Monday, August 15th, 2022 00:23:09

Indian Cricket More Hype Than Substance

Updated: June 5, 2010 12:36 pm

Before Team India led by MS Dhoni left for the T20 World Cup in West Indies, it was described the best prepared side for the event because all the players barring Ravinder Jadeja had got enough exposure and practice having played in the Indian Premier League (IPL).

            However the most expensive side in the 12-Nation tournament, the winner of the first edition of the competition, failed to make it to the last four stage of this event for the second time in a row, leaving behind a trail of bitterness, frustration and disappointment.

            The IPL which was hailed as a best thing to happen to the Men in Blue suddenly became its bane and instead owing up the failure some officials and the captain came out with a lame excuse blaming the league for the disaster.

            Skipper Dhoni came out with a stunner that his side lost because of the hectic IPL schedule and its late-night parties, which severely affected some players’ performance. Coach Gary Kirsten was not far behind, he had another excuse to offer—the team had more than half a dozen players who were unfit and few were indisciplined.

            Dhoni and officials never raised the issue of IPL schedule and late parties when it was on. The explanation at that time was that players are professional and they know what they are doing and to run such a expensive league and these thing (parties etc) have to be part of it.

            Kirsten was happy with the fat salary he was getting and got carried away with the IPL hype and never raised a red flag about selection of eight unfit players until the team’s humiliating exit from the World Cup.

            Interestingly the man of the tournament K Pietersen of England-the eventual winners-paid a handsome tribute to the IPL. According to the South Africa born all-rounder IPL played a important role in his preparation for the World Cup.”There is no better place to learn cricket than India” he said.

            There were other reasons for India’s dismal showing. The players have been playing non stop cricket since November last year.

            Sri Lanka came here on a 45-day long tour for three Tests, five ODIs and three T20s (India won the Test and ODI series and drew T20s).Then Men in Blue went to Bangladesh to play two-Test series. It was followed by two Tests and three ODIs series against South Africa at home.

            Then came the 45-day long cash rich Indian Premier League III, and that was followed by T20 World Cup disaster. The schedule was kept so tight and heavy because it earned the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) billions and players were also making millions so they did not complain.

            True that BCCI had made it clear to the players that those who were feeling fatigued or were not fully fit can opt out but barring Sachin Tendulkar no body took BCCI’s view seriously.

            Tendulkar is a class apart, he can pick and choose the series or tournament but there is only one Sachin in the team. Others were not willing to forgo the huge money at stake and result was that many did not disclose the nature of their injuries and some even pretended that they may not be in good form but are in good physical condition. But most of them proved wrong and let the country down.

            So overconfident were Men in blue that they opened the World Cup campaign without playing any warm up game. They beat minnows Afghanistan in their first preliminary match and then defeated formidable South Africa on their way to super eight.

            And after that it was show of spineless cricket in next three matches against Australia, West Indies and Sri Lanka.

            The most amazing excuse given for dismal showing was that Indians were once again unable to face short balls on bouncy-pitches.”This is not a new thing, Indian always have been uncomfortable against short pitch deliveries.”

            Well, well if it is correct then we have no business to be in this business. If a batsmen of a team which is number one in ICC’s Test

ranking, number two in ICC’s ODI ranking and winner of first T20 title, are scared of short pitch balls we better shut up the shop.

            Cricket is a billion dollar Industry in India. In a scale of one to ten, the game occupies all the ten slots, there is cricket going around all through the year and we proud ourselves to have tamed the mighty Australians on their bouncy and fast tracks.

            There are legends like Sachin Tendulkar, world’s highest test run getter and still going strong, Rahul Dravid, Virender Sehwag, Dhoni etc, who according to the pundits can butcher any attack on their day but unfortunately their day never comes in the ICC tournaments like the World Cup, Champions Trophy or the T20. (India has won only two world titles so far- first in 1983-the third world cup in London and second the first T20 in the South Africa in 2007) But now is not the time to indulgue in blame game.

            With the 50-over World Cup just eight months away and to be played in the subcontinent, Indian cricketers will have to reinvent themselves if they want to regain their supremacy and glory.

            The BCCI will have to take some tough decisions, they have at present issued show cause notice to six players- Yuvraj Singh, Zaheer Khan, Rohit Sharma, Ashish Nehra, Ravinder Jadeja and Piyush Chawla for their alleged mis conduct at St Lucia(West Indies) but that may not suffice.

            The influence of money and glamour in the Indian cricket is well known. The IPL has given it further impetus. It is now up to the board to act and lay down the do’s and don’t guidelines for the players.

            The Board have to assert its authority and make it clear that there will be no place for unfit players- no matter how big the name- and no clemency for indiscipline.

            This will be the third time India will be hosting the World Cup (February 19 to April 3, 2011) and BCCI has to show it to world that it is not only the richest cricket board but also one which owns the World Title winning team.

            The BCCI had done the right thing by declaring that there was no move to change the captain at this stage. The knee jerk reactions do more harm then good and in any case Dhoni deserves some more time to be at the helm of the affairs.

            However the selectors and the board have to tell the players in no uncertain term that they can not take their place in the team for granted.

            The senior players cannot enjoy immunity on the basis of their past reputation, it is time that they be told that either perform or perish.

            And about other teams in the T20 World Cup- England has been a revelation. No body gave them a chance before the start of the tournament but they surprised every body with their clinical display.

            Paul Coollingwood became the first England captain to win the ICC World Cup in 35 years. It was way back in 1975 that First World Cup (that time 60 overs each) was played since then nine of them have been played and England which hosted four of them- first three in a row and then in 1999 has yet to win it.

            England has not won any Champion trophy and it was on May 16, that they broke the Jinx winning the T20 title. To be precise this was country’s first World title in any event since 1966 when they won the football World Cup.

            Australia under Micheal Clarke did well by making it to the final for the first time after edging out Pakistan in a heart stopping semi final.

            Pakistan, the defending champion, lost but were not disgraced. Another Asian team which made it to the last four was Semi Final, who lost to Australia.

            In fact three of the four semi finalists- England, Australia and Sri Lanka- had several players who played in the IPL too sand showed no signs of fatigue although they also attend the parties like the Indians.

Despite the ICC’s best efforts the T20 competition, barring for couple of matches, failed to have full house. That is not a good news for the Game.

            West Indies is no longer a cricket powerhouse that it once used to be and Game is not finding more spectators outside the sub continent, must be a cause of concern for the ICC which will be headed by Union Agriculture minister Sharad Pawar later this year.

By Harpal Singh Bedi

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