By Dhananjay Devasper
The past year has been a tumultuous one for Indian cricket. Substandard performances, a much- maligned captain, a newer breed of cricketers who are unable to match the charisma or the performance of the superstars they replaced and an overdose of cricket, are all contributing to a creeping indifference towards cricket in general.
It’s an indisputable fact that India holds immense clout in the cricketing world. The financial muscle and the unbridled passion that the Indian fan brings to this game cannot be found anywhere else in the world. Even on India’s overseas tours, it is a common sight to grounds packed with Indian immigrants, waving the tricolor and lustily cheering their team.
Subcontinental, and especially Indian, cricket has always been about its superstars. Even during the days when India was not at the top of the rankings, a Sunil Gavaskar would bring joy to the Test matches with his elegant defence and a Krishnamachari Srikkanth would pull in crowds for his destructive batting. Crowds thronged to see them and when India won the World Cup in 1983, the turnaround began.
But a lot of the financial muscle and clout came in the past 20 years or so, when a diminutive, curly haired batting genius made his appearance against Pakistan. Sachin Tendulkar, would become the face of Indian and world cricket. Along with Rahul Dravid, Sourav Ganguly and VVS Laxman, the fortunes of Indian cricket seemed to have turned a corner and India was now a force to reckon with. When Mahendra Singh Dhoni took the team to the ultimate pinnacle of winning the World Cup both in ODIs and T20s and clinching the No.1 ranking both in ODIs and Tests, it was the icing on the cake. This also increased the power that India held across the cricketing world. The Indian Premier League (IPL) is proof of the same. No other domestic tournament matches the interest or the financial rewards.
However, as with the end of any era, the fortunes of the boards will also be determined by the performance of the teams. With the retirements of Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman and Sachin Tendulkar (from the ODI format), there does not seem to be any cricketer who can quickly match their charisma or performances. This means when the fans go to watch the Indian team, any non-performance could result in indifference and diminished interest.
It will be interesting to see how the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) handles the situation. While the clout of the BCCI in international cricket is not expected to wane anytime soon, it might find itself at crossroads in the long run, in the absence of either new superstars or consistent performances.
(Dhananjay Devasper is an “IT guy” by profession and a sports fanatic at heart. He has an unbridled passion for sports and Indian achievements in sport. Extremely opinionated, he attempts offering perspectives around sports which are simple to understand and easy to relate with)