Indian Cricket - Quo Vadis?

By Dilip Prabhudesai
28 August 2011 09:28 IST

The India-England series of 2011 has ended in a whitewash. India lost the series 4-0 and its pride 400-0. Such abject capitulation is rare in world cricket, especially when two of the top test teams battle it out.

But, then, we should have foreseen this. The series was hyped by the media as the one in which Sachin Tendulkar would score his 100th international hundred. The hype was as if nothing else that happened during the series would matter. And we, the “cricket” loving public swallowed this theory hook, line and sinker. I have a strong feeling the BCCI and its honchos began to think so too. It was as if the entire Indian squad was marshalled to tour England only so that the “God of cricket” could set another record. Who cared whether the other players were fit or not, or whether they had their heart in the game. As long as Sachin scored another ton, the world, or at least the Indian part of the world, cared a fig what transpired. Poor Rahul Dravid had probably not read the script very well. Sachin was supposed to score those tons, not he. And when, in the fourth test, Sachin got close to one, the great Sunil Gavaskar and Ravi Shastri could not speak about anything else. Though he had recovered some semblance of form, it was still a patchy innings and everybody, even the Indian players, seemed to lose interest in the cricket when he was dismissed for 91. It was as if there was a message from the dressing room “We are now wasting our time on the ground. Let’s get out and get going”.

This is not to belittle the great champion. Sachin Tendulkar is, without doubt, a great batsman, one of the best India has produced and one who can match his skills with any other from anywhere on the globe. But that cannot make him God. It is one of our national failings to put our heroes on pedestals that very soon transform into cages. Sachin, too, seems to have become a prisoner of his image. He might not be consciously playing for records, but the pressures created by his fans, the media and probably his business manager are taking their toll. Age is another factor – he is close to 40 – and this combination of reasons must be preventing him from playing his natural game and enjoying himself.

Indian cricket is definitely at the crossroads. Our best performers of the last few years have either come to or are coming to the end of their careers. Tendulkar, Dravid and Laxman must exit within a few matches of each other. The middle order void will seem bottomless. A few others seem to have burnt themselves out. The excesses caused by too much money in the game are taking their toll. Zaheer, Sehwag, Harbhajan and even Dhoni look like they have either lost interest or are carrying injuries that they do not want to admit. That does not leave us with too many out of a team of eleven. Raina is totally out of his depth, Sreesanth would be better off performing in a rock show, Yuvraj is Yuvraj (no compliment intended). Of the younger brigade only Gambhir and Ishant look the part. Maybe Mukund will pass the test. But there is not much more.

Drastic steps will have to be taken. Mindsets will have to be changed. Stars will have to be treated like players. A Sehwag will have to be really fit to play and the administrators should not take his word as a certificate. Even a Tendulkar will have to toe the line. Cricketers do need rest but then skipping a tour to the West Indies and opting to play in the IPL is wrong. The other way round would have been preferable, but then, as cricket lovers, we should also allow for the lure of lucre.

The absolute lack of sensitivity was demonstrated on television, when after play on the last disastrous day of the series, Harsha Bhogle’s laments about Indian cricket’s fall from grace were immediately followed by a garish Champion’s T20 League commercial. We should have been grateful for the channel’s thoughtfulness, they were obviously pointing to the reasons for the downfall. Or were they? Do those who should be doing something really care? Are they capable? As things stand, they do not instill any confidence. Our chief of selectors was at his best when he was asked the reasons for India’s poor showing. “The batting did not click for us. We also did not do well in bowling and fielding”. A profound analysis that. And when asked who is to be blamed for the terrible performance, he concluded “Nobody is to be blamed”. How much more can one take? But he went on “Let us not indulge in the blame game – on the players or the administrators or the BCCI”. So who does that leave? Maybe, we are to blame. Because we think that the Indian cricket team is meant to play cricket. Because we think that the players are supposed to reserve their best for the country. Because we think that we are not being taken for a ride. Because we think that T20 is a form of cricket. Because we think that the BCCI and its many minions care for cricket.

So let’s atone for our sins and hope that Indian cricket will turn a new leaf. It might happen, but that will be in spite of the BCCI and its skewed priorities. In spite of Srikkanth and his merry men who can only come up with gems like R P Singh, in spite of Gavaskar and Shastri who seem to be on every other BCCI committee and also on every other commentary team, in spite of N Srinivasan and his ilk who can be BCCI Secretary and also own a IPL franchise, not to forget the Pawars, Shuklas, Jaitleys, et al who think that politicians have a birthright in cricketing matters.

Maybe Indian cricket needs an Anna Hazare to cleanse the stables. He would be welcome but if we do get one, can we afford to make the mistake the country is making today? Will we need to make the cricketers’ Anna another God? Let us wish for an Anna to drive the corruption out of Indian cricket, but let us never pronounce “Anna is Cricket, Cricket is Anna”.

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Dilip Prabhudesai

An electrical engineer by profession and social activist by compulsion, loves the wild, dabbles in theatre, and is a cine buff.

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