Legacy: whose father what goes?

On the eve of the recent Australia-India Test series, the Sydney Morning Herald published an interview with Rahul Dravid. Here’s what he said when asked about his thoughts on athletes fashioning dignified exits.

 I was reading what Ian Thorpe said when he came out of retirement and somebody asked him about his legacy: ‘What are you doing to your legacy by coming back and coming eighth in a race?’ And he said, ‘I can sacrifice my legacy for the love of the sport.

That makes sense. It’s pure, he [Thorpe] still enjoys swimming and he enjoys competing. Sometimes we get too caught up in legacy; what are we going to leave? Sometimes it’s not about that, it’s about the player actually playing at that point in time. He’s not concerned about his legacy, he’s concerned about what actually made him play the game in the first place, which is that love of the game, the desire to compete and play. And that will go at some stage. That probably should be the decision.”

Four Tests later, after one of his most forgettable series when he averaged 24.25, Dravid told a TV channel: “At my stage in my career it’s always about taking it a series at a time and not looking too far ahead, so we’ll see what happens.”

Amid all this talk of imminent retirements, consider this. Imagine for a moment the extent to which cricket has dominated Dravid’s life. He’s probably been striking a cricket ball from when he can remember; his whole school life was planned around cricket practice and cricket matches and most of his waking moments were spent at the nets or at the gym or at a cricket ground or traveling for cricket matches or analyzing an innings that went before or preparing for an innings that was to follow. It’s been cricket, more cricket and then the rest of his life.

So who can blame him? Who can blame Sachin Tendulkar or VVS Laxman for continuing to want to play the game they love at the highest level? A painter – however old he gets, however weak his eyes turn, however much his hands shake – can still continue to paint. The same can be said for a number of other professions. A sportsman remains one of those rare creatures who needs to give up what he does well, often the only thing he does well, and often the only thing he really knows.

As Dravid says, a lot of sportsmen don’t spend enormous amounts of time thinking of their legacy. They don’t walk into the cricket grounds wondering what imprint they are going to leave for future generations. They walk in to try and win a match, to time the ball well, to strike a rhythm in their bowling actions, to out-maneuver the opponent on that day.

As fans, we would love to see these cricketers go out on a high (and not overstay their visit) but we had no say in the matter when they took up the game in the first place. And we have no say now. Our opinion doesn’t count.

                                                                               ***

There was a time when Dravid thought deeply about his legacy. Between October 2005 and September 2007, he dreamt of a day when India would win cricket matches because, and not in spite of, the system in which they were operating. He spoke fondly of the vision that went into building sporting empires like Manchester United. He talked passionately of teams that lose games here and there but still fashion themselves into a successful force in the long-run. He didn’t spell it out at any point but it was apparent that he wanted to be remembered as a captain who engineered a paradigm shift, a leader who changed India’s approach to cricket.

As we know, he failed. He had some shortcomings as a captain (especially as a leader off the field) and placed an immeasurable amount of faith in Greg Chappell. After the World Cup debacle and Chappell’s exit, Dravid hoped Indian cricket would use the opportunity to rebuild from scratch. The story goes that he gave himself six months after the World Cup debacle (to gauge if the BCCI were willing to back him in his long-term mission) and, when he realized he was fighting a lone battle, he quit the captaincy. This despite leading India to a historic Test series win in England.

While I agree with Dravid that individual players need not concern themselves with their legacy – and focus solely on “what actually made him play the game in the first place” –  a captain, a coach, the selectors and the BCCI have no such excuse.

Sourav Ganguly had a vision. John Wright did too. And they didn’t do too badly for a few years. Greg Chappell made us believe he had a grand vision – a lot of his plans backfired and we can fault him for many things but we cannot fault him for cruising along complacently. In fact Chappell’s biggest problem was he tried too many apparently revolutionary things too quickly (and he didn’t understand diplomacy).

Kirsten had a vision. So did Dhoni. At around this time in 2008, when India was choosing their one-day side for the tri-series in Australia, Dhoni took a big call. He knew the kind of team he wanted and chose to leave out both Ganguly and Dravid. He was to later say he felt “it was important to send the message across”.

***

Most of the discourse around the whitewashes in England and Australia has focussed on systemic, structural changes that need to be implemented for the long-term. In England the talk was mostly about poor preparation, lack of tour games, pathetic injury management and the absence of bench strength. In Australia (since there has not been too many apparent reasons apart from the fact that the team has comprehensively crumbled), the postmortem has got even more hardcore – reduce the number of Ranji teams, overhaul pitches across the country, eliminate the demonic IPL and so on.

(I do plan a whole post about this but as an aside: I don’t watch the IPL but that’s not because I think it’s evil. I don’t watch it because the brand of cricket doesn’t appeal to me. I don’t watch certain kinds of movies. That doesn’t mean those movies are bad. It just means they don’t fit in with my taste.

Also, the IPL might have played a part in India’s shoddy performances in England – especially when it came to players not recovering from injuries – but it has little to do with this whitewash in Australia.  I don’t agree with people who say the batsmen in this team have been spoilt  by the IPL. All of them (including Kohli) were grounded in first-class cricket and their techniques were shaped in the playing fields of the Ranji Trophy.

Also, the IPL sure has plenty of negatives – and I don’t have to highlight every point here –  but it’s simplistic to think it’s all bad. The IPL is not all about the top stars earnings millions. It’s also about many first-class cricketers being more financially secure. It’s about fewer talented players giving up the game at the lower levels. It’s about players like Badrinath sharing the dressing-room, and getting inspired, by those like Michael Hussey, the kind of interaction that would have never happened earlier.

Finally, it’s funny to see so many people talk about the IPL killing domestic cricket. It’s as if people deeply loved and cared for the Ranji Trophy before the IPL came along. Domestic cricket was dying long, long before the IPL was conceived. It’s no doubt got more rotten in the last few years and is in need of an overhaul but that’s been the case since, err, forever.)

Of course, I would love to see change from the grassroots. I would love to see the BCCI change its constitution. I would love to see them appoint a full-time CEO. I would love to see them take cricketing decisions without needing to appease every state association, without constantly thinking about votes. I would love to see quality pitches across the country (not just pitches smattered with grass on the top surface but pitches that offer consistent bounce for four days, assisting both pace and spin). I would love to see teams not hellbent on gaining the first-innings lead in Ranji games. I would love to see a pool of young cricketers handpicked as future Test prospects and incentivized to play long-form cricket. And so on.

I would also like to see honest politicians running our country. Point being: these are all fine aspirations and no country can expect to build anything substantial without such long-term plans but I am not betting my house on any of them happening. I would prefer to borrow from Guracharan Das’ India Unbound and liken Indian cricket to its economy: “It is an elephant that has begun to lumber and move ahead. lt will never have speed, but it will always have stamina.”

***

What concerns me more is medium-term vision, aspects of our cricket I can hope to materialize within the next four or five years. Again, I am not saying long-term planning is not important. I am only saying we sometimes tend to talk too much on the long-term at the expense of the medium term.

Exhibit 1: Dhoni has said he may have to give up one of the formats if he has to lead India in the 2015 World Cup. A few days ago, the BCCI president, N Srinivasan, was asked about this. His response: “Unless he says it officially, I would not take that seriously.” BCCI vice-president Rajiv Shukla said something similar recently.

If we were to take Srinivasan seriously (now don’t laugh but if we were to) then it reflects poorly on Dhoni. It means he has said something as important as this to the media before even discussing the matter with the board. Shouldn’t a captain, the coach, the selectors and the top brass of the BCCI have a plan for the team’s leadership? Shouldn’t everyone be on the same page about this? Isn’t that a point from where we can start building a team to consistently win Tests around the world or to defend the World Cup in 2015?

Exhibit 2: Sachin Tendulkar, who hasn’t played a single one-day match after the World Cup, is selected for the tri-series in Australia. Do the selectors, captain and coach have a vision for India’s one-day team? Is Tendulkar part of that vision? What are our priorities in one-day cricket? To win a tri-series in the immediate term? Or to put together a combination that can win big tournaments in the medium term? More importantly isn’t it spineless (from a selectors’ point of view) to allow a player, however great, to pick and choose tours?

Exhibit 3: India go through four Tests with almost no change in personnel. Do the captain and coach think Rohit Sharma is fit for Test cricket? Is he part of their medium-term vision? Wasn’t it worth giving him at least one – yes, one – Test to try and gauge his temperament? Hasn’t Virat Kohli shown us the benefits of persisting with a young cricketer? Where do Dravid, Laxman and Tendulkar fit into the Test team’s medium-term future? Do the selectors plan to sit back and wait (an agonizing wait) for the players to decide on their own exits? Or would they show some initiative, like Trevor Hohns-led panels did in Australia for many years?

***

A lot of things in Indian cricket need fixing (no pun intended). We need both a long-term and a medium-term vision. But we can start with an honest meeting that includes N Srinivasan, Dhoni and the chairman of selectors.

Here’s what I would like addressed.

A decision on Dhoni. What are his plans on his future? What are their thoughts on splitting the captaincy for limited overs and Tests? Of course there is an option to fire Dhoni and bring in the new captain into the meeting but that, in my opinion, would be extreme. Dhoni has served us well and we’re still a potent force at home and in one-day cricket (which is nothing to be ashamed of).

Once there’s some clarity on Dhoni and our captaincy, I would like a in-depth analysis of Duncan Fletcher and his coaching staff. What has he brought to the team? Are the coaching staff coasting along? Is there a general sense of stagnation? Do we need another coach? If they are going to persist with Fletcher and his crew, it would be strange if they’re not on probation.

Next what are the selectors’ plans for the one-day and Test teams? Or are they going to twiddle their thumbs until October when Srikkanth’s term ends? What’s the deal with Dravid, Tendulkar and Laxman? Have they ever had a plan to phase them out? Do they have one now?

Sure, these are hard decisions. But these are precisely the decisions on which legacies are built and broken. If Dhoni plans to be remembered as a captain who not only took India to great heights but also presided over a phase of transition and built on the gains over the last ten years, the time is now. If Fletcher wants to show the team-building skills that helped England go from the depths of 1999 to the heights of 2005, the time is now. If Srinivasan wants to capitalize on the BCCI’s economic might and run Indian cricket like he would a successful company, the time is now.

***

One of my biggest problems with the IPL has got nothing to do with the matches per se. It’s got to do with this overpowering market fundamentalism that now dominates the way cricket is run in this country. Apparently market forces will decide everything. Talk about how young players’ priorities are drastically changing towards T20 and you’re likely to hear responses like, ‘But the fans like it’. Talk about the intrusive ads that assail our TV watching experience and you’ll hear people say, ‘What can we do when there is so much demand?’ Regularization is passe (and don’t even get me started on what happened when bankers and economists took a similar route).

