India's tryst with Tests
Rated best in the world, India’s Test team has done well Down Under – yet, the team appears more comfortable playing the modern one-day format
The Indian cricket team has made history Down Under. Winning the Test series was just one part of the celebration. Beating the Australians in the ODIs, for the first time, was the icing on the cake.
Although the Indian cricket Test team is rated the best in the world, it seems far more comfortable and confident playing the one-day format. The Indian players seem to know their roles far better and there seems to be a bounce in their step when they take the field. The fan following and success of the limited overs game in India has given rise to a surfeit of good players and, so, the problem that the selectors face is only in choosing the right combination. While, for them, it is a wonderful position to be in – this also opens them up to criticism if things do not go well.
A prime example, at present, is the inclusion of India's most successful former captain, Mahendra Singh Dhoni. There is no reason to debate the advantages that the Indian side derives from his presence. However, at 37 years, age has taken its toll on his well-known ability of hitting the ball at will into the stands. One hopes he gets his form and fitness in place before World Cup 2019 takes off in England.
His experience has played an important role in India's victory in Australia, but his fitness still leaves a question mark. One feels sorry for the dynamic Rishabh Pant, who is far more suited to play the shorter format of the game rather than playing the conventional one. For him, to be missing out on ODIs in Australia and New Zealand is quite bewildering, especially after his performance in the Test series in Australia. The only reason that one can decipher is that the selectors seem to have decided on Dhoni for the World Cup and it could get embarrassing if Pant succeeds.
The Indian World Cup team to England needs youngsters like Pant, Prithvi Shaw and Shubham Gill in the fold for the future of Indian cricket to flourish. They are all champion performers and from the way some of the older batsmen, who are still in the side, performed during their last visit to England, one does not get the confidence that they will succeed there during the crucial World Cup period.
The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) seems to have lost its control quite significantly. The Indian team has had a long tour of Australia and they will be following it up with one to New Zealand. The scheduling of two T20s and five ODIs against Australia in February and March 2019 by BCCI is rather ridiculous. The Indian players deserve a month of rest and recuperation. This, unfortunately, will not happen and with the IPL to follow, one hopes that the Indian team will be fresh for the World Cup.
The new World Cup format requires each team to play one another and then the top four play the semis and then the final. This totals 11 gruelling matches, if one makes their way to the final. The vagaries of the English weather and bus travel are also extremely taxing on one's body. A month of rest would have been ideal for the likes of Kohli, Rohit, Dhawan and our battery of fast bowlers.
The lack of a final decision from the Supreme Court on the implementation of the Lodha Committee reforms has made Indian cricket a messy affair. The appointment of the Committee of Administrators by the Supreme Court many moons ago disintegrated from four members to two, and the regular confrontation between them has created an atmosphere of uncertainty. One expected the court to come forth with a strong directive when they met on January 17, but another postponement has eclipsed hopes to despair.
The stepping down of the amicus curiae, the very astute and well-known senior advocate Gopal Subramanium, appointed by the Supreme Court at this crucial juncture, was very surprising. He was completely in the know of the complicated issues involving the BCCI and for P S Narasimha, the replacement, to get an equal insight into things will delay the process further.
Without a single BCCI committee in place, the institution that runs cricket in India is in a complete mess. The Hardik Pandya and K L Rahul incident is another example of things gone awry. Both cricketers are strong contenders worthy of being a part of the Indian World Cup side. An expeditious decision about their future is very important in the context and composition of the Indian side. Hardik and Rahul have apologised for their action and rather than imposing a severe punishment, BCCI needs to put them through sensitisation and EQ sessions. They need to fully understand what they did wrong. A "sorry" belongs to the old school of thought that, in today's world, is just a five-letter word with no depth or understanding. Punishment for the sake of it is like putting a naughty child in a corner. Nothing much will come out from it.
Furthermore, a weak BCCI has also ignited the hopes of the regime which controlled it earlier. Under the captaincy of N Srinivasan, many old stalwarts met to discuss the path of a possible return, if not directly, then through their proxies. An equally worrying aspect, as not all have been good for the game in their respective state associations. This is precisely why BCCI is in this predicament.
The COA has failed in putting the house in order and the messy situation that BCCI is in seems likely to continue; unless the highest court in the country takes a serious view of it, the losers will finally be the millions of fans who follow the game like religion in India.
(The writer is a former Test cricketer. The views expressed are strictly personal)
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