Apr 6, 2007

World Cup Cricket. Post 2

Here's something to think about...

There was a time India used to beat Sri Lanka convincingly even with a half-ass team. In 1996, they beat India twice, the second defeat ending India's campaign. And they ended India's campaign again this time.

Till very recently, India would beat Bangladesh 9 times out of 10. The two teams' meeting at this World cup wasn't expected to be a real contest. It wasn't eventually, but the winner was not the one people had presumed.

The two instances create a strong sense of deja vu. Other Asian nations - which should also suffer from the ostensibly 'Asian' handicaps of fitness and temperament - and which have a population less than one of India's many States - have produced teams more competitive than ours. Nearly all other teams have improved. Still, Australia only seem to have increased their lead at the head of the pack.

Meanwhile, the only team that India has beaten consistently in World Cup contests, is Pakistan. And the state of their cricket isn't even worth starting about. The rivalry remains, but is now one between two very ordinary teams. With so many India-Pak series in the recent past, these two teams may have got lost in the game of one-upsmanship, missing the bigger picture of self-improvement.

While all others are moving ahead, Indian cricket seems to be going in circles. 4 years back, we had the makings of a formidable force. But the establishment, led by a certain businessman of questionable scruple, was focused on promoting the frenzy and making money off the team's successful streak, rather than figuring out ways to sustain performance. And the consequences of the BCCI's negligence of basic priortities have hit Indian cricket lovers in the face.

In light of all this, Subhash Chandra's ICL may be a good idea. He's emitted the right sound bytes about talent scouting, fitness, and exposure for the youth. These are the directions in which Indian cricket needs to move. The circle needs to be broken, to avoid more heartbreaks in the future. And Chandra might be the man to do it.

On a different note, Sambit Bal in his post at Cricinfo writes:

"Money is not a concern and if the board is sincere about it, they can find the best professionals from the global pool of talent. This team can then work with a manager of stature and proven integrity, an Indian who can help them negotiate the system. Someone who can be both link and a shield. Someone tough and uncompromising. Someone who can relate to Indian players, who is above petty politics and regionalism, and wholly committed to the idea of winning.

Step forward Ravi Shastri."

It took me by surprise, but I really like the last line. Shastri may not have been a popular cricketer, and may not be as charismatic or respected a commentator as, say, Gavaskar, but I like the way he identifies issues and the strength with which he presents his views. He has the ability to hit the nail on the head, has an aggresive mindset, and is respected by current players, former players and the establishment. He may actually be the man for the job. Don't see it happening though.

Well, whatever happens, let's hope the current situation is dealt with in the right manner - with vision, patience, discipline, honesty and professionalism.

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