For a more than a decade now, marketing men and player agents have had a bigger say in Indian cricket than either the board or the players. No selector has been free of pressures from player agents. Corporates and cricket are so entwined that most important decisions in Indian cricket are driven by the market. Players are chosen for their brand value; players can’t retire because their brand value is too high.

What Indian cricket desperately needs at this stage (and I guess the same can be said of Indian politics) is a spine. We need leadership. We need a group of people who are willing to take hard calls and be accountable for it. What we also need is for people, for a brief while, to put aside ad dollars, sponsorship rights and hero worship, to and take some decisions that they want to be remembered for.

What we can do without is Rajiv Shukla saying, when asked why there were no corrective measures after the England whitewash,  “… corrective measures were taken. That’s why we could beat them 5-0 on our soil. We beat West Indies also but the problem is that everybody forgets about the series we win and remember the series we lose.” Dear Mr Shukla. It will help if you stop living in denial. Thanks.

There’s a far deeper issue Indian cricket is facing. Stadiums are empty and cricket is losing TV viewers to other sports. While I am happy that people have stopped burning effigies, I think it’s one of the many signals that tell us how people have stopped caring. My friends don’t feel so hurt about India’s defeats anymore and pain has given way to dark comedy. And a surfeit of options has ensured that fans don’t have to mull on defeats for too long. On Friday, I was flattened by the whitewash. By this morning, I was hooked to the mind-blowing Australian Open final. It could have been a Champions League match. Or an F1 race. Or a movie streamed on Netflix.

To even begin to address any of these issues, we need some ballsy leadership. We need people at the top in Indian cricket to start by asking themselves: What do we aspire for? What do we most want to achieve? What do we want to be remembered for?

They may fail. But they must begin by trying. Ian Thorpe was willing to  sacrifice his legacy for the love of the sport. N Srinivasan, Dhoni, Fletcher and Srikkanth – apart from the several others who really matter at the top –  must shape a legacy that is built on this country’s love for this beautiful sport.

PS: This was written more with sorrow than with anger.

PPS: This blog won’t be what it is without the enriching discussions that happen in the comments section. Considering the subject of this post, I would love to hear your thoughts on the way forward.

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168 Responses to Legacy: whose father what goes?

  1. Sriram Dayanand says:

    Sid, I honestly wouldn’t know where to begin to agree with you. But I’ll just pick a couple.

    “Medium term vision” – that term you used, captures a labyrinth of issues. This is so symptomatic of so many of the other aspects you talk about. There is absolutely nothing right now that even pretends presents a case that it is even a matter under consideration.

    And I will just say this – you talk so eloquently and with feeling about people just stopping to care. Do we really need anything more? Do we need anything else? As you say, thrashing out at easy targets like the IPL is one thing. But as you say, the malaise runs deeper. And wide.

    I’ll just stop and say, amen brother.

    I concur.

    • sidvee says:

      Thanks Sriram. It worries me when people stop caring about whitewashes :(

      • knittins says:

        Reg. stopping caring about whitewashes – quoting Rachel Greene from FRIENDS, when asked by her spoilt sister why she didn’t visit her when she was getting her lips done – “I did, the first time!”

        I didn’t intend to slip into dark comedy. Really.

  2. Nicely written Sid. And agree with you regarding IPL.

  3. Sid,

    More than anything, it is the distinct lack of direction in the leadership that is extremely worrisome to me. I have spent many hours talking to Homer (Yep, a courtesy call turns in to hours on Indian cricket with him) on this specific point. When I say leadership, it is on many levels – Captain, Coaching staff, The senior members of the team, and it extends to selection committee and of course, the board. Looking through a focused lens, the immediate thing that appears is that the leadership either lacks the balls or has stagnated. I need to make one point before we analyze this further: What we have seen under Dhoni is that a player, once selected, is almost always given the long rope and multiple chances to fail before replacements are called in. If we see the situation through that prism, the fact that they did not make any change to the batting order sort of (mildly) makes sense. However, was that detrimental to the long term vision of the team? Perhaps so. As you of all people know, players can go through a rough patch any time in their career and given time, quality players get through it and come out blazing. Let us say VVS (for example) is going through the tough times and it is possible given time, he’ll come out of it. Is that investment prudent? Especially when it is a 37 year old. Even if he were to come out of the slump, he is not gonna be around much longer after that. Hence the right decision would have been to get Rohit in at Perth itself. If not there, most definitely Adelaide (as going in to Perth, we still had a (minuscule) chance of squaring the series. This time investment was made for Kohli and pleasantly, it has already paid some reward.

    The incident you cited from 2008 of Dhoni wanting to send a message across runs counter to the muddled thinking that was on exhibition during this series. What has caused that change? Is it the Coach-Captain combination?

    Another example of stagnation is in the progress (or lack of it) in the Indian bowlers, especially pacers. We have specialized bowling coach and even after many sessions and days and tests of inaccurate, thoughtless bowling, there hasn’t been any change to the approach. Either the bowlers are incapable of following through with the plans in which case, they need to go, or the coach is setting up poor plans of attack, in which case, he needs to go. Monga brought a good point in his post on CI that Ponting, of late, had been falling victim to the full delivery and getting LBW. This much was obvious during the SA series and the NZ series. For heaven sakes, in the Hobart test vs NZ, Ponting walked after getting hit on the pad and didn’t wait for umpire’s decision. Yet, we tried to bowl short to him and voila, he was back in form. This is directly the bowling coach’s fault.

    What is Fletcher’s role in this team that has players that have so much experience? Is he just coming along for the ride? He was expected to work on people’s batting technique. We saw Gambhir develop bad habits, Dravid getting trapped in the same web and there were no solutions in sight.

    More egregious was the fact that Ojha wasn’t given an opportunity at all. We played 4 seamers at Perth. Why? Muddled thinking. This team (and its leadership, more importantly) seems to have forgotten the strengths on which the successes of the past were built on.

    Moving forward, it needs to be made clear what is the goal for the Indian team. What is going to be the basis on which the team is going to be designed to succeed? Everything else follows from there. If long term success is the goal, the elder statesmen need to go. Of course, there needs to be change in the coaches who haven’t brought any value to the team. Two years of playing at home is plenty of time to get a lot of the things right again before we go abroad: From coaches to captain to the team composition.

    • sidvee says:

      Thanks Couch. Fine points all. I agree re Dhoni giving players the long rope and sure, VVS and RD may well find their nick and blaze away. But I honestly don’t think that investment is prudent at this stage. It will set back the younger lot by a few more years. I totally agree re lack of planning from the coaches. The same mistakes have been committed on loop. I mean one can blame Dhoni for the field positions but Fletcher and Co need to answer for the rest. I remember Agarkar used to get both Langer and Ponting when they fell over. These are well-known facts. Re Fletcher, I have been stumped for long. He must go IMO. But the baffling bit is – hardly any analysis of what he’s bringing to the side anywhere in the media.

      And completely agree with you about forgetting our strengths. I think debates surrounding ‘make fast pitches at home’ only add to it. Some of the best spells in Perth have come from spinners. Considering Ojha is a better bowler than Vinay, it should have been a no-brainer. In fact I think Dhoni once said (long ago) that he preferred to play the best XI irrespective of the conditions. I don’t know when (and why) that theory fell apart.

      • Of course, it isn’t prudent to give a 37-year old another 2 years to come good while the blossoming of younger talent is neutered.

        Re Fletcher: As someone who has been part of the cricket media and been exposed to the inner workings of cricket teams and media, what is your educated guess on why there is hardly any analysis of what Fletcher was expected to bring to the side and how that may not be happening?

      • sidvee says:

        The only reason I can think of is that nobody says anything any more. When John Wright was the coach, players and coaches openly granted interviews and spoke of their plans, their vision etc. When Chappell was the coach, he almost gave an interview a day. And after a point, some players spoke ‘off the record’ about Chappell every day. Since Kirsten’s time, there seems to have been a strict gag on anyone talking to the media. I rarely saw too many interviews with Kirsten and hardly read too many detailed analytical pieces about what he brought to the side (which is a shame because he seems to have brought a lot). And the trend has only continued with Fletcher. Still, I am surprised because a coach with poor results (especially a foreign one) is usually shredded apart. My final guess: the team as well as the coaching staff are coasting along too complacently and assume that a corner is going to be turned at some point.

      • prof says:

        http://www.dnaindia.com/analysis/column_dump-duncan-fletcher-too-not-just-vvs-laxman_1637719

        In this article, dated 15th Jan, Sumit chakrabarthy already criticised Fletcher & his methods

      • sidvee says:

        Sure, there have been a few pieces here and there. But would love more in-depth analysis.

    • dyogesh4u says:

      Spot on about Ponting’s known weakness not being exploited. The coaching staff or Ishant also has a fair bit to answer about Ishant not bowling a fuller length.

  4. Suhrith says:

    You’re entirely right when saying that we have no right to demand retirements from Dravid, Laxman or Tendulkar, but I think a slight distinction must be drawn between Thorpe’s and Dravid’s case in so far as that Thorpe is an individual competing in his individual capacity, but Dravid’s decision affects not merely him, but has larger consequences. That said, I still wouldn’t go to the extent of opining on whether he should retire or not (it’s his legacy, he can do what he wants with it), but what I am concerned about is the team and as far as that goes, the time for a simple transition has passed – we can’t be easing youngsters in anymore, they’ll need to be thrust into it. There are of course several major issues to be dealt with, but on the pure level of selection, the axe needs to be taken, something which I spoke about here: http://www.criticaltwenties.in/sport/4332

    • sidvee says:

      Thanks Suhrith. The selectors (at some point) need to do their job :) Agree re transitions: it’s reached a stage where we need to instigate some chaos. No young team can do worse than 4-0 anyway.

  5. MohanK says:

    Brilliant, as always. I agree completely. Unless (long/medium-term) vision matches strategy, the detail is utterly meaningless. Now, we are legitimately questioning the very existence of either vision or strategy. After the World Cup win, there was, definitely bluster. Witness the noise when Dominica happened.

    In that limited sense, I am glad that the bluster bubble has burst. The chest has deflated. Corrective measure will need to be taken.

    These measures will require honesty, lack of fear, an uncompromising commitment to excellence, the banishing of mediocrity and the presence of a strong mirror. Tough times. Uncompromising measures.

    The question I have to ask is: Are ALL the stakeholders ready? Fans. Players. Officials. IPL Team owners. Media, etc?

    I suspect most of us suspect and know the answer to the above question.

