The weeks following the world cup final at Wankhade stadium seem to result in the beginning of the decline of Indian Cricket. Some people say that the decline started before then, and I tend to partially agree.
The Test series in England illustrated everything that is currently wrong with Indian Cricket. Well, where do I start? The list of the issues is long and has been repeated by a number of cricket commentators around the world, but certain facts remain:
- An overseas tour started yet again with little or no practice games in foreign conditions.
- Players were selected primarily based on what they have achieved in the past (Harbhajan Singh et al.) rather than their current form.
- Players carrying injuries (or unfit players) were selected for the tour. There is no way a leader of a bowling attack should break down on the first morning of the opening test match (Zaheer Khan).
- Players were rushed back into the highest level after an injury without any match practice (Sehwag).
- Players on tour were ignored in favour of players who have not played in a similar format recently (RP Singh).
In an ideal world, overseas tours would begin with at least two tour matches, and in an ideal world, some of the members of the touring party should play domestic cricket in the host country before the start of an international tour.
The idea of scheduling ODIs and T20s before the test series also has some merit. Test matches are just that - an ultimate test of skill levels, adaptibility, fitness and stamina, and limitations in any of these areas are brutally exposed in test matches more so than in any other format. A team not yet acclimitised to the conditions can still pose a reasonably stiff challenge to the host team in an ODI or a T20, but not in a test match.
The following point has been made over and over again, but India needs a variety of pitches. Fast, bouncy pitches to encourage fast bowlers and teach batsmen how to play deliveries aimed at their rib-cage, and slow pitches to encourage spin bowlers and teach batsmen how to play on the front-foot. Australia is a prime example - with WACA and GABBA well renowned for pace, SCG well renowned for assistance to spinners, and MCG, Hobart, and Adelaide providing more neutral conditions.
FITNESS AND INJURY MANAGEMENT:
It is really baffling to see that an international team in today's day and age so under-prepared and carrying injuries take the field in a crucial test series. Shouldn't there be a fitness benchmark that you should pass before being selected for a tour/ match?
Sure, the hectic international schedule is partially responsible - but surely that is even more the reason why players should be paying more attention to keeping themselves fit. Why did the management neglect giving top players forced rest periods with a proper personal training programme to help them recuperate and be ready and fresh for important series?
The Indian team selection seems to revolve around a tight group of individuals, most of them, over worked in all 3 formats, rather than having a larger pool of players, some of whom specialise in 1 or 2 formats. More on this in my next post.
This leads me onto the next issue: selection of players.
SELECTION OF PLAYERS:
There should be only two basic criteria while selecting players for a tour:
- Based on recent performance, are they going to win you matches? It is not about how many runs they have scored, or how many wickets they have taken in the (not so recent) past. I am not saying that experience does not count. It certainly does, but I believe it is highly overrated in Indian cricket, so much so, that certain players are automatically selected based on experience. Experience, sheer weight of runs scored and wickets taken did not seem to help Tendulkar or Harbhajan.
- Are they in their prime physical and mental condition with ample confidence and a "can do" attitude? The latter part is often under-rated, but I feel attitude is the most important factor in a player. There are thousands of players who envy you because its also their dream to represent India and there are billions more who support their team. The very least the players could do is give it their best shot and never say die. Rarely has top ranked team folded up so meekly in front of a lower ranked team.
This post was all about proper management and administration of players. In my next post I will look into other issues affecting player (and team) performance.