Wednesday, August 10, 2011

In Defense of the New Order

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There has been a lot of hand wringing about India's status as the number one test team. India's poor (euphemism alert) performance in England has generated a great deal of commentary. The general refrain is as follows; Indian players put T20 (IPL, Champions League) above all else, BCCI is money-mad and therefore doesn't care about Indian cricket. Indian players are unfit and unprepared because of BCCI's callousness, especially with regards to the cricket calendar. India don't really deserve to be number one because they never really beat anyone good in a series away from home.

I would like to provide a contrarian view. Everyone including Harsha Bhogle and Sanjay Manjrekar have decided that the BCCI is to blame for India's poor showing in England. It's convenient because then you don't have to name names and can simply blame it on a boogeyman. I believe this is the most progressive board set up in my lifetime. The board has contracted several players. The board needs to put eleven 'qualified' players on the field at any given time. The board needs to provide a good support structure in the form of a coach, conditioning expert, mental strength consultants, masseuse, physical therapist etc. Plus, there is the NCA where any player can go back to school. All this has been done.

The reason I believe we are seeing some problems is that the players have not yet figured out how to use their "vacations". In other words, the board has been consistently saying that players are free to choose when they need rest. I imagine most of us are professionals. There's always something going on at work that I want to be part of. If I choose to sacrifice my vacation and decide to burn myself out, my employer is not to blame. Or if I use poor judgement and stay away at the wrong time and miss a critical review with the CEO. BCCI, rightly or wrongly is taking this attitude that the players need to manage their schedules. I support this whole-heartedly. The players are adult professionals and don't need a nanny.

Unfortunately, the players have not yet figured out how best to use this flexibility. Tendulkar skipped the West Indies tour and Gambhir, Sehwag and Zaheer took an injury time-out. Not exactly the best timing. With time, the players will become more smart about how to use this flexibility to their advantage. As contracted players, they are financially secure. The board honors it's end as long as players honor theirs by training hard and performing regularly and displaying the right attitudes.

India's ODI success is a direct result of the board and selection committee's foresight. Replacement players step in without missing a beat and the team keeps chugging along. This is true of both bowling and batting reserves. The all rounder slot is being filled by Yuvraj at this time, but needs a long term solution. India will continue to look for Kapil's second coming in this regard.

On the test side, the injury to Cheteshwar Pujara has been unfortunate. Otherwise, India have a reasonably settled batting order. Until Vijay lost form in the Carribbean, he was the second choice opener. Pujara, Kohli and Badrinath were viewed as the next best and were being groomed. Unfortunately, Badrinath too was a disappointment. My guess is that Rohit Sharma will be the next one to be given a little bit of a run. When Pujara comes back, we'll have to hope that he maintains form and pushes Dravid for his spot. Likewise Sharma should spend time with Tendulkar and be ready when the master calls it a day. It's clear that Kohli has class regardless of his actual showing in the West Indies. He will come good and will captain the team in future. Raina is being persisted with in the hope that with experience he will fulfill his enormous potential. I don't see how one can blame the board or T20 for this. The planning has been immaculate and needs to be applauded.

India's bowling has been what it is. Right now there are Zaheer, Praveen, Ishant, Sreesanth and Munaf as the top picks. RP has made a comeback. Akram is plugging for Balaji. Irfan Pathan might yet come good or one of Mithun, Unadkat or Yadav might get better. Once again, I think the BCCI has been good about the bowlers.

I agree that India's ascent to the top has coincided with others' decline, but so did Australia's ascent coincide with West Indies and Pakistan's decline. There's always a cycle of sorts and now it's England's turn. But I think it's South Africa that are a heartbeat away from greatness too. And don't discount New Zealand. They have made all the right moves to become a contender.

Let's all take a deep breath and enjoy England's performances. India is not all that shoddy.


Anonymous said...

Firstly, even a full strength India would have lost to England. So from my perspective I am not taking issue to India losing at all. There is no shame in losing to a better side.

I am throughougly disappointed to the point of disgust with

BCCI and Sachin Tendulkar

BCCI because amongst all the other things an organization does, it sets priorities. Its communicates either implicitly or explicitly what's important to them. Anyone who agrees with BCCI's priorities (like Shastri) will find nothing wrong in its functioning.

I don't agree to the BCCI's priorities; implicit they may be; they are very obvious. Its about the IPL and profits onlu. Tests are treated as voluntary, social service type extra cirricular activities.

BCCI has always been about making money. Which was okay in the ODI era becuae it helped India be a better ODI side. It helped the nation. But what the BCCI has shown is that its quest for AA+ rated dollars has no limits and there is nothing in place to check or balance the power of the BCCI. Neither in India nor in the ICC.

Now to the great tragedy of Indian cricket. Sachin Tendulkar. Its a tragedy that the man is a technican at heart to the core. No leadership intent whatsoever. I don't know whether he cares for anytihng at all to make a stand. He could easily have been the agenda setter for Indian cricket. But instead he flirts with Roger Federrer when his team is struggling to put aside a side that we should have beaten 3-0.


Anonymous said...

Gol -

I have to violently agree with you. This is because, as a fan, it hurts me that Sachin has made the choices that he has. However, as an "analyst" - if I may annoint myself as one, I can't find fault with the BCCI.

The BCCI has chosen not to "order" it's players to pick one format versus the other. It has made it's preferences for players clear for each format and left it to the players to decide how they would do justice to that billing.

I still don't see that BCCI's quest for AA+ dollars has hurt the Indian test team deliberately. Making the IPL format available to the players doesn't mean that the players have to play it. For example, the English players chose not to play despite the window being there. Dilshan, DPMD and Sanga chose to leave early due to their test commitments.

Dhoni decided not to get rest by skipping the West Indies tour, unlike Sachin. Help me understand the connection between BCCI's money rush and Sachin's decision to stay away from WI.


Anonymous said...

Vidoo -

I realize that BCCI does not nanny care players and its the right thing to do.

However, someone has to take accountability for people like Sehwag, GG, Zaheer playing the IPL and putting India's test comittments at risk.

You say its the players. I agree. And in a world where all formats are equally prioritized its no issues.

But in my view Test cricket should be top priority and player choices need to be assessed against these priorities.

As a Branch Manager if the bank's priority is to grow their credit card accounts and I keep selling checking accounts, at some point I will be evaluated negatively. No body is forcing me to do anything but I know my choices need to be aligned to the business goals.

About SRT and BCCI no connection. just 2 things that disgust me.

With BCCI's approach, Indian cricketers will be like English football players. Like England we will win the World cup when its in India, our players make millions of dollars in a world class league but flop while representing the country in the ultimate test.
- Gol

Anonymous said...

contrarian view on bcci! seriously?

this one is on par with 'this one didn't hurt'

what next?

'riots aren't all bad'
'winning is for sissies'
'pacer B Arun - wasted talent'