    The questions you ask are a valid and importnant start of an intriguing debate that must be had. The time is right.

    Thanks.

    • sidvee says:

      The bubble has burst, Mohan but everyone is still in denial. I don’t believe that Sehwag said, ‘We won 2-0 at home’. That’s outright baffling. Most players are making such ridiculous comments (and I blame some seniors who have stayed totally clear of press conferences in Aus) and the BCCI, of course, is never short of them. As for all the stakeholders being ready – we all know the answer. The big N O

      • MohanK says:

        if ALL stakeholders (Fans. Players. Officials. IPL Team owners. Media) are not ready for a thorough introspection even after this sequence of disasters (post Dominica) and if all the stakeholders remain in denial, then there is only one thing we can/must all do: Sit on our fingers, collecting ring marks on our butts!

        If we know that that is what is expected, the ride may actually be enjoyable. :D

        You commented on Sehwag’s incredulous post-loss statements in the media and the fact that the seniors did not attend media conferences.

        Sehwag COULD have said: “We screwed up. Badly. We had absolutely no answers and need a thorough look at where we are headed as a team. We need to throw all the cards up in the air and see if they land where they currently are. My suspicion is, not!”

        He’d have been right. He’d have also been pilloried and slapped around mercilessly by the media pack. Players are in a no-win situation in an environment that is dominated by theatrics and a sorry lack of either perspective or balance.

        Which is why I said that the media has to be a part of this question: Are the stakeholders really ready for an introspection on excellence?

        We believe NO. Let us enjoy the process of collecting ring marks on our butts then! :)

      • sidvee says:

        But when have ALL stakeholders been ready? Especially in a set up where it is increasingly difficult to tell the difference between an ad and a news piece, between a selector and an ambassador, between a commentator and a cheerleader and between a president and a team owner. How can anyone be ready for anything?

  6. Sidhanta Patnaik says:

    Point taken. Aptly put. However this is how it will remain. Suppose youngsters are blooded in, the cycle will yet again repeat when they near their end. Its our obsession with personalities that causes this trauma. Tomorrow if new guys fail theories of getting the oldies back will take flight. For God’s sake cricketers are no ready made clothes that you walk in and pick them up.
    Time and space needs to be given for the right team composition to be set and for that now is the time.
    Respect for the greats definitely but I think the fear of what after cricket? Makes it difficult for them to exit at the right time. Someone commented the other day- Gavaskar is still the country’s best opener , does that mean he gets a place in the team now too. Sums it up.

    • sidvee says:

      We have gone through phases before when youngsters were blooded and did well. There’s no real shame in trying now because no young team can do worse than 4-0. As for retirements, everyone reaches a stage when they need to finish but it’s the selection committee that needs to take these strong decisions. The players don’t need to take that call for themselves (though it would be great if they would).

  7. Akshay Padmawar says:

    Sid, while I liked & agreed to most of your points on the way forward, I think the pitch issue is a bit overrated. We have always had these kind of pitches & we have produced players like Vishwanath, gavaskar, tendulkar, dravid etc. who actually have more runs outside the subcontinent than in india. I know different times need different measures, but I still feel we should still maintain our speciality in spinning tracks & offer challenge to teams coming from outside subcontinent. otherwise it will be easier for them to compete here actually.
    What we can do is to shortlist some 30 best players from country & make dosiers for them, like this ‘X’ player need to play in England, ‘Y’ in Australia etc. so that they get the exposure & be ready when called for indian team. Also we can have some meaning full overseas tours for our ‘A’ teams.
    Recently Punjab banned players below 21 from playing IPL so that they learn the basics before entering the cash rich tournament. such measures are really needed so that youngsters understand d importance of basics.
    Your thoughts ??

    • sidvee says:

      I too think we must play to our strengths. But it helps nobody if we play on pitches with poor bounce. It is possible to produce pitches that help spinners and yet have consistent bounce – we’ve had pitches in Hyderabad and Chennai that have been great examples of this. Of course we must play to our strengths. As I mentioned a few days ago: when India lose to pace abroad, the focus is on the pitches back home. When England lose to spin, the focus is on technique and how they can play spin better. Nobody says they should prepare turning tracks in England. Good bounce is the key.

      And I agree with the PCA’s decision. In an ideal world these things will be discussed by a central committee of the BCCI and implemented across the board. But it’s good to see individual state associations taking some initiative. At least somebody is!

      • MohanK says:

        The PCA decision flies in the face of “IPL injures the centrally contracted players” argument though. Remember “Club Vs Country” in the case of Gambhir, SRT, et al? So why don’t we have the IPL in which BOTH U-21s AND centrally contracted players are banned from participating? :D

  8. Sunder Raj says:

    Sid V- Brilliantly articulated, could not agree more with your analysis. On a slightly tangential note always wondered if this was public corporation accountable to stock holders what would they do.
    For starters they would look at their portfolio of Test Cricket/T-20/IPL/Domestic cricket and value each of them. I am sure they will find each of one is valued by its stockholders somewhat differently, mind you national pride, test ranking status all have equity. These distinctly different formats need very different governance style and management, not having the delineation makes it easy for one to ride the coattails of the other which eventually devalues (in this case)test cricket but eventually the overall entity, All smart businesses know how and where to create those divisions and at the same time are very astute in maximizing their overall value, when one of the division is not performing there are serious consequences.

    I hope someone is looking into the overarching structure at BCCI (I doubt), heads need to roll

    Thanks

    • sidvee says:

      Fine point. That’s where priorities come in. And a responsible public company would surely look into it. The problem is that the BCCI is not public. And technically has nobody to answer to.

  9. Superb writing as always.
    Re: the IPL, I think one of the problems with it is that it’s raison d’etre seems to be money, and cricket is incidental, whereas it should be the other way round. You’ve spoken before too of the marketers and player-agents unholy influence, and the way LKM set up IPL, it seems to be just a continuation of that. Once you invite such big business into bed with no clear set of rules and conditions, you can’t turn around and say ‘ok you know a 7-week tournament is too long, we’ll cut it in half, split teams in two groups etc. of course you’ll get fewer home games and fewer games overall, so revenue might be affected’. A Mukesh Ambani hasn’t sunk in hundreds of millions just for ‘the love of cricket’. None of them have.
    I love the idea of an IPL-style tournament that provides so much financial security to people like sudeep tyagi or some reward for a career that should have returned more for people like Murali Kartik. I love the fact that Ashok Menaria can learn about attitude on the field from Shane Warne, that Badrinath can speak about batting to Michael Hussey etc. I hate that all of it seem secondary benefits. Money is very important, but its being treated like the be-all, end-all of all things.
    On the legacy bit – seemed like a sequel to Rohit Brijnath’s ‘Elegy for the Long Player’. Such a fine and worthy sequel!

    • sidvee says:

      Agree. Which is my big problem. And that same attitude is spreading throughout our cricket. I don’t expect a Mukesh Ambani to invest in cricket because of his love for the game. But I expect the BCCI to.

  10. TheTweetThumb says:

    Hey Sid,
    Very well executed unlike the plan of action by the BCCI and the Core members who decide the future of Indian cricket as you aptly said.
    Not worrying about a legacy and continuing your first love i.e the sport you play is a completely different scenario in a team sport than an Individual sport.If a Roger Federer decides to still play at the highest level after having Achieved all those laurels he has it doesnt hamper someone else growth n progress same for Ian Thorpe in the eg. stated but take an Hypothetical situation where If Roger had been holding a Davis Cup place for an upcoming young Swiss star permitting only one rep from a country he wud be holding back someone just because he has the love for the game.
    I cringed in my seat watchin India go thru a 4 match series with out a single batting order change leave aside a change in personnel.I cannot imagine the drop in confidence or the shift of focus of a young Ajinkya rahane , Rohit sharma sitting on the bench knowing they could have certainly deserved a chance to prove themself . I Remember the Famous Nasser Hussain retirement where he retd post a winning Century scored chasing down a total and decided to make way for Andrew strrauss on the subsequent return to the team of Micheal Vaughn who was out due to injury : He made a Long term call knowing a Strauss would contribute to English cricket more in the long run than himself. Tough but a Worthy Decision.
    Indian cricket is in Shambles and the change needs to come at the Ranji trophy level.

    • sidvee says:

      Thanks for the comment. Sure, if Federer is blocking someone else’s place in the Davis Cup team, the selectors of that team have every reason to drop him. All I’m saying is, let’s not put the onus totally on Federer to take the decision. The selectors have a job. They are paid for it. They should do it.

      • TheTweetThumb says:

        Agreed . The concerned people must do their jobs in the best interest of the team leaving emotions aside.

  11. Ankeet Sinha says:

    Good to know you havent gotten over the whitewash. It has taken me the whole weekend (and a little comfort that Arsenal FC won a brilliant FA Cup tie which has reduced the pain)and im still thinking… Is our team so bad that we couldnt bowl them out twice in atleast 2 matches or score above 400 atleast twice?
    I think this is an excellent article.. quite different from the unfunny ones on cricinfo :)

    P.S: Thank Ramesh Srivats otherwise I would have never known of this awesome article.

    P.P.S: Good to know there is one more mad person other than me who loves Indian cricket but thinks rationally.

  12. Pingback: Sidvee on the Agneepath aftermath | The Sight Screen

  13. Agree with you on all counts. Especially liked your points on medium term and long term planning. You are indeed right in saying that it is sad when people do not care for a whitewash.

    I have been following this entity called Indian Cricket since the 1996 World Cup. And if I’m not wrong, even in the lows of ’99 in Australia and the match fixing scandal that came later, this team was whitewashed only once. We managed to save the one odd test match every series; even when we were hammered in Durban in ’96, we saved the test in Jo’burg (in fact went close to winning it. Dravid’s maiden century was it? 148 if memory serves right). I remember your article after Durban last year telling 15 year olds celebrating the win, that it wasn’t all that glorious back then. But going just by the results, this is taking us further down. Two whitewashes in less than a year. And it is almost the same team core. We have had IPL from 2008. We became the World Number 1 in 2009. So it is not like IPL has come, hijacked the performance and gone. I would like to know if we are missing Kirsten and if it was him who was complementing Dhoni so well. But it does not seem so, because under Fletcher, we are still winning at home. I refuse to agree that we gained the No. 1 by only playing at home. Of course, it helped. But when a team can almost pull off a series win in South Africa, it has to be good. So where has the fight that was there a year back in SA, gone now? We faced a far more potent attack and emerged with our honors intact. Have the trio gotten old? Should we phase them out slowly as Dhoni was saying? Unless we blood youngsters, we wouldn’t know if they are good.

