Kartik Kannan delves deep into Indian cricket since Independence and brings to you his opinion as to why he thinks not much has changed though we think otherwise.
66 years post Independence in 2013, the Indian cricket fan must be elated looking at the way India have progressed from wanting to draw test matches, to wanting to compete, to wanting to regularly win. We’ve found our icons, we’ve made biopics on our heroes, we’ve become the central power in world cricket, and as audiences we’ve made cricket a central source of our happiness. We’ve won 2 cricket World cup’s, a T20 world cup, and mildly basked ourselves in the sunlight that Test cricket affords to the number one team. We have the crowning jewel in the IPL where the world comes to play cricket, where computer analysts and commentators dissect every 1/120th of an innings. Not a bad journey, for a side that was left to fend for itself in the post-colonial hangover of the British Raj, Isn’t it?
Not Quite! Indian cricket finds itself today, not too far from where it started, looking at patterns that and the big picture, despite the highs of Indian cricket, that are reminded to us in various re runs on the sports channels. Indian cricket has always resembled a Renault Duster, by the collective aura of its individuals, but when it comes to the seminal moment of the 4-wheel drive working in tandem with the steering wheel and the accelerator on a rough terrain, the experience that’s more often been given has been that of a cranky Maruti 800. We always have some part that doesn’t work, and the other sturdy parts take the pressure. The end result is that we have a Maruti 800, which goes by a few pleasant drives, but still is continually searching for its service station, despite having the highest number of service stations. The service stations’ are exactly BCCI’s coffers. No cricket board makes the kind of wealth like the BCCI make, but still the Indian cricket team is searching for the recipe that makes their concoction consistently tasty.
When I think of why we are the way we are, I see the following reasons
a) No Domination DNA– Indian cricket is reflective of its education system, where the focus is on numbers and individual merit, with little focus on teamwork. India also historically has been a nation that’s played catch up to its rulers, and has never gone on war by itself to conquest territories. So the DNA to dominate or ward off attacks has not genetically been there. India has seen a Tendulkar, a Venkatraghavan, an Eknath Solkar, but not a team like Warwick Armstrong’s ‘Invincibles’
b) Lack of Worth Ethic and Discipline– John Wright and Greg Chappell’s notes on Indian cricket did briefly touch upon the lack of work ethic and discipline in Indian cricket, which never quite allowed India to get out of the quagmire they find themselves stuck in. Speaking of lack of the need to charter a vision, India has never quite had a moment to themselves to feel the need to start a revolution to having a world-class team in all forms of cricket. Not having a clear memo to climb cricket’s Everest and staying there, and not finding the right men to climb regularly has been India’s undoing.
c) No effect from Drubbings– When the West Indies they were bounced out in the 70’s and shamed with whitewashes from Australia, they decided to meet fire with fire, and scouted for fearless cricketers who’s primary responsibility was to instill the fear of life into the opposition. They never looked back until Steve Waugh shot the Caribbean bubble in Sabina Park, that had grown 15 years without a negative result across countries. That moment of shame never happened to India, despite two incidences of 0-4 drubbings in Australia in 4 tours across 2 decades. As a result the strong urge to build the world’s best team has not originated from the stare in the eye.
d) Passing Shower, but not a consistent Monsoon– Whenever Indian Cricket faced an acid test, it found its way out of a hole (Like Eden Gardens 2001, Cricket World Cup 2011 being instances), but never quite allowed the positive energy to translate into a culture or a DNA forthe full value chain to absorb (Selectors/Domestic Players/Current Squad). We’ve allowed talent and grit in the shape of a passing shower to give us our cricketing monsoon, instead of having steady rainfall. We don’t need drought, we don’t need floods, we just need a consistent and threatening monsoon, but do we have the right rainmakers who promise the parched Indian fans of cricketing glory?
e) Rainmakers- The Administrators– The final point is the need of having a great administrative unit, to run the show. While great administrators have come and gone by, Cricketing administration is a combination of respect for the audience, financial acumen and a vision to run the game with growth in mind. India’s done brilliantly on the financial acumen, while Australia and England have done well in the other departments. India with the financial backing it has, needs to put its eggs in the right basket and bet on a vision, rather than allowing random politicians stripping the game’s sanctity through their misdeeds.
India will still manage to produce a leader like MS Dhoni, a run machine like Virat, but it will struggle to produce their version of the ‘Invincible’, unless India pauses to think where they want to be. Like just another Indian cricket fan, despite the passing showers, I keep hoping that the “Fire in Babylon” moment in Indian cricket is not too far away, as I pass yet another Independence day, waiting for Indian cricket’s independence from its prejudices.