The business case for India to hold on to their No 1 ranking expired on April 2, 2011. From the moment Mahendra Singh Dhoni clubbed the six that gave India the World Cup, the business conditions changed. Being No 1 in Test cricket was an investment with returns too meager to satisfy all stakeholders.
The market decided that the best way to account for the 'fan capital' accumulated after India's nerve-wracking chase in the final, and indeed their entire World Cup journey, was to spend it in reviving the faltering TV rankings of the fledgling Indian Premier League (IPL).
And for the benefit of organizations in need of cash like Reliance, India Cements, UB Group, etc India mortgaged their No 1 ranking by settling for reduced performance from its champion Test side on tours of the West Indies and England. That these tours were a chance to emulate Ajit Wadekar's 1971 champion side, did not find a mention in discussions among even the most hardcore of traditionalists.
There is no doubt in my mind that the team and conditions that made India the world's best cricket team in Tests would been a much better match for the soon to be champion England side. Then again, there was no money to be made that way.
Even while the ICC Test rankings are more cryptic than Gulzar's poetry, India knew, I hope that every Test they fail to win from the No 1 position, will likely result in points docked from them. Just to maintain their points, India needed to win the West Indies series 3-0. Instead they utilized all their resources towards the IPL and Sachin Tendulkar decided to skip the series, for no real reason at all.
Why should Sachin Tendulkar get special privileges?
It is amazing how little noise was made in the media about the way India approached the West Indies tour and Tendulkar in particular. I do not believe Tendulkar has earned the right to pick and choose tours. Scoring 50 odd Test Centuries, helping India win 50 odd Test matches in 170 odd Tests in return for the money and adulation he gets is par for the course. He hasn't done India any favors or charity that we should feel the need to extend him privileges far beyond what he deserves or has earned. He has skipped two tours to the West Indies now and if he can't appreciate what a series win in the West Indies means to Test cricket fans, I find it extremely hard to connect with his decisions. Having grown up watching Clive Lloyd's teams humiliate Indian teams, I find Tendulkar passing an opportunity to finally get back at the West Indies inexcusable. Vivian Richards, Andy Roberts, Gordon Greenidge and a host of others showed no mercy to us and when it was our turn finally, Tendulkar was murmuring sweet nothings in Roger Federer's ears eating strawberries and cream. The image is revolting.
If this is the example Tendulkar has set, then who is to blame Zaheer Khan and Virender Sehwag to arrive in England either under cooked or like a Salman Khan making an entry post-interval in a Karan Johar movie.
Cricket teams don't win if they are operated like movie production houses where the best talent is sourced from various disciplines to produce a hit movie. India can't expect to assemble their best only for prestigious events like the World Cup and the England tour and expect to win consistently. Good sports teams evolve as a unit and learn to win only as a cohesive unit. But India have sold the narrative of 'rotation' and this seems to have been bought by even the most discerning of cricket fans.
Had India sent their best team to the West Indies, there is no doubt we could have swept the series and arrived at England more attuned to winning Test Matches. This would of course have meant limiting appearances at the IPL.
Coming to the ongoing tour of England and on the day of the Trent Bridge Test, I have a feeling this tour is heading for a disaster. Unless rain intervenes, the scoreline is very obvious. Having seen the two teams at Lord's, I can say India looks already defeated. It’s going to be 4-0, but all of India will read it as: England 4, India IPL.
(Golandaaz is a blogger @Opinions on Cricket and likes to see the humorous side of the game. He often sketches cricketers in black and white. You can follow Golandaaz his blog on Twitter @oponcrFacebook/Opinions on Cricket)