    So in my view, we need to bring in the likes of Pujara, Raina (who did rather well in WI and in the beginning of the England tour), Rohit and see if they have the character that made Sachin, Dravid and Laxman the players they are and if they can take the team to the same heights, if not higher, to which these legends took it to. I would be happy if the team can make me come out with my head held high. I wouldn’t mind if they fail but I would like to see more of the attitude that Umesh Yadav showed at Perth in every fast bowler. Yes, you are right in saying the change must come from the grassroots and must follow a bottom-to-top approach.

    • sidvee says:

      Yes, we need to start throwing youngsters at the deep end. And there have been any number of instances of them responding favorably in the recent past. Like the T20 WC win, like Pujara doing well at No.3 in Bangalore, like Kohli finding his groove, like Ishant and RP bowling so well in Aus last time. Etc

  14. Like all others agreed on all counts. Well written.U and a few other I know need to think of taking over BCCI military coup style (if only wishes were horses) and crack the whip.. What is a big bother and baffles me to the core is why the hell cant people at the helm (selectors, coach, BCCI head honchos) see what is pretty obvious…that something is wrong .. something which every cricket knowing person can see crystal clear!! Guess the money has rotten them to the core.. n that’s where the comparison to indian politics is so apt! When Dhoni & Kirsten teamed up and took hard decisions in 2008, it was obvious that there was a plan and that resulted in out victory on 2nd April… time for some similar decisions me thinks .. and probably Dhoni, Sachin, Dravid will need to take the initiative .. Coz I cant see the 2 tamil guys leading BCCI & selection committee taking any steps!!

  15. Mahek says:

    If we’re resigned to the fact that the changes we’d like to see in the long-term aren’t going to happen then our medium-term vision is just as unlikely to be realised. Assuming we take every statement of the players and officials on face value, they don’t think there is anything wrong with our cricket. “We just failed to seize the moments”, “the time is not right”, “we won 2-0 at home”, “I’m bowling the right length for me”. What do you do when a batsman who scored a 100 and was batting well in the second innings justifies his decision to block a delivery to ensure his side had no chance to lose a test in a series we’d already won? What is the point of expecting the kind of changes you have listed (And I agree with all of them) when everyone is happy with the status quo?

    Someone brought up the point of this team giving players a long rope. Well, that long rope isn’t extended to every player. How else do you explain Ojha’s continued absence from the XI or Badrinath being dropped after just 3 innings against a world class attack, 1 of which was a fighting fifty? Also, there have been times in the past where the team changed things up, like promoting Pujara to number 3 at Bangalore when Dravid was struggling. Wright & Ganguly did it with Laxman in 2001, Ganguly himself came in ahead of Tendulkar in the second innings at Melbourne in 2003 when the latter was struggling, and the very next test promoted Laxman ahead of himself because VVS was in sublime form.

    I have no idea what happens in the dressing room so I can’t say what needs to change. In a way it’s fitting that we’re losing the way we are because we didn’t try and win as much as we could have while we were running good.

    • sidvee says:

      A whole lot of people are living in denial. And there have been some absurd comments through this series. I am equally baffled by this team’s inability to think out of the box. They hardly tried anything different during this whole series. Didn’t try to change the order, didn’t throw in Laxman at No.3. They kept running on the same treadmill and kept tripping the same way each time. It was pathetic.

  16. Ashish says:

    Hi Sid,

    Excellent post, as always. I’d like to touch upon one aspect of the IPL that you didn’t highlight, and one that I think has done more damage than anything else.
    Actually, I’m not quite sure the IPL is directly responsible for this, but I’m sure it must be playing a part – in Indian players no longer being able to play county cricket in England.

    Zaheer in 2007 is the best, and most recent example of a player who benefited enormously from a stint in county cricket, but that option no longer exists for every Indian cricketer… and in my opinion, Indian Test cricket, in particular, has suffered enormously for it.

    Thoughts?

    • sidvee says:

      Sure. That’s a ridiculous decision by the BCCI to stop players from going to Eng. It helped Zaheer a great deal and also helped many of our batsmen. Players like Ishant and Umesh will learn a lot there. It boils down to priorities – if you want to build a good Test team for the future, this would be a no-brainer.

    • marees says:

      I second this. Why were players like Laxmanand Ishant who were no good in limited over competitions prevented from playing county cricket in England? It seems that nobody really cares about the test match performances. Only money talks….

      • Russ says:

        marees, as I understand it, the decision is indirectly IPL related. The BCCI knows the IPL is the pre-eminent T20 tournament in the world, and they intend to keep it that way, banning players from signing for English counties, or BBL teams, etc. It is daft from a development perspective, but daytime English T20 games broadcast into Indian prime-time and they don’t want Indian players acting as a drawcard.

        There are visa restrictions in place in England now too, but they’d be assessed on a case to case basis.

  17. Chuck says:

    I plan to add nothing to the discussion in the comments. I just wanted to say:

    Wow.

  18. cymbaline42 says:

    Excellent article, Sid. You are truly one of the most fervent, heartfelt cricket writers of our generation. I, for one, however haven’t transitioned to dark humour after an Indian loss just yet. The past six months have been awfully painful, but if the BCCI takes actions similar to what you (and a few others) have described, it might just prove there is hope. Cheers.

    – Vijay

  19. Sathish says:

    “Dear Mr Shukla. It will help if you stop living in denial” – Interesting word, this “denial”. It has been used frequently in Twitter since the Sydney defeat. But Sid, is Shukla the only person who is in denial mode? Almost the entire Indian team, Captain, Coach and even some fans and cricket experts are in denial mode. “We won 2-0 in India”(Sehwag),”We should prepare rank turners in Inida”(Gambhir), “We are not embarassed”(Ashwin) are some examples. The manner in which Harbhajan was persisted with the team for a long time till Eng tour, the way they recalled RP Singh from his vacation to bowl in an important Test match, MSD’s unwillingness to make any tactical changes on the field inspite of Plan A not working, Selection of playing XI for the Adelaide Test, the manner in Sehwag getting out repeatedly to aggressive shots etc confirmed this “being in denial mode”. This has affected us the worst in the Bowling department. India’s bowling weaknesses got exposed badly in CWC 2011. But nobody bothered then. The classic statement that often comes from “denial” masters is “We were never a great bowling team, Batting is our strength”.

    So Players can decide when they want to retire, Players can decide when they want to play, Players can decide whether they are match fit or not. I think as passionate Indian cricket fans we can only wait.

    • sidvee says:

      No, Shukla is not the only one. Everyone is. Sehwag, Ashwin, Gambhir, Ishant. Everyone. I am saying, the players can decide when they want to retire but the selectors (who are paid to do a job) can drop them if they think they’re finished.

  20. arzvi says:

    Hi Sid
    Two points.

    1. You say its becoz fans like it that the new players tilt towards t-20. A lot of people I talk to (who followed cricket closely since early 90s) stated IPL was the reason they stopped watching it. The requirement for a jerk drama like a boundary or a six has overtaken the stylish display of batting or calculated bowling we’ve loved all the time. Murali was hit for 24 in single over in a short ground during power play. While no decree says he should never be, I find it hard to think the carefully planned longer forms might see drama over the core values the sport stands for. Just like action movies over a good drama, IPL can be taken like a coke that gives immediate pleasure while hurting in long term. Although there are no points to relate t-20 and IPL has resulted in loss of form of batsman, there haven’t been one to oppose either.

    2. Without good bowling superstars you tend to feel the fact that the importance given to improve bowling standards in the grass roots are declining. Although there are good spinners, I am astounded to see not a single Bret Lee or Glenn McGrath from India for the past 2 decades(Zaheer came very near to being one, before his paunch overtook him). This has led to Indian team with say lots of strkers but no defenders(soccer) or lots of RBs/Wide receivers with no defensive line(NFL). Ok you get my point. The coin of Indian cricket is one with two heads and no tails. We desperately need great bowlers to shine outside India, and to disprove whoever says Indian cricket is tiger at home and a cat outside.

    I often tend to blabber and go out of my train of thought, I hope I’ve given some sane points.

    • sidvee says:

      A lot of fans don’t like it but I think the IPL has ushered in a lot of new fans. Many people follow only the IPL and no other cricket. The IPL has brought in plenty of women fans. And so on. Nothing wrong with all this. Zaheer has been a fine bowler for five years. He had a poor series here but I think he has done far more for India in Tests than Brett Lee did for Aus in Tests.

  21. Sumit says:

    In my opinion, the most important thing is “do people care”?
    When N. Srinivas says that “Wait till they come here”, it shows that BCCI doesn’t care whether India performs well overseas. When Sehwag says that “We still won the world cup” and “Australia lost 2-0 in India”, he damningly conveys that maybe even players have stopped caring about overseas performance. When you say that you are not angry but sad, maybe it shows that you have gone from care to despair. When Team India sends out Ashwin to every tough press conference, it shows that it doesn’t care about the questions being asked.
    In an age where almost every team is winning at home and struggling away, do the people who matter care whether India wants to be more than that? Sadly, I do not think so.

    • sidvee says:

      Yes, a lot of people don’t care. And if that attitude continues, the sport is in deep trouble. Already audiences are voting with their feet by staying away from stadiums.

  22. Maddy says:

    I think one of the reasons for the pathetic performance is of the bowlers. Apart from one or two spells, bowlers like Zaheer, Umesh, Ishant and Vinay were hardly intimidating and Ashwin has a long way to go. So we missed Kumble and to some extent Harbhajan. While all the talk about the seniors starts with Dravid and ends with Laxman, no one has the guts to question Tendulkar. Also does not the non-performance of Sehwag & Gambir hurt? Their repeated failures at the top ensured that we were a wicket down before the score reached double digits also hurt the team. Also one century cannot condone Virat’s pathetic performance and behaviour. As long as we have the Srinivasans of the world running BCCI as their personal fiefdoms, nothing’s going to change. Just look back – in recent times from the Dalmia era to the Pawar era to the Srinivasan era. This is like asking our politicians to change. I am very pessimistic. As there are no tough tours looming ahead, we will somehow manage and things will go on.

  23. Sriram says:

    Excellent post, Sidvee. Agree with you on all counts.

    1. The players’ retirements issue reminds me of Atul Gawande’s article “Letting Go” (http://nyr.kr/cZHS6y). The issues in both cases are analogous: hard to discuss and easy to sidestep. This is eerily similar:

    “Almost all these patients had known, for some time, that they had a terminal condition. Yet they—along with their families and doctors—were unprepared for the final stage. “We are having more conversation now about what patients want for the end of their life, by far, than they have had in all their lives to this point,” my friend said. “The problem is that’s way too late.” …
    The hard question we face, then, is not how we can afford this system’s expense. It is how we can build a health-care system that will actually help dying patients achieve what’s most important to them at the end of their lives….Two-thirds of the terminal-cancer patients in the Coping with Cancer study reported having had no discussion with their doctors about their goals for end-of-life care, despite being, on average, just four months from death…In other words, people who had substantive discussions with their doctor about their end-of-life preferences were far more likely to die at peace and in control of their situation, and to spare their family anguish.”

