Youngsters infuse life into Indian team

Written by: S K Sham
Published: Friday, October 6, 2000, 16:00 [IST]
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The new-look Indian side now appears to be equipped, as well as it can, to take on the might of the reigning World Cup champions, Australia in the crucial match of the ICC Knock Out tournament on Saturday.

Win, we ought to, but should that not happen, it will certainly not diminish a rather optimistic outlook for the future of Indian cricket that has been initiated by a policy of propitiating young and budding talent at the right time.

The aficionados did not lay much store by India's victory over Kenya at Nairobi the other day, given the standing of the host country in world cricket, their occasional flourish and ability to spring a surprise notwithstanding.

The off-shoot of the bold policy of keeping out all those under investigation was that several youngsters got the opportunities of their lifetime to make it big. One cannot remember when it was last that more than half-a-dozen new-comers were inducted into the Indian team.

Three of them made their international debut straightaway and the skipper, as indeed the entire team, could not but have been pleased with the ultimate outcome.

Rightly can it be said that, after quite a few years of frustration for Indian cricket, that a bowling star was finally born in the form of Zaheer Khan. The Mumbai left-arm pace bowler, who opted to shift to Baroda to better his prospects of playing for the country, has arrived with a bang.

It is not just that he captured three wickets on his debut, but the way he bowled, and the pace he generated made almost everyone sit up and take note of the emergence of a bowling sensation.

Zaheer Khan, whose idol is former Pakistani captain and one of the greatest pace bowlers of all time, Wasim Akram, still has a lot of scope to add to his repertoire of deliveries. However, there can be no doubt that he has the makings of a pace bowler India has long been looking for.

Zaheer Khan is not the only youngster to impress at first sight. One also had a glimpse of Yuvraj Singh, the son of former international Yograj Singh.

The left-hander did not get an opportunity to bat, but the skipper did try him out as a bowler to test his potential as an all-rounder.

The outcome was all too satisfying. His aggressive style of batting has so far been confined to his outstanding performances in the under-19 World Cup, but there is no doubt that he is the right candidate to fill the slot of a genuine all-rounder lying vacant.

It is understood that the selector from the south T A Sekhar held tenaciously to the view that Robin Singh could not be left out of the squad, even as the other selectors had written him off. It was finally on a review that the aging all-rounder was picked.

Robin Singh's days, however, appear to be numbered. With the success of Yuvraj Singh, the one to be finally dropped will be the Tamil Nadu player, who has hardly been used as a bowler ever since Saurav Ganguly took over the reins of captaincy.

While it is always heartening to see the youngsters making the best of their opportunities, the return of a once "has-been" Vinod Kambli was equally so. Making his umpteenth comeback, in the manner of Mohinder Amarnath, Kambli batted with such freedom and fluency that one used to associate with this Mumbai left-hander when he was at the peak of his form.

Kambli's good form augurs well for the side's batting, which will have to be at its best and in its greatest of depths against the formidable Australian attack.

Whatever the outcome of India's match against Australia, the future of the rejuvenated Indian side will depend on the most important factor of the appointment of a foreign coach, which is already a subject of great debate.

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