Sports tend to bring out the issue of comparisons. In India, discussions on cricket are among the prime debating topics at most of the gatherings.
The latest issue to take the centrestage is the comparison between Kapil Dev’s Daredevils and the dashing young side of M. S. Dhoni.
Both have achieved the distinction of winning the World Cup, one as a rank outsider and the other as one of the tournament favourites. I was asked by a journalist as to which side I would have liked to be a part of, my reply was the 1983 side as it was the first to win a major title. The Indian side, which won the World series in 1985, under the captaincy of Sunil Gavaskar, was to me, the best one- day side that India has ever fielded. It had the match winners of the 1983 world cup team and the spinners to add to the extra advantage.
Comparing cricketers from different eras is futile. This is normally done by enthusiasts who love analytics. How can one ever gauge the contribution of cricketers over 136 years of International cricket and decide the best World XI or the greatest Indian cricketer, bowler, batsmen or fielder since 1932.
The rules, conditions, equipment and laws have changed over the time and the only way that one can analyse performances is during a period when the playing conditions are similar.
Maybe every decade.
One day cricket started with 60 overs a side with no major restrictions. This was changed to suit the tropical conditions and laws have changed time and again since then. How can one, therefore, make a comparison in terms of runs scored, averages or wickets taken? Indian cricket has had some phenomenal cricketers. There were many of them who were the shining stars of a nation still learning the skill and art of playing the game of cricket as professionals.
Indian cricket till early 1990s was a game for amateurs. Comparing the contribution of the present team and the individuals to the past would be like comparing chalk to cheese. One can never come to a conclusion as to who was the best Indian opening batsman, bowler, allrounder or team as the conditions have been so different for any analysis.
Dhoni does shine out as a captain, but so did Ganguly and Dravid in Test cricket in the last two decades. India has over the years become a formidable side in one- day cricket and a series of matches at home has made them the No. 1 Test side as well.
The game of cricket is a five-day affair and till India does not establish itself as a Test team that can conquer their opponents overseas, there will always be a question mark on their status.
India has all the cricket trophies on their mantelpiece. Indian cricket is now producing world- class players by a dozen. Kapil or Dhoni, both wonderful innovative carefree players and instinctive captains and thank God they are both Indians!
(The writer is a former Test cricketer)