    The solution seems to be to talk, as mature adults, even though the topic is difficult. Understand what everyone wants and arrive at a consensus. But should we expect the patients to trust doctors who messed with them in the past (Dravid, Laxman and SRT have all been shoved around by the selectors)? Do the doctors have any plan? Have they been afraid to tell the patients the truth? Whichever of these is the reason, I think the only way out is to bite the bullet. Soon.

    2. From afar, it seems like SRT picks and chooses his battles at will. While this impression could be very wrong, I believe the main reason for it is the opaqueness of the selectors and SRT himself. I am reminded of a very similar incident with Agassi and the American Davis Cup team towards the end of his career (http://bit.ly/ztOv8T). The way the American team and Agassi tackled the issue is the polar opposite of the way the BCCI and SRT have handled this.

    3. One thing I would like to see changed is the team’s attitude. It has been the players’ approaches that has given stamina to the elephant (in spite of the administrators’ efforts to rob the momentum). People like SRT/RD/AK played with pride, lost with humility and were honest to themselves when they needed to improve. But the overall attitude in this series was a huge letdown for me. It resembled that of a whingeing man who, when confronted with a high cholesterol reading, flatly denies it and moves on with life as before.

    Someone within has to take the lead and have them look in the mirror. This has happened before: “His Mumbai Indians had just been dumped out of the Indian Premier League – relocated to South Africa for security reasons – and Tendulkar ranted for nearly 10 minutes. It wasn’t just the game that had been lost minutes earlier. Each previous loss was broken down, culprits identified. “Things will change,” he promised. In the two seasons since, the Indians have won 19 of 28 regular-season games, though the title continues to elude them.” — Dileep Premachandran on SRT after IPL 2009.

    Any soul searching that’s happening is not publicly obvious. A rant, a dissection from within is necessary. Furthermore, such honesty has to become a culture. Otherwise, the elephant will lose its stamina too.

    4. Market forces are regularly altered by policy. Love this quirky policy of Google on food from vending machines (close to the end of the post at http://bit.ly/puKkSd). The BCCI essentially has to do something similar. Takes balls as you said.

    5. On a long term note, I think exposing youngsters to county cricket (or club cricket in England/Aus) will help them broaden — both as cricketers and as persons. But, we will leave that aside for the moment.

    • sidvee says:

      Thanks Sriram. Wonderful points. I must say you are often the star of the comments section with all these interesting links and connections. I remember reading Gawande’s piece but (until now) never thought of it in this context. Also, super point re Agassi and SRT with the Mumbai Indians. I am shocked that there has been no suggestion of such an in-depth analysis. We need to take apart this series threadbare. Piece by piece. That’s the only way we’re going to improve. And I don’t see anyone caring enough. And Sehwag ends the series with, ‘We won 2-0 at home’.

      • Sriram says:

        Thanks, Sidvee. Glad you liked the comment. Firstly, you write with great perspective and put things in a way that resonate with me. So I enjoy reading your blog and thinking about it. Also, I really appreciate the fact that you take the time to respond to most comments. This makes me feel like I am having a conversation with someone, instead of my comments disappearing into the ether. Anyways, hope you keep the blog going and in the meanwhile, we can only pray that the game in which we have invested so much emotional energy doesn’t wither away in India.

      • sidvee says:

        Thanks Sriram. It’s wonderful to write something and get back so many enlightening comments. Also makes me happy that there is a passionate audience for whom I’m writing. And yes, we can now continue praying :)

  24. I think you hit the nail on the head when you said that cricket is “often the only thing he does well, the only thing he knows”. For the vast majority of top-class cricketers (although perhaps not Dravid), that’s true. When retirement approaches, it’s not their legacy or their love of the game that they think about most — it’s “what next?”. And there’s no obvious answer…

    These guys are only halfway through life, if that. What do they do with the rest of their lives, away from the limelight? Today’s stars at least don’t have to worry about financial security (assuming they have invested their earnings wisely of course). But in the absence of an obvious next phase in their lives, why should they be expected to voluntarily give up the game they love, the limelight, the earnings, the comrades, the very life they’ve lived for two decades or more…

    Increasingly, the selectors will have to take these hard decisions for them. But for that to happen you need selectors who place the team’s interests (yes, medium to long term) ahead of their fraternal feeling for these aging stars. And that’s not likely to happen IMO…

  25. Brilliantly put up Sir, Surely the lack of communication between the seniors,captain and the so-called parent of the game-the bcci ,show us that there is certainly no vision-neither long term nor medium..!
    one point in defence of Mahi I would say, as Dada termed during his tenure that “Indian Captaincy is a slow death”. He is the best man-manager till date,maybe not-so good a captain these days.As,a leader always needs to improvise in different situations. He has come a full circle- from 2008 tri series to this 2012 one..! He needs a re-vamp in his own mind,need to fight it out etc but his present workloads and what he told us,that he will have to shed the load from one format to play 2015 WC isnt good for our cricket.At this moment we need him badly and I dont want,seriously will not be able to take him resigning or being taken down at this moment. Indian cricket need him for a vision atleast till 2015.
    Plus,if he goes down now,Selectors will not think about long term for sure(eg. giving captaincy to kohli etc) but to sehwag/gauti and eyeing previous odi series and last test,it seems like it would be viru..Am good with Gauti-because he is a fighter .But you cant keep going back to that person who at first place didnt want to take that job. A task done forcefully will not lead success to an extent when you do so with your heart.
    And I pray for some mental strength for Rohit,if he doesnt have at first place,pray to give him some patience to hang in there before he gets his test spot,because I dont want to end up like Badri.Giving opportunities is important but giving opportunities at right time is more important,IMO.

    I hope bcci sheds their denial,as soon as possible,that would be good for them as well as better for our Cricket too.

  26. Nirav says:

    Very well-written. Its a well-known fact that we need reforms all the way in Indian cricket (like we need in our political system), right from the way BCCI is run to the domestic competitions.

    However, I find it quite amusing how IPL has become the enfant terrible of Indian cricket and how people are quick to point to it as the root cause of all our woes. If I have to take a cold, hard look, IPL has probably brought more positives to Indian cricket than negatives, and from an organization/administration perspective, its about the only good thing to have happened in Indian cricket for a long long time.

    IPL has been responsible in bringing about several positive things to a ‘domestic’ Indian competition – it has provided a platform in which local players can interact and learn from world-class internationals, can benefit from modern coaching and training, can get the security to pursue cricket as a career, and can get to play in a domestic competition with a large viewership and competitive intensity. Alas, all of this is in a T20 format. What we need is an IPL like format for the Ranji Trohpy (too bad its not commercially viable)

  27. One of the reasons why this soap opera with Tendulkar, Dravid and Laxman regarding will they or won’t they retire has to do with the lack of context in Test cricket. Another factor is the small amount of money at stake in terms of player accountability compared to other professional sports. It’s one of the great advantages of franchise structures vs. national team structures.

    Compare the situation in the Indian team to the Peyton Manning saga that is currently unfolding in the NFL and the Indianapolis Colts. If Peyton Manning were playing for India, he would be emboldened with quotes from Sehwag like, “There is no need for anyone to retire.” Let’s assume that Manning will be 100% healthy in an attempt to come back from injury this year. Working under the system that seems to be in place in Indian cricket where the inmates run the asylum, Manning would be free to keep playing next year without any threat whatsoever from Andrew Luck taking his place. Poor Andrew Luck would be forced to wait two, three, four years on the bench before Manning chooses to retire, severely stunting his development. However, there are 28 million reasons why the Colts may be encouraged to dump Manning and start fresh with Luck because at the age of 36 and coming off injury, Manning presents more cons than pros for keeping him around compared to drafting Luck.

    A similar drama took place a few years ago with the Packers. Brett Favre kept hanging around, hanging around. The Packers had Aaron Rodgers waiting in the wings. Favre refused to retire so the Packers kicked his ass out the door and traded him to the Jets. This was just a few months removed from the Packers having the best record in the NFC and only an overtime loss in the NFC Championship Game stopped them from going to the Super Bowl. Initially, people in Green Bay got upset at the Packers for axing a legend from the roster, but before long it was Favre who caught the ire of fans for his graceless exit and the way he continually waited until the last possible moment to tell teams (Packers, Jets, Vikings) of his plans for the future, essentially holding them to ransom by playing the Yes I will/No I won’t retire game. There was big money at stake with regards to player salaries and the Packers franchise had to consider the next 5 to 10 years of results in an attempt to win a Super Bowl, which they achieved in Rodgers third year as a starter AKA year three of the post-Favre era. If Favre was playing for India, he’d still be at the helm and Rodgers would be in his seventh year as a back-up QB instead of having won a Super Bowl as a starter and in all likelihood an NFL MVP award for this season.

    In the simplest sense, the Favre and Manning situations used trying to win a Super Bowl as the context/motivation for which to make their decisions while ancillary factors such as drafting new players, individual salary, team salary cap and yes, ticket sales, are also taken into consideration. What is the context to make any decisions regarding the Indian Test team? Gunning for a #1 ranking (one which fans/observers take with a grain of salt)? Your point about brand value being the motivation for keeping Dravid, Laxman and Tendulkar in the Test side is true, sad but very true and an indictment of the structure of world cricket. Yes, the BCCI and selectors are to blame, but who can truly blame them for wanting to keep the three of them around in the Test side? Why would the BCCI in their right mind sacrifice the brand value of Laxman, Dravid and Tendulkar for the brand value of Rohit, Rahane and Kohli? The same can be said of Australia for sticking with Ponting. If brand value is the motivating force for building a Test side with no real context for playing matches or regulating the length of series, why the hell would CA trade the brand value of Ponting in exchange for the brand value of Usman Khawaja?

    It makes sense why Dhoni was able to cut loose Dravid and Ganguly from the ODI side because there is at least some measure of context in terms of planning and playing for the next World Cup. Tests are in reality glorified exhibitions/festival fixtures where TV rights and gate sales are paramount. It’s worth noting that in the NFL, TV rights money is split evenly among all 32 teams while for Test cricket, it’s every man for themselves so if the BCCI wants to capitalize on selling TV rights and making a profit for themselves, the Laxman, Dravid, Tendulkar combo based on brand value seems to be the way to go. Conversely, Cricket World Cup TV rights are controlled by the ICC and split up among the Full Members with a teeny slice of the pie thrown to the Associates and Affiliates. Until some sort of context is brought to Tests with the institution of a Test championship, the reasoning behind selection for the Indian side in particular won’t change. The moment Tendulkar and the rest exit the Test scene, the Test cricket economy will tank.

