Cricket may seem like the least of the country’s problems given the phenomenal movement that has been generated by social activist Anna Hazare over the Lokpal Bill to weed out corruption in India. However, judging by some of the issues revolving around the sport of cricket, and given that the epicenter has shifted to India over the years, it is perhaps not a bad idea to take some stock checking in that aspect.
Until India’s tour of England, the Indian cricket team and those associated with it had assumed a position where they were beyond reproach. To an extent, that was fair to assume given that India had reached and stayed at the no.1 Test rank for more than a year and a half and rose from strength to strength to win the ICC Cricket World Cup 2011, only the second time in twenty-eight years that India won the World Cup.
The massive euphoria generated by that stupendous win was to be seen to be believed. However, one loss can change equations very quickly and the defeat to England in three successive Tests at a time when India were expected to field and be at their strongest, India showed little spine. Whatever little grace was spared came largely of Rahul Dravid’s bat.
Although the Indian captain does not see a reason to press the panic button yet, it must be of some concern the manner in which the India England series has been played. There have been general agreement that only one team seemed geared up for the challenge and it was not the no.1 Test team at the time of the start of the series. Although India have been riddled by injuries to key players which is a genuine hindrance, perhaps it is not a bad time for Indian cricket to do a bit of soul searching.
There is no reason why the BCCI cannot work out solutions that benefit the team, the players as well as their coffers. However, workable solutions that benefit all parties involved has rarely been the scenario. Plenty of reasons can be offered for why India have looked so listless in the field. However, the fact of the matter remains that this was a very important series, perhaps the most important of all since India’s ascent to the no.1 Test rank, and that the players have not been able to show the hunger, the passion or the sense of purpose in the field should be of concern. To look defeated even before the fat lady has sung would be a dangerous warning side.
As the matters and plausible reasons are being shoved under the carpet, it is unlikely that anything will change in which case the Indian cricket fans are going to continue to have their emotions pushed and pulled more than can be allowed even in the context of a game.
Cricket is no longer the game for amateurs. As professionals, cricketers are expected to turn up for the IPL four days after a hectic World Cup. They are expected to make instant starts following injuries and rehabilitation and even expected to work through the pain with the ambiguous message from the board forcing them to either play or risk losing their spot to the next in line. The attitude from the board is not unexpected because of the money that they are minting not only via the IPL but through their policy over the years to arrange series without little consideration for timing, acclimatization and player management in terms of fitness and injury. When the old habits catch up and result in a slump as has been in England, instead of using the opportunity to spring board the next course of action, the BCCI is looking the other way, the cricketers do not want to speak and the cricket fans have decided that the remote control is their only weapon to alleviate themselves of the dismal feel about their favourite sport.
Cricket has been fraught with controversies that have spilled out of avarice and greed and in many ways, the fans have responded by cutting back on their interests in the game, particularly the IPL in the aftermath of the IPL 3 and even more resoundingly turning up at their nose to the IPL 4 even though the BCCI continue to live in denial about the spectator signal, confident that the seemingly neverending Twenty20 tournament will continue to rake in the moolah. That the board has deviated so drastically from completely shunning Twenty20, saying India had no need for the game, have now turned it into a monster that feeds itself by preying upon the insecurities and lure. While Twenty20 is not the only needlepoint, in India’s context, it has formed the bone of contention.
When India were falling and failing to change the tempo of their game, former Indian cricketers asked if anyone in the current Indian cricket team was bold enough to speak up about what ails the team and take a stance. Perhaps watching the pictures as the Indian masses seem desperate for a hero and found one to throw their weight behind in Anna Hazare, one should imagine that before such a similar situation may be forced upon the fanatic game of the billion strong country like India, the BCCI, with all its clout, power and influence, would be able to justify the means to the end as also the end itself and find long lasting solutions to make sure the next time India get to the top, they not only stay there but command that position for their own.