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Friday, August 12, 2011

Indian cricket - Beginning of the End

It might be early to herald the demise of Indian cricket, with three days to go in the ongoing 3rd test match against England. But, that is inevitable looking at the performance of the two teams in the test match - other than half a session when MS Dhoni and Praveen Kumar were fighting back against the English attack, the Indian team has been listless throughout. The Indian team resembles a boxer who has lost two close rounds and has run completely out of steam in the third. The team seems to be going through the motions, just waiting for wickets to fall by chance.

Noted commentator, Henry Blofeld, explains in his own way India's fall from grace. Sachin & Co. have not done well in the series so far while the juniors also have not put their hands up. Can we blame the younger players like Abhinav Mukund, Suresh Raina? No, for they have never had a chance to work on pitches and conditions like these, let alone a team like England at their prime. The current Indian team is a mirror reflection of the English team that toured India in 1992-93 (which was comprehensively beaten 3-0 by Anil Kumble and gang). England should prove themselves on the sub-continent to prove that they can stay on top for a longer period but that is a story for another day.

Harsha Bhogle, meanwhile, talks about three players (Harbhajan, Yuvraj and Zaheer) who are at crossroads. But the problem is not limited to these 3 alone - where is the next generation players and what are the opportunities provided to them? An odd tour to Australia for the Emerging Tournament is what one sees regularly - where is the once famous 'A' tours? Why is BCCI not arranging them? Is it because there is no money to be made there?

The Indians were lucky in many ways to reach the pinnacle in test cricket as well as the World Cup win in ODIs. None of this was achieved by strategic planning by the BCCI. Gary Kirsten, MSD and other senior players planned the triumphs despite the bureaucratic organization that runs the sport. The fact that the ODI World Cup was played in the sub-continent meant that strengthening the batting department was a sure-shot path for success.

Similarly, the test team saw the nucleus remain the same for a long period without any planning for injuries or illnesses (I am not even talking about the retirement of the 3 stars in the Indian lineup). Sourav Ganguly has retired for quite a while now but his replacement position has been filled by Yuvraj, Raina, Pujara. During the current series, Sehwag and Gambhir (for 2nd test) were not available and what did the Indian team do? Go back to Rahul Dravid and the young batsman with no experience of these conditions.

Are there any others on the horizon we can look at?

  • In the opening department, other than Murali Vijay and Mukund, Ajinkya Rahane is the only other name that comes to mind. 3 names from a two-tier Ranji format - does it not say loudly that there is something drastically wrong here? 
  • Similarly, in the middle-order, there is (as Harsha says, a coalition group of ministers) Cheteshwara Pujara, Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma other than Raina. How many of these can stand up and say confidently that they can face the 90mph pace with ease? Look at Manish Pandey - a youngster who showed his talent in one Ranji season but the IPL bandwagon make his head spin around and go on journeys where money mattered more than everything else.
  • The wicket-keeping duties when MSD is not available is being rotated between W Saha and Parthiv Patel. Dinesh Karthik has fallen away in form and hence not on the nearest horizon.
  • During the last series against South Africa, J Unadkat and U Yadav were among the trio of bowlers on tour. Today, they are in Australia playing the Emerging Tournament along with Vinay Kumar and Varun Aaron. Where is Ashish Nehra who had mentioned that he would be available for test matches after World Cup was over? RP Singh was not deemed suitable for the Emerging Tournament but gets called when Zak is ruled out of the series.
  • The spin department shows similarly lack of riches - what happened to the Spin Academy that was launched by the BCCI? Why are we going back to Harbhajan for all overseas tours? If there is no one else suitable, why not go back to the good old Murali Karthik
After this series, the Windies will tour India (possibly without Gayle again) and get beaten comprehensively in Indian conditions. All the outpour of today will be forgotten till the next overseas tour - this case, the Australian sojourn. No point in blaming the new coach Duncan Fletcher and captain MS Dhoni - it is the BCCI who has to show some sense in planning for the future. Will the BCCI consultants, Ravi Shastri and Sunil Gavaskar, stand up and do something for the country or are they happy to pocket the crores given by the organization?      
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