    • sidvee says:

      Fine point, Peter. My point is – it makes perfect sense from a purely economic sense and I can understand if Mukesh Ambani is thinking of brand value while keeping SRT in the Mumbai Indians side. But the BCCI have a responsibility towards cricket. The moment they start relying on the market for every one of their decisions, we are doomed. And completely agree re context in Tests. Dravid’s ‘take it one series at a time’ comment sums up the total lack of a larger context.

  28. Adding to your medium term goals- Isnt the support staff come under it? the Fletchers,Simmons..need to go asap,IMO.
    Was there any plan on how to bowl to any aussie batsman’s weaknesses ..? Simmons has been stagnant to the nth level. Maybe there is a catch there on why Gary didnt take him with himself for the SA job. He took Paddy but not him. Indian bowlers made clarke,ponting look like that previous year never existed-no ashes 2010-11 ,no 47 all out,no loss vs nz after 25 years at home..Indian bowlers cant be blamed for all.

  29. karthikNYC says:

    Great insights once again,Sid.. My biggest worry was that the thick skinned board would treat this whitewash with disdain and muttering some proforma statements, just like Eng and its sadly turned out true..These short-sighted BCCI clowns have no care in the world to the thrashings overseas and the audacity to post the IPL schedule, minutes after the Sydney shellacking..whatever little hope I had was shattered that day and so I just cant see this bunch of arrogant ,greedy and myopic administrators doing anything meaningful forget Argus-type review..this is my biggest area of concern for the short term.In the medium term,well its pretty obvious that since the disgraced trio have also become thick-skinned and brazen it out to cling on shamelessly to their careers,the selectors need to wield their option if they have some guts.I am confident here with the joker Srikkanth due to leave in Sept and Amarnath set to take over,there’s some sliver of hope..Also Sid,you keep referring to Dhoni’s ‘vision’ etc but dont you think its time up for him wrt tests.He simply cant bat/keep/motivate/innovate and most importantly as Ganguly put it,looks completely disinterested in tests..how can we continue with such a big liability which eventually could have negative influence even on a younger team in future..So he wont be part of the think-tank,for he might try to save his own skin and not offer realistic and rational perspective.As for the replacements unlike the previous attempts,Yuvraj Singh etc ,the next in line-Pujara,Rohit,Rahane&Tiwari look much more adept and appropriate for the format and immensely gifted too..All we need is some honest and fearless people at the top…

  30. Rishabh says:

    I think you missed out on a very important point. The medium term vision that you have mentioned is born due to the insecurities of the selectors and the board. Looking at things from the viewpoint of the selectors, they hold a very rewarding post and they want to make the most out of their term. That is inherently possible only if the team being moderately to highly successful, otherwise you are shown the door. No who will want to take that first step and start an era of rebuilding ( where the team is bound to lose more than win ;initially). That is why for the past year we there has only been a medium term vision with BCCI(Rajeev Shukla) glorifying the petty wins to mask the heavy defeats.
    Unless the selectors as a panel or for that matter the new coaching panel/ captains sincerely want the team on the right track, no single person is going to take the first step. I mean it is only logical in a cash rich cricket fraternity that when it is so financially rewarding, who is going to take the first hit. I mean if there is a complete overhaul in the system and everyone takes a hit…..everyone feels good as they are not the only ones losing out. Few people are bound to get fired for the greater good of the Indian cricket.
    As things stand another humiliation is just around the corner and this one will really light the fire in the belly. Indian cricket will recover from it, albeit in a new look, highly motivated and playing the fiery brand of cricket that we so long for.

    • sidvee says:

      But the point is – the selectors’ passive approach is yielding one whitewash after another. It’s not like there have been ‘moderately to highly successful’ in the past year.

  31. vijay says:

    “I think it’s one of the many signals that tell us how people have stopped caring” – When the playersand BCCI themselves don’t seem to care about how pathetic they were, how can we even expect people to worry? Something, not necessarily a great vision, but something is what we expected, but ZILCH man…

  32. surya says:

    Do u have the audio version of this article. .too lengthy

  33. vijay says:

    Seriously I ‘m not sure whether we need to worry about our performance in the test series or for the reactions, rather the lack of it. Anyways, excellent post Sid, legacy part was truly brilliant.Waiting for your whole post about IPL.

  34. Rajagopalan says:

    Sidveeji
    Agree with most points Wish the powers that be pay serious attention to building a potent
    cosistent bowling attack. In my view the inconsistent pedestrian bowling unit was also a
    major cause for the debacle in Australia

  35. Aakash says:

    Superb article Sir. You have touched every aspect of what needs to be told to the BCCI. While not dwelling too much on the problems, if I have to plan for the solutions in medium term here is my 2 cents:
    Batting:
    Phase the seniors out. Man to man replacement. Kohli for Dravid, Rohit Sharma for Laxman (eventually for Sachin), Raina/Pujara for no. 6 slot. During the coming home series for one test each have the above marked youngsters take the allotted slot instead of the seniors. Like rest Dravid get Kohli in for no. 3 slot have Raina/Pujara come in at 6. Next match play Dravid rest Laxman get Rohit to play at 5 have Kohli/Raina/Pujara come in at 6. Resting one will create slots for 2 and also playing them at different nos helps them understand rigors of Test cricket and help them figure which slot suits them the best.
    Bowling:
    We talk about a pool of Fast bowlers how do we find them. BCCI should get someone do the number crunching of our Ranji Games (we dont have any other database do we, just Talent doesnt suffice) about not just the number wickets but ratio of the maidens to the number of overs bowled etc. Then to get them train at a place throughout the year and keep them match fit. This training centre would be one stop shop for not just skills training but also for their diet, their fitness routines, the off-job schedules they have to maintain and so on so forth.
    Spinners is another clan which is on a rapid demise. We no longer see spinners spin the bowl they are too afraid to get hit even during 4-day games which they think will hamper their chances for the lucrative IPL where any bowler is meant to restrict. Now this mentality needs some changing and we are the best country in the world to produce spin and play spin. These spin bowlers in their formative years have to have one-on-ones with the great spinners of the olden era and the discussion should not be revolving around just the skills to spin but more on the mental make-up of a successful spinner. How to develop the often cliched large heart, how to entrap a batsmen, know when to attack and when to stick to lines these either come with experience or can be imbibed when spoken to by an experienced person.
    Fielding:
    This is one aspect which can be improved irrespective of the talent. Fitness has to be maniacally mandatory mantra for the youngsters. If you cannot maintain your fitness levels to the optimum level or more, no matter how good a cricketer you are you will not be preferred. This has to be drilled across all states, all age groups, all teams.

    I know we common people can make umpteen ideas however simple they may look but they would fall on deaf ears. However here is hoping for hope against hope.

    • sidvee says:

      Thanks for this, Aakash. Fine points all. We have statistics of Ranji games. Ratio of maidens to overs bowled can be easily found. One search on Cricinfo will do it :)

  36. Let me, in true faux-academic style “flag up” a couple of points :)

    1. Market forces: The genie is out of the bottle and there’s no getting it back. So far, I think, the benefits have mostly outweighed the negatives, but the market picks its own winners and losers.
    In an economic sense, the BCCI is like the monopolist who is also the regulator of the sector (sort of like a lot of our erstwhile PSUs). In the next couple of years, the TV rights bubble is going to burst as falling TRPs and greater competition for cricket (from football and tennis, not to mention cinema et al as you’ve correctly pointed out) and the BCCI is going to find itself in a new reality where appeals to nationalism (let’s face that’s integral to cricket viewership in this country) will bring in diminishing returns. It is quite likely that the IPL, attracting mostly the casual viewer (and not the types who’ll wake up at 5 on a cold Delhi morning to catch an Australia Test) will also suffer from the law of diminishing returns. In a few years, with no bankable stars, poor performance and an over-flogged IPL the BCCI could be looking at a perilous financial situation. Unfortunately, the BCCI doesn’t seem to be thinking about this either, medium or long term.

    2. Ranji Trophy: I agree there have been for some time, and there still are, large problems with our first class structure (not just the Ranji trophy) with utterly superfluous tournaments (Deodhar Trophy, Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy) and the pointlessly ill-timed tournament (Irani Trophy). The Duleep Trophy probably made sense when the Ranji trophy qualifiers were all zonal, but with the Elite-Plate structure, it seems to make no sense.
    Be that as it may, I think the fundamental problem still remains the way in which the State Associations are run – magnets as they are for the corrupt, incompetent and plain self-serving administrators. It is perhaps true of all sports associations in this country. Barring exceptions, there is little transparency about selections, no one knows what happens to funds allocated from BCCI, players are treated like indentured labour and cricket itself seems to occupy a fairly low spot in the scheme of things.
    Unless a fundamental change is made to the way Associations function (ideally all of them should be dissolved and run as non-profit companies) it is futile to suggest changes in the structure of Ranji Trophy to improve Indian cricket.

    It is rare for cricket to deviate dramatically from the public life in the country, and as with other things, no change can be expected until the system receives a shock or three.

    A whitewash by a visiting team in India would be a good start.

    • sidvee says:

      Thanks Alok. I have nothing against the market. I have a problem with the BCCI taking no decisions and reacting only after the market forces have played themselves out. I actually am secretly hoping for the TV rights bubble to burst asap. That’s the only way we can build from scratch. And it will be a reality check for the BCCI (who have no plans for such eventualities). Sure, state associations are opaque bodies who are often laws unto themselves. But I don’t see much changing there. Ranji, Duleep etc need to be looked at really closely. And the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy is the biggest joke ever.

  37. Also, love the literal translation of: Yaarappan yenhoyithu ;) !!!

  38. atwiastsk says:

    1. Very well put.

    2. Desperate times call for desperate measures. Fletcher needs to talk. We need to give Fletcher a message..an indirect ultimatum.may be? An Indian coach maybe?

    3. As to the seniors, well IMO they do need to sort out their pathways with the BCCI. +1ing one of the above comments, Thorpe had the luxury of being in an individual sport while making such a comment, which is unfortunately not the scene here. For the legends that they are, we don’t mind them sticking around for more time, but they should at least come out with it. I realize that its an unfair thing to ask them to decide their fate, but hey! When was war fair, more so, who knows it better than them?! “Not thought about it yet” only looks like a letting-down sort of an answer for the moment sirs.

