. The players of today aren't as parochial as before because their horizons are broader, and one reason for this is satellite television. Another possible reason is that many of these players have come from smaller towns, avoiding the cliques and prejudices that may form around lobbies based around the big cricketing centres.

One remarkable thing about the Indian team today, in fact, is that all the senior players are nice guys. Dravid, Tendulkar, Kumble, Laxman, even Ganguly when he is not being petulant, are good men, always willing to support each other, and whoever is captain. That is one way in which, perhaps, they truly are a seminal side.
amit varma, 3:09 PM| email this to a friend | permalink | homepage