If money solved all problems, Indian cricket team should have been unbeatable for at least the last decade. The game is a religion in India, and brings more money to BCCI, the players, the coaches and so on. I was amazed at how many cricket academies have cropped up in India since I have lived abroad. But Indian team is far from unbeatable, despite huge amount of money available in the sport. And despite loss after loss outside India, I and billion others like me follow the game closely.
We do great in one day matches usually, but the real deal is Test Cricket – and there we do horribly. And it is about time to act on it with a long term vision. We did it once and rose to the top of test rankings, but could not stay there. When West Indies and Australia ruled test cricket – there was no doubt they were going to be there for a while. With India, even a die hard fan like me did not get such a comfort feel.
I am just a fan – and a below par player even for club level cricket. I have no experience in cricket administration either. But it does not take a genius to see what plagues Indian cricket. But if I were king for a day in Indian cricket administration – these will be the problems I will tackle upfront.
1. No investment in fast bowlers
For as long as I can remember, no team has won test cricket without multiple fast bowlers. I grew up watching India struggle against the fast bowlers from West Indies (except a few like Gavaskar). And we could not return the favor when India bowled – Haynes ,Greenidge , Lloyd, Richards etc feasted on our bowling. When we had fast bowlers, for the most part we had just one who was genuinely fast in any given team. Every few years some new sensation would show up – and thanks to mismanagement and over exertion over too many games, they either disappeared – or they dropped 5 yards of pace. After West Indies, Australia took over world cricket. And they had terrific fast bowlers. What was the difference between Australia compared to India and Srilanka? All of them had worldclass spinners in Warne, Kumble and Murali. They also had quality batsmen in all three teams. But India and Srilanka only had one or two fast bowlers at any point, where as Australia had several to choose from. And with those fast bowlers – Aussies could bowl out the opposition twice in a test in any surface. And India and Srilanka needed a spin friendly track to bowl out anyone twice.
Fast bowlers need to be nurtured from school cricket. Question is – will BCCI make an investment to find talent impartially, and then nurture them for a decade ?
2. Too much cricket, with very little planning and preparation
Ever since Mark Mascarenhas won the TV rights for 1996 worldcup, cricket has not been the same. There are way too many matches played, with hardly any time spent for preparation. Most series starts with poor preparation matches. And since Modi did the T20 thing, it has gone from bad to worse. More players are now unfit than ever before, and in a country where cricketers are worshiped on a pedestal – selectors will not dare to drop any one on basis of fitness. With the type of money involved, no cricketer will follow the “volunteer to take rest if you feel you need it” dictum of the board. BCCI should space games, and plan series better. Remember all those empty seats for matches in home series in 2011? That is a good indication that viewership will also decrease if this does not change.
3. No career management and replenishment system for national team
Australia showed us how to manage the career of cricketers. England proved now that they can adapt that. But not India. No one ever gets shown the door in India for a drop in performance. If Steve Waugh played for India, he would still be playing. Look at the ageing stars like Sachin, Dravid and Laxman in Indian team. Collectively they have more runs than most other teams in the world. Yet they cannot win us series consistently abroad by themselves. And it is painfully obvious in Australia that they won’t last much longer. After Sachin finishes his 100th 100 – what else will he aim for? He is good to go for couple more years since he has stayed away from several matches to conserve energy. The other two will probably have a year or less. But who will replace them? When will the replacements get chances? Will India play Dravid and Sachin and Laxman down the order to give newbies an opportunity to try batting higher?
4. Poor infrastructure to nurture the next generation of national players
Can we begin to compare domestic cricket in India to that in Australia or England? If we cannot match it, at least will BCCI proactively get stints for promising young players to play in England or Australia for few seasons?
Domestic cricket is in a horrible state in India – and it has been that way for ever. We have pathetic pitches, and terrible outfields for most of domestic cricket. A player that comes up through that system cannot be expected to know what to do when balls come at them at 140 KMPH chest high. The good thing is they learn how to tackle spin very well – and Indian batsmen have outplayed Warne and Murali many times in past. Our young quickies will not learn how to bowl in fast wickets either. All around – we lack good infrastructure for the next generation to get relevant experience. For a board with such hefty bank balances – why is this a problem. If not to invest in cricket, why does BCCI make money? And with what confidence will selectors decide to pick some one based on performances in such pitches?
National Cricket Academy was a brilliant idea – but poorly executed. It has just become a rehab center for injured cricketers. That is an important function, but that is just one of the many factors.
There are several more things, but I just needed to get this off my chest. It has been painful watching Indian team suffer through the last several tours they made outside India. But despite all of that, I am and will be a loyal fan 🙂