    4. People like Dhoni, Yuvi. Zaheer, Bhajji and the lot constitute the middle-term plans from what i gather. They were the youngsters we once bled. Sadly we are forced to ask them the questions too. And we need answers from them. For they are our heroes now.

    5. We can take some good from the so-called bad too (read IPL) like a quasi youngster-quota in the team. In every department – bat, ball, all-rounder. Future counts. We are seeing it now.

    6. Pitches do play a role, Variety is good. Grass, pace, bounce, spin, batsman friendly, bowler friendly, we need ’em all. But of course whatever the kind they are, they need to be consistent. Not wear down in 2 days.

    No matter the moolah hidden within the walls of The BCCI, If information is wealth, then we are the poorest. The denial, the complacency, come out in the open and own it up i say. You have covered a lot of ground on significant issues that need be discussed between Dhoni-BCCI-Coach and more importantly these findings need to be shared with us, the fans. For hey! we are Indians and it sucks to say that we care less, for Cricket is more than just a sport to us right?

  39. Blake from Oz says:

    Spot on. Crunch time over the next few years at BCCI level as to whether $$$$ or quality cricket comes out on top. Although honestly the latter will lead to the former if done correcty.

    Who can reign in the BCCI, rampant conflict of interest with the IPL ownership is allowed so they seem to be a law unto themselves. In Australia, after the ARgus report the board literally sacked itself, voted itself out of existence for the good of the game. Could this happen in todays India (genuine question, I am an outsider).

  40. Deepak Rao says:

    Could not agree with you more about Dhoni… The man who set 8-1 fields and a mid off and long off for Pollard in one of the IPL finals… all so creative and the Dhoni now seems to be an imposter.
    While I agree that RD plays because he loves playing and not really unduly worried about his legacy, the call to play him or not has to be the selectors and not the rubbish about the greats can decide when they stop… Tell that to AB, Ian Healey, the Waughs..
    And why are people concenterating on VVS, RD and SRT… What about Viru and Gautam. Surely one of them had to be dropped and Rahane tried. And Rahane after a bright start in England is not in the one day team!!! And the less said about Rajiv Shukla the better… And Gambhir can borrow a page or 2 from Kohli’s book… All bluster is good only when you score..

    • sidvee says:

      I am also saying the selectors need to take a call on the seniors. They are paid to do a job. So if they think it’s in the best interests of the team, they should drop them. And the same goes for Viru and Gauti too.

    • juro says:

      I remember when Healy was unceremoniously dumped from the Australian test team. People were up in arms that this great keeper didn’t get a chance to bow out on his terms in front of his home crowd at Brisbane.

      Then Gilchrist came in. 81 in his first test. 149* in a remarkable come-from-behind win in his second test. Then nobody talked about Healy again…

  41. G CHANDRAKANT says:

    A very well articulated article. Several of the follow-up comments are also relevant. But let me hazard a prediction. In the next Test series at home, only VVS will be dropped. Nothing else will change.

  42. Arvind Narayanan says:

    A very passionate and brilliant article indeed. I only wish that the BCCI has atleast 5% of your passion and vision..but alas ! You have raised a lot of important points but I am afraid we will be talking the same points even 5 years down the line. IMHO, it is fans like you and me who are and will do the hand-wringing after this debacle.NOTHING will change.

    Sorry for the cynicism mate but I am NOT optimistic about the future of India in overseas tests. Iam being specific about overseas tests as I am quite confident and sure about India in it’s home series. We will prepare dust bowls and crappy pitches and manage to win.

    The reasons for my cynicism for the overseas tours is as follows-
    1.After the exit of the likes of VVS and Dravid, I don’t see the younger lot – Rohit, Pujara etc- having the same class and ability. We have given a very long rope to Rohit in ODIs and yet he has an average of 34 odd. What has he done in the intl arena to warrant so much of attention? After the 2 greats go ( I don’t foresee Tendulkar retiring in the next 3 years..he has too many endorsements tied to his team India status that he can’t/won’t forego plus he is the only player to have the luxury to pick and choose games/tours/opposition that he wants to play.) there will be a huge void to fill for a long time to come.

    2. India’s next overseas tours to SA, AUS, Eng come only after 2-3 years.By that time “All will be well”. India plays at home, will be winning tests on and off , people will score centuries, 3 IPLs would have come and gone etc. The 2 heads, mentioned above, will roll (disgraced of course) and everyone will forget the England and Australia debacles. NO CHANGES WILL HAPPEN.

    3. Our bowling unit is in shambles. After Zaheer retires/breaks down, there is no fast bowler who looks remotely threatening. Umesh looks promising but which fast bowler hasn’t looked so in their first series, in the last 5 years. Classic example is Ishant Sharma, who after his heroics in 1 test (Perth 2008) still manages to retain his place by default. Spin dept at least looks OK but spin can’t win matches overseas. Every bowler’s job is to get wickets and not to “look threatening”. India has and will suffer because of lack of bench strength in bowling. The moment a bowler enters Team India his pace drops by 10-15 Kmph. Why? Because he becomes sensitive to injuries and hence wants to preserve his longevity.

    4. “Captain Cool”s captaincy. Earlier the same sang-froid used to be called “Cool”. Now it is called being dis-interested and dis-engaged. How fast perspectives change. For the Perth pitch, even Australia went with 4 quicks. What was wrong with India going in with 4 quicks? Dhoni will never be sacked from captaincy as he is the best option we have under the present circumstances. And point no.2 goes for his batting as well.

    5. Why can’t a Sachin/Sehwag/Dhoni come up with a bold roadmap for Indian cricket? Why can’t they stand up to BCCI and say enough of this meaningless tour schedules..Let’s build a team for 2015 and beyond. They won’t as they are worried about their earning. They don’t want to rock the gravy train.

    6. Finally IPL. I strongly think IPL has to be regulated with much lesser purses and fixtures.And it has to be somehow linked to the Ranji trophy. Don’t have a clue how but probably have a structure where every team needs to have 75% of players from a region. The player money and the related advertising , IMO, leads to lot of decisions on players’ presence in Team India. If IPL continues in the same fashion, I am confident that it will ruin India’s overseas test performance.

    With all this , I am afraid, people who run BCCI and the current lot of players are just interested in building a monetary legacy for their future generations. As long as this vicious circle of money exists in India, nothing will change. We can fret as much as we want. India will remain a superpower at home and a pussy overseas.

    • Deepak Rao says:

      We would never know if “After the exit of the likes of VVS and Dravid, I don’t see the younger lot – Rohit, Pujara etc- having the same class and ability” untill they are tried and given longish rope…

    • Swastik says:

      Actually, to the contrary, I do see these people taking their places and exceeding our expectations. They should have been blooded in with some of the seniors around — ideally — however the time for that has passed.

      Plus, as Deepak said, we would never know if they weren’t given the chances. They have very good first class records and will only improve with international exposure.

      I agree with your point regarding Rohit. He has not done anything substantial till now in the ODIs however that is more of a mental thing than a talent one. Talent wise, he is as good as any young bat in the world. Provided that he has his head in the right place, he can serve India well. I, for one, have definitely seen him improve over the past two-three years.

      Rahane was excellent in the emerging players’ tournament, as was Manoj Tiwary. In time, they will come good, I am pretty optimistic about that.

      Agree with all other points though. I don’t understand, however, why people think of Ishant as highly as they do. Yes, that-one-spell was extremely good however, even in that series, he had nothing serious to show in the wickets column. For someone who has played 40 odd tests, his lengths and adaptability simply aren’t up to par.

      I also agree that sans Zaheer, our attack would be simply toothless which, again, means that winning overseas would be a herculean challenge. It isn’t great even now but it has some “air” of respectability. When Zaheer goes — and that time isn’t too far either — there would be simply no one to take his place.

  43. Satish says:

    Fletcher must be given credit where it is due.He was brought in keeping in mind the impending retirements of the seniors and the need to groom the next generation.The transformation of Kohli ,from a boy unsure of his place in test cricket into a guy who is now being regarded as the future of Indian batting ,is praiseworthy & I can bet every penny that Fletcher played a big role in that. As a caoch, it would be unfair to blame Fletcher for India’s woes.After all, he has his hands tied behind his back. I think he should be given a free run.Let us give him a year or two before we start judging him.

  44. vengusubbu says:

    hai sidveee a thought provoking article indeed. we cannot make demands,an introspection is needed.at all leveis from the grassroot to the head of the governing body. what we see in the subcontinent is the love of power.when there is no really democracy in the election of governing bodies ,for a free and fair poll,we cannot expect miracles.i think communication and motivation between seniors and juniors,the amount they earn,the luxury they enjoy,has destroyed the true spirit of the game.the true joy with which we enjoyed watching the likes of gundaap.a vishvanath,brijesh patel ,vengsarkar, kapil,madanlal gary sobers, etc,who all played with true love for the game,is gone. with the advent of commercialism.i think its high time we indians turn our attention to the other sports that needs the support of voracious supporters for their development.if ignored for some time i think the game can bounce back. .

  45. Venkata Krishna says:

    Hello sid,
    Regarding the media not questioning the coach and analysis on the IPL. I wanna know how many newspapers and channels rely on BCCI for money they get through IPL promotion. A well known daily which used to pin-point at the BCCI and others on a lot of issues, doesn’t care about it any more and there have hardly been any news off late which blammed IPL for the debacle. And just as they lost the third test. THat daily carried a full-front page ad on CSK. So, when lot a lot of media are part of the set up, where can we see an analysis note. None of the papers don’t question BCCI just coz they are dependent on them for the revenue they get.

    And regarding your mid-term planning that was spot on. Indian cricket seriously needs to address about their plans. If we are gonna defend the WC In 2015, we should need a good team, and for those youngsters playing ODI is not alone gonna help. May be the Eng series at home would be the last for Dravid, VVS and Sachin. So if the BCCI plans it well and pass on the baton to the youngsters with a new captain (for tests) and a new coach then we can bounce back.

    Not having an away series for two years is actually a blessing. This is the right time we can groom the youngsters. Look at what Pakistan have done. They have put their faith in the opening combination of Taufeeq and Hafeez. Now they have opened together continuously in four series. They have given Azhar Ali, Asad Shafiq the time to settle down. And now they are showing the result. So if Kohli, Rohit, Pujara can be given the same time, we will be back as a good side.

    Venkat

    • sidvee says:

      It’s all inter-connected at some level. There are newspapers that continue to keep editorial decisions separate from corporate pressures but sure, there are others that don’t. I don’t know about this specific incident you are referring to but I won’t at all be surprised if it’s true. There are several times when a corporate sponsors a column in a newspaper and the same corporate also owns an IPL team. So can the columnist criticise that team? In an ideal world, yes. But I guess we all know the answer.

