New Delhi: Move over hockey, it is time to make cricket India’s national game given the national team’s performance, former India captain Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi has suggested.
“It’s time that we make it (cricket) our national game and take that away from hockey,” Pataudi said.
Pataudi said the current team led by Mahendra Singh Dhoni is the best that the country has produced in a long time with all the players in peak form.
“We never had two opening batsmen. The middle-order is clicking. Zaheer (Khan) is back in form, Harbhajan (Singh) is disciplined, Yuvraj (Singh) is focussed and Ishant (Sharma) is a good bowler,” he added.
Dhoni’s men -- along with South Africa -- are in the reckoning to replace a struggling Australia as the top Test side and Pataudi said the numero uno spot can be India’s if it plays intense and consistent cricket.
“I was a bit disappointed with how India played in Mohali (during the Test series against England). If you have to be world champions, you have to play like world champions. Of course you can say it was a four-day match but Test matches have been won in four days. I think we let the Britishers off at Mohali.”
India won the two-Test series 1-0 by virtue of their triumph in the Chennai Test after the Mohali Test ended in a draw.
Another former captain Sourav Ganguly, said it would be “a bit too early” to rank Dhoni’s men as world’s number one team.
Ganguly said India had a very good team but the “real test” would come when they play abroad where the conditions are different.
Former Test skipper Abbas Ali Baig said what sets India apart from other cricket playing nations was its bench strength. He felt the team will not struggle to find replacements of greats like Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman.
Ganguly had a different view and said it would be difficult to replace these stalwarts.
“One must also realise that when people like Gavaskar and Vengsarkar went, the Dravids, Tendulkars and Gangulys came. So there will be replacements. In India, there is so much talent. But it will happen only with time. The young players should be given time to establish themselves and become match-winners,” he added.
Baig felt Dhoni’s inspirational leadership was instrumental in making India the cricketing force that it is right now.
“Dhoni’s captaincy has made a lot of difference. He is not reactive but proactive and keeps the team in rhythm,” he said.
Pataudi lauded the BCCI for taking the game to the grassroots level.
“I think the system has improved. Obviously it is not as we want it to be but the Board (BCCI) is making a conscious effort to provide facilities.”