Sunday, August 21, 2011

Dead Man Walking – the Indian cricket version

It hurts.
The last time I felt like this was when India were knocked out of the 2007 World Cup in the first round itself.
This time, the pain is worse. Watching your team lose its number 1 ranking is never a pleasant thing, but the manner in which they lost it is the most galling. Its hard to come on Twitter or read any news related to the on-going series because of this. A lot of people have been waiting for India’s reign to end, and now that it has happened, they are in what can only be known as ‘orgasmic’ delight.
The much vaunted batting line up has failed to fire. The bowlers have been inconsistent. The fielding has been in shambles. The players look disinterested in the field. Every other day, a player gets injured. All in all, it has been one of the most depressing and soul sapping tours for an Indian cricket fan, let alone an Indian player.
There is still some light at the end of the tunnel. When England got whitewashed in the 2006 Ashes in Australia, the ECB reviewed what went wrong and took some steps, which has ultimately resulted in their team being crowned as Number 1, 5 years down the line. Even Australia have taken some dramatic steps based on the Argus review of their disastrous Ashes performance recently. While it would be too much to expect the same from the Indian board, I hope that they keep aside their obsession with money for just a while, and take some important and necessary steps towards correcting the inherent flaws present in the system, which is preventing the Indian team from being better than they can actually be. There is no shortage of well meaning former players and other experts with intelligent suggestions; hopefully, the BCCI will take heed.
For what its worth, here are some ideas:
  • Appoint someone like Anil Kumble or any other respected former player to review what went wrong with the same team that fought better when they toured Australia and South Africa; and implement the suggestions.
  • Something which has been repeated ad nauseum – we need more practice games when we tour abroad. We just can’t afford to start slow everytime we play an away series.
  • There is no dearth of talented players in the country, and many of them seem to do well, when they play A tours or other Emerging Players tournaments; but when they make the leap to the international arena, they are being found short. Its not only about the cricketing skills; players need to be mentally ready when they make their debuts. This is where senior players like Tendulkar, Dravid and Zaheer have just vital roles to play. Their best days might be over but now it is necessary for them to train the younger generation in matters which even the IPL can’t prepare them for.
  • Players are not machines. Unless the Board realizes that, they will just have to do with the all too frequent injury breakdowns. Review the packed schedule and ensure sufficient recharging time for the players, so that the best team is always available to play when marquee series are round the corner.
  • Cricket can be a cruel game. One day you are feted as world champions, the next you are being pilloried by all and sundry for one lousy series. This team is lucky to have a level headed skipper and battle hardened coach who has seen his share of disastrous tours; but some of the players could be psychologically scarred, what with all the spate of cricketers confessing of depression during their playing days and this is where a sports psychologist is handy. Employ one on a full-time basis, so that players learn to handle depressing days like this better.
These are just some ideas, and there are more experienced people with wiser ideas out there. Hopefully, something good can come out of this right royal mess.
Meanwhile, kudos to the English team. They have played like champions and deserve top billing. All credit goes to Flower, Strauss and his band of merry men, who have the attributes necessary to stay at the top longer than India did. While they will look to win a series in India to establish indisputable credentials for the top ranking, they would do well to take note of an opposition who might be following the proceedings keenly: South Africa. With a new coach and a bunch of world class players itching to prove that they are the best, South Africa remain as their biggest threat to the top ranking. At least THAT would be a contest to savor!
Benny for DieHard Cricket Fans
Follow Benny on Twitter @tracerbullet007

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