Saturday, May 06, 2006

Venugopal Rao : Don't we have a better batsman

Normally I do not write about cricket, as many of my readers are not aware of this game that is followed like an alternate religion in the Indian sub-continent. But this time I could not stop myself from expressing. I had undergone the painful experience of watching India-A losing the final of Eurasia Cup Cricket championship to Pakistan-A last night at Abu Dhabi. The teams were almost equals with the only difference is the one guy who was incidentally the captain of India A team. It is the guy named Venugopal Rao. When the asking rate was almost 6 from the beginning, he continued to bat as painstakingly as possible to notch up 69 runs from 99 balls. The 30 balls he consumed pushed the required rate to beyond 10 and reach of others when he got out. Never ever for a moment he showed any aggressive intent to take the bull by horn. He looked so natural blocking balls. The commentators were virtually pleading him to hit the ball or at least try to hit the ball. And the selectors had chosen this man to lead the side. In contrast, Hasan Raza, the Pakistani captain cracked a fine hundred fighting cramps. Don’t we have a better second line batsman in India then this Venugopal Rao?

I was amazed at the opportunities this man has got at international level. What potential selectors have seen in him is not understood. This is his stats in ODIs for India –

Matches: 15 Runs: 207 Avg: 25.87 Fifties:1 Hundreds: Nil Ducks: 2 Highest:61*

The highest score has also came in the recently concluded Indo – Pak ODI series at Abu Dhabi (April 2006). So in the 13 matches before April, 2006, his highest score had been only 38. And the selectors still continued with him while keeping stalwarts like Ganguly and Laxman out. I wonder whose pawn is he? It is not only talent, but other things also helps you a place in team. Think about the money a player gets to paly in an ODI -- it is Rs.1.6 lakh or so. He was the first choice over Suresh Raina. But Raina grabbed the opportunities he got and has made it to the Team India as a potential match winner. Yet Venugopal Rao continued to get opportunities, mostly as a replacement for injured Sachin. What a pity! And the result was there to see for everyone last night.

The only bright spot of the night was the seven ball innings of a youngster named Rohit Sharma. By the time he was in, the required rate has gone above 10. He thrashed Moortaza, the Pakistani leg spinner for 14 runs in one over, that included a majestic square drive for four and a towering six over long-off. This was the same bowler whom Venugopal Rao found hard to even score singles. Rohit Sharma had scored one hundred and two fifties. When he came in to bat, Rameez Raja simply said that he is a class apart from others. He indeed looked so in his brief stay of just seven balls. The confidence, the footwork and the class in his shots a must have catch the fancy of many eyes. May be he is the next Sachin in the making. So guys keep a watch for this guy.

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