Poor management of free time has been the cause of Indian cricket's woes

Indian players haven’t utilized their spare time well to get match-fitness, and are now hence rusty. So blaming the BCCI for the players being tired and getting injured is foolish © Getty Images


By Vidooshak


There has been a lot of hand wringing about India‘s status as the No 1 Test team. India’s poor (euphemism alert) performance in England has generated a great deal of commentary. The general refrain is: Indian players put T20 (IPL, Champions League) above all else, BCCI is money-mad and therefore doesn’t care about Indian cricket. Indian players are unfit and unprepared because of BCCI’s callousness, especially with regards to the cricket calendar. India don’t really deserve to be No 1 because they never really beat anyone good in a series away from home.


I would like to provide a contrarian view. Everyone, including Harsha Bhogle and Sanjay Manjrekar, have decided that the BCCI is to blame for India’s poor showing in England. It’s convenient because then you don’t have to name names and can simply blame it on a boogeyman. I believe this is the most progressive board set up in my lifetime. The board has contracted several players. The board needs to put eleven ‘qualified’ players on the field at any given time. The board needs to provide a good support structure in the form of a coach, conditioning expert, mental strength consultants, masseuse, physical therapist etc. Plus, there is the National Cricket Academy (NCA) where any player can go back to school. All this has been done.


The reason I believe we are seeing some problems is that the players have not yet figured out how to use their “vacations”. In other words, the board has been consistently saying that players are free to choose when they need rest. I imagine most of us are professionals. There’s always something going on at work that I want to be part of. If I choose to sacrifice my vacation and decide to burn myself out, my employer is not to blame. Or if I use poor judgment and stay away at the wrong time and miss a critical review with the CEO. BCCI, rightly or wrongly, is taking this attitude that the players need to manage their schedules. I support this whole-heartedly. The players are adult professionals and don’t need a nanny.


Unfortunately, the players have not yet figured out how best to use this flexibility. Sachin Tendulkar skipped the West Indies tour and Gautam Gambhir, Virender Sehwag and Zaheer Khan took an injury time-out. Not exactly the best timing. With time, the players will become smarter about how to use this flexibility to their advantage. As contracted players, they are financially secure. The board honors its end as long as players honor theirs by training hard and performing regularly and displaying the right attitudes.


India’s ODI success is a direct result of the board and selection committee’s foresight. Replacement players step in without missing a beat and the team keeps chugging along. This is true of both bowling and batting reserves. The all-rounder slot is being filled by Yuvraj Singh at this time, but needs a long-term solution. India will continue to look for Kapil Dev‘s second coming in this regard.


On the Test side, the injury to Cheteshwar Pujara has been unfortunate. Otherwise, India have a reasonably settled batting order. Until Murali Vijay lost form in the Carribbean, he was the second choice opener. Pujara, Virat Kohli and Subramaniam Badrinath were viewed as the next best and were being groomed. Unfortunately, Badrinath, too, was a disappointment. My guess is that Rohit Sharma will be the next one to be given a little bit of a run. When Pujara comes back, we’ll have to hope that he maintains form and pushes Rahul Dravid for his spot. Likewise Rohit Sharma should spend time with Tendulkar and be ready when the master calls it a day.


It’s clear that Kohli has class regardless of his actual showing in the West Indies. He will come good and will captain the team in future. Suresh Raina is being persisted with in the hope that with experience he will fulfill his enormous potential. I don’t see how one can blame the board or T20 for this. The planning has been immaculate and needs to be applauded.


India’s bowling has been what it is. Right now there are Zaheer, Praveen Kumar, Ishant Sharma, Shantakumaran Sreesanth and Munaf Patel as the top picks. RP Singh has made a comeback. Wasim Akram is plugging for Laxmipathy Balaji. Irfan Pathan might yet come good or one of Abhimanyu Mithun, Jaidev Unadkat or Umesh Yadav might get better. Once again, I think the BCCI has been good about the bowlers.


I agree that India’s ascent to the top has coincided with others’ decline, but so did Australia’s ascent coincide with West Indies and Pakistan’s decline. There’s always a cycle of sorts and now it’s England’s turn. But I think its South Africa that are a heartbeat away from greatness too. And don’t discount New Zealand. They have made all the right moves to become a contender.


Let’s all take a deep breath and enjoy England’s performances. India is not all that shoddy.


(Vidooshak is a blogger @Opinions on Cricket. He was drawn into cricket by Golandaaz as a schoolboy. His bluster overshadows his cricketing ability. He played as a wicket-keeper in a college team but was promptly dropped. The college selection committee had slightly higher standards than Pakistani selectors. He did reasonably well in tennis ball cricket until he was benched for a final game by the team that he captained. To say some of it was due to his opinions would be an understatement of sorts. Regardless, Vidooshak finds time to opinionate relentlessly and lives a vicarious life by watching cricket teams make obvious mistakes. Good news for Vidooshak is that someone always loses a cricket game, someone always gets belted and someone always flops. Vidooshak always looks for an alternative explanation and rarely agrees with mainstream consensus. Needless to say he has no friends, only ‘tolerators’! While not throwing his weight around, Vidooshak does not run marathons or draw pictures, but reads voraciously on all topics, volunteers at local failing schools, is an avid but average golfer and runs an Indian association in mid-west America)