Captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni (left) and coach Duncan Fletcher find themselves in the middle of the biggest crisis Indian cricket is facing in several decades. These two men will have to take some very tough decisions and convince the BCCI to support their moves if India has to fast-track their recovery process © Getty Images

 

By H Natarajan

 

The winds of change are sweeping the country. Corruption, lack of transparency, taking the people for granted and other ills have breached the tolerance levels. Its payback time for the wages of sin; vox populi is bringing an arrogant government to its knees and threatening to change forever the very fabric of the country. There is a huge lesson in it for the mandarins of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) — many of whom are key members of the ruling party — basking in reflected glory of the players.

 

Will the BCCI be proactive or reactive? No sport stirs the Indian consciousness and emotions than the game of cricket. Reactions are always been in the extreme. It may be a blessing in disguise that the focus of the media and the people is very much on the Anna Hazare-led anti-corruption movement. That will most definitely help the players and the BCCI from feeling the full wrath of the cricket-crazy nation. The team has not just lost a series; it has been hounded, pounded and humiliated like it has not been in 43 years. The absence of fight from a team that landed in England as No 1 has shamed the nation. Defeats by 196 runs, 319 runs, innings and 242 runs and innings and eight runs offer damning evidence of Team India’s summer of discontent.

 

Right through the series the team collapsed like a house of cards. India looked like crossing the 300-run mark for just the second time in the series series, thanks to the 144-run stand between Sachin Tendulkar and nightwatchman Amit Mishra in the second innings at The Oval. But yet again India crumbled, losing seven wickets for just 21 runs.

 

The litany of woes is best brought by contrasting stats of the two sides:

 

Indian batsmen strung together just two century partnerships in the eight innings of the series. In sharp contrast, England chalked up 10 century stands, including one triple, one double and three 150-plus stands.

 

Seven of the English batsmen averaged over 50 in the series. Barring the brilliant exception of Rahul Dravid (76.83 average, 461 runs, three hundreds), the other batsmen had an eminently forgettable series. Their dismal averages tell the story: Virender Sehwag 10.25, Suresh Raina 13.12, Abhinav Mukund 16.00, Gautam Gambhir 17.00, VVS Laxman 22.75, MS Dhoni 31.42, Sachin Tendulkar 34.12, Yuvraj Singh 35.00.

 

The sorry tale was reflected in the bowling as well. Ishant Sharma’s 11 wickets came at 58.18, Sreesanth’s eight at 61.62, Amit Mishra’s three at 106.66 and Harbhajan Singh two at 143.50. Only Praveen Kumar (15 wickets at 29.53) emerged with some credit. For England, Stuart Broad took 25 wickets at 13.84, Tim Bresnan 16 at 16.31, James Anderson 21 at 25.71.

 

If the BCCI was a top corporation, the CEO would almost certainly have been axed for this monumental disaster. But the BCCI is not known for accountability. It’s possible that the changing mood of the country will force the BCCI to mend the way it has been running one of the most high-profile sports bodies in the world. Raking money is not the sole indicator of a successful management. The disaster has a lot to with the BCCI decision making. The collective administrative failure has to be held culpable.

 

The greed to rake in as much money has seen the BCCI cram as many matches as possible, reducing the players into money-spinning donkeys carrying the heartless BCCI’s weight of expectations. It did not matter to the BCCI that the players are human beings and need to rest and recuperate. It’s not easy for the players to take voluntary breaks when they know that there place could be grabbed by a challenger and he could be out forever, losing the chance to rake in crores and give a lifetime’s security for his family. One should also not forget the pressure from the sponsors who have shelled out huge sums. No player will take a voluntary break unless he is very big name and can dictate terms with the sponsors by virtue of his huge value to the team.

 

The IPL will appeal to the youth, especially to those who do not realize the ill-effects of the T20 format. The tamasha in the garb of a tournament is long-winded and eats into the time when players could do off-season physical training and relax with their families. I shudder to think what will happen once the likes of Tendulkar, Dravid and Laxman call it a day as the newer crop are increasingly fed on the junk-diet of T20. Which is why I feel its important that the BCCI must get four to five promising young players who can just be part of the dressing room, if not the team, so that they benefit from the Test match work ethics of these legends before they call it a day. The BCCI is far too rich to bother about the additional spending on these players. In any case, it’s hardly any price considering the long-term benefits.

 

The inclusion of two unfit players in Zaheer Khan and Virender Sehwag has completely exposed the injury management and the process by which players return back into the side. Of course, it will be too much to expect the BCCI to be honest and humble enough to raise their hands and say, “Yes, we goofed up on Zaheer and Sehwag’s fitness.”

 

The world was made to believe that Zaheer will probably come and bowl in the second innings of the first Test at Lord’s. Not only he did not bowl in the second innings, he did not play in the second Test as well. And then what shocked the entire cricketing world, the news came that he would be out for four months!!! Four months?!! Obviously, the injury was serious, so why all the drama about him bowling in the second innings at Lord’s?

 

It was also very apparent that Sehwag’s shoulder injury had not healed for him to be Test-match fit. Indeed, it’s now clear that it was a mistake to rush him to England as can be deduced by his return home before the start of the ODI series.

 

Why can’t the manager be more truthful in dissemination of information? Is information concerning the team classified? Do they come under Official Secrets Act? It’s because of lack of transparency that gives rise to needless speculations.

 

It’s lack of transparency again, which has historically seen the BCCI not making public the standbys. And I can assure you from personal knowledge and experience that even the standbys — at least in the bygone years — don’t know if they are standbys!

 

Was RP Singh among the standbys for the just-concluded Test series? Nobody knows, but it left nobody in doubt that he was like an overgrown Glaxo baby and lacking in match practice. How can players come straight from lay-offs and into a Test match to take on hardened professionals in tough conditions? It’s time the BCCI wakes up and smells the coffee.

 

The 0-4 humiliation would actually be good in the long-term interest of Indian cricket if the BCCI begin the cricketing perestroika. Home series have a tendency to gloss the team weaknesses. The BCCI should not allow that to happen and sweep the festering problems under the carpet. The Augean stables need to be cleaned. The all-important Australian tour later this year and, more importantly, the future beyond that tour demands that we take bold decisions. The time to act is now.

 

(H Natarajan, formerly All India Deputy Sports Editor of the Indian Express and Senior Editor with Cricinfo/Wisden, is the Executive Editor of CricketCountry.com. A prolific writer, he has written for many of the biggest newspapers, magazines and websites all over the world. A great believer in the power of social media, he can be followed on Facebook at facebook.com/H.Natarajan and on Twitter at twitter/hnatarajan)