      • Deepak Rao says:

        Sidvee,
        I was very saddened reading Harsha’s column on cricinfo about reducing the number of teams and matches in Ranji trophy… but no mention of reducing the IPL or scrapping the Champions league!!!… Now I do not claim to follow all of Ranji trophy, but I do know the importance of first class cricket and I think Harsha knows it too… But ESPN which are his employers have the rights for the Champions League and he himself has media duties in IPL and none these days with Ranji trophy..Clear conflict of interest and undeniably sad that his standards have fallen… Also read one of his pieces before last years Champion’s (pun intended) league saying how important it was.. What bunkum

      • arzvi says:

        Hi Mr. Rao
        You yourself had commented “Now I do not claim to follow all of Ranji trophy”, and that says it all. Sports entertainment needs to sell, and IPL/Champs league is fecilitating that. Players need money, the more they can get they will pursue it. Everyone needs a hummer these days and a restaurant at Mumbai. You can’t blame them. I just hope they dont sell out.

  46. Miraj C. Vora says:

    Hi Sid,

    Wonderful long article on a Monday afternoon. A lot of people must have thought about writing like this but to put the thoughts in one place is superb. I guess in the current situation the points that absolutely stand out in the post are that of apppointing a CEO for BCCI and ballsy leadership.

    But I do have a a few questions and would like to know you thoughts. Ian Thorpe’s suggestion for the love of sport seems genuine, but does Dhoni’s suggestion of leading India in 2015 look like one where he wants to shape his legacy and is too scared to let this current power go? As a T20 & ODI WC skipper has he not already created a legacy he is proud of?

    Thanks,
    Miraj

    • sidvee says:

      Dhoni’s comment to the media and Srinivasan’s subsequent statement makes be believe there is absolutely no medium-term plan. My hunch is Dhoni would love to carry on playing ODIs and T20 until 2015. Those are the formats he is most comfortable with (both as a batsman and captain). Giving up Tests will also help him get some much-needed rest between ODIs and T20 commitments – I am shocked how he has been able to play so much in the last 4 years.

  47. Bhagavan K says:

    Great article. I can relate similar stories with Michael Jordan, Brett Favre, and to lesser extent, Joe Torrie (Yankees coach). Even though they might be past their prime, desire to continue to play the game they love motivated them. What Ian Thorpe said makes it lot more clearer for me why they continued / came back! Leave these magicians to make their own call and don’t force retirement on them.

  48. Blake from Oz says:

    @Satish- why shold Fletcher get credit for that, that IS WHAT HAPPENS IN EVERY TEAM IN THE WORLD WHEN YOU ACTUALLY PICK A YOUNG BATSMAN & LET HIM PLAY instead of clinging onto players well past their prime out of misplaced respect that does them nor team any favours.

  49. dyogesh4u says:

    Sid, I loved the first part on love and legacy. I remember NS writing once that players aren’t obliged to confirm to our romantic belief that they should retire on a high. But as you said, that is not to mean that selectors wait silently for the player to make a call. It is always going to be difficult for a top-notch cricketer to convince himself that he has suddenly become sub-standard.

    Apart from S. Ram Mahesh, i do not recall anyone writing about Tendulkar picking & choosing his tours.

    I am glad you focussed on medium term too instead of the same old harping on long term vision, goals etc.

    On Dhoni’s captaincy, once or twice you can solely blame the captain for pushing back the fields at wrong times. But beyond that what about the seniors or coach or management ? I cannot think that he would be push back field wrongly so many times and nobody has discussed it with him. Dhoni, for all, is still a good bet than others. Sometimes, i am not sure if it is Dhoni’s fault or whether he was made to look shoddy by a lack of strategy/execution from bowlers and bowling coach. At any point of time, it didn’t seem that our bowlers were bowling to a plan. While the star batting line-up copped all the blame, nobody seems to have asked searching questions of our bowlers in England or here ? They wouldn’t have won matches but many of them were wretched bowling performances in helpful conditions.

  50. Sashwat says:

    This made my eyes my wet. *sob* . Thanks for this.

  51. JohninCanada says:

    Good article, that seems to be getting close to the nub of the issue.

    The first C in BCCI is Control. It seems to me that BCCI has substantially sold/mortgaged/abdicated (or other appropriate term of your choice) control of cricket to the IPL and the media. These folk do not care about the development of junior players, the health of first class cricket, or the performance of the national teams. The franchises and the media are in it for the money.

    A recent article in another publication showed national team players make 2 to 5 times more for six weeks of IPL than they do for their (presumably annual) national contract. Now for a few top players with large endorsement/sponsorship income, this is probably not significant. But for fringe national team and domestic players, whose financial future may be assured with an IPL contract, it must be huge. But these are the feeder group for the natioanl teams. If they are focussing principally on getting an IPL contract, what is their attitude to the longer forms?

    It seems to me that if reform does not start with BCCI, then it wil be an exercise like re-arranging deck chairs on the Titanic. If BCCI cannot regain control of cricket, it is difficult to see much future for test cricket in India, though the shorter form teams may still be strong.

    And this is going to affect world cricket. BCCI evidently has far too much influence at ICC for the latter to have any counter influence. And because IPL overlaps with the seasons in the West Indies and England, it is affecting tours to both those countries, and their domestic seasons.

    I don’t have any real suggestions on what should be done. There is just too much invested in politics and conflicts of interest to have much faith that anything substantive will be done.

    • sidvee says:

      Thanks for the comment, John. Agree with you about this being not just an Indian problem but one that would have a knock-on effect on the rest of the world. This is eerily resembling the crumbling American economy and the effect it has on other countries. The conflict of interest is the biggest bane of Indian cricket – if they had ensured the IPL was run by people who didn’t have a hand in BCCI affairs, things might have been so much more streamlined. Alas …

  52. Jay Mo says:

    hey sid, i was a little disappointed with this column. it began beautifully with the focus on dravid and then it went in too many directions. i know you can do much better.

    And of course, I feel that the Eng/Aus series has reinforced my opinion around Tendulkar. He just cant seem to give his best when the stakes are high. He is Tendulkar and he is great, no doubt. But he is great because of his sustained excellence rather than his ability to win games or perform when the chips are down.

    • sidvee says:

      Hey Jay. So you thought the piece began well and didn’t finish as you would have expected? Sigh. I guess that’s in keeping with some of the players mentioned in the piece :)

      And re Tendulkar, I guess I have to make another trip to Chicago!

      • Srikanth Ramachandran says:

        This just caught my eye – if you are in Chicago I would love to meet up and discuss cricket and more cricket! Please do e-mail me if you get here! Thanks – Srikanth

  53. Suhas says:

    I have to be honest here, as a fan these 2 whitewashes didnt hurt at all, reasons are — one we won the WC, what an awesome feeling that was and second i was hooked to tennis over the last year or so, because we finally have someone other Federer or Nadal to talk about.
    While I completely agree with your view points here, I honestly want to give all the concerned persons(Srinivasan,MS,Flecher,Seniors etc) some benefit of doubt, because 2-3 years back if you had asked Gary and MS whats their medium term goals are (I disagree when u say medium term is 4-5 yrs, thats too long thats almost like a whole term of a captain), they would have said #1 rankings in tests and a WC, and they have achieved that, and i think thats the only goal that the entire Indian team had in mind as well, and once that was done, they were in a euphoria, kind of didnt know whats next, so by the time Eng came, Gary was gone Fletcher came, and may be they thought, “OK lets keep doing what we were doing, and we should be fine”, unfortunately it didn’t work out and we are back to square one, i’am sure they will do something about it, and come out stronger, this team is not as bad as the scoreline suggests, but yes they have to get this ‘denial’ attitude out of the way, how can you say ‘We beat them 5-0 at home’ ‘We beat them 2-0 at home’?
    Time for them to accept that there were mistakes and some changes need to be done about it.

  54. harsha says:

    The status quo of Indian cricket summarised very well.With regard to the point of Sachin picking particular matches/tours to play in,I think this had happened in O.D.I s before the 2011 world cup as well.I think he did not play an ODI for about 8 months to a year prior to the world cup,which I feel at that time was not appropriate given the fact that we had to get our correct combination of the batting order.Of course,he went on to be the second highest run getter in the tournament ,India won the World Cup and everything was conveniently forgotten :) .

    The most shocking statement has come from M.S.Dhoni,after the third test when he said that he hadn’t really given a thought to the phasing out of seniors/succession plan,despite the fact that the test team was already in the middle of a crisis,7 overseas tests running.

    And if I am not wrong,Virat Kohli got his chance in the O.D.I team when Sachin opted to sit out of the ‘N’ number of meaningless O.D.I series against teams like Sri Lanka since 2008 and he was able to establish himself.

    • sidvee says:

      The fact that he picked and chose matches before the WC was also because of selectorial spinelessness. But at least they had an excuse then: SRT is good enough to fit into the side at any point and perform. And yes, he played a big part in the WC win. But I think it just sends out a really bad message to everyone around. No individual, however great, can be put ahead of the team. And now (with a World Cup 3 years away and a great chance to put together a new team) he is allowed to pick and choose again!

      • Suhas says:

        Why do you suspect the selectors here? Dont you think Sachin and the selectors would have talked about playing only specific ODI series?Why cant that be part of a plan, does giving the senior player some ‘rest’ and giving other players a ‘chance’ spineless?
        If a player like Sachin cant sit with selectors and be given a chance to plan his ODI career out, isnt it unfair on Sachin? Even the Aussies ‘rested’ players from meaningless ODIs

      • sidvee says:

        Because no player is bigger than the team

      • Suhas says:

        Specific question on this part “But I think it just sends out a really bad message to everyone around.” giving a chance to another player instead of him is sending a bad message? And why does it have to be “Sachin picks and chooses which games to play” rather than “Sachin and selectors picks and chooses which games he has to play in”

      • Deepak Rao says:

        Great point Sid.. Nobody is bigger than the game.. I sometimes think that the 100th international century has eluded him because of the game being such a leveler… Who knows he might have got it in Providence had he gone to WI…

      • Suhas says:

        Exactly, by resting him from a couple of ODIs doesnt make him bigger than the team, Can’t the selectors AND sachin take a decision together to skip a few ODI series? Is it unethical?

  55. ShivaCT says:

    Sid, as always, a great post. I agree whole-heartedly with what you have written and I’d like to add my two cents as well. To me, the buck always stops at the BCCI door. The way I see it is that the team put out by the BCCI is always as good (or, as bad, as unprofessional) as its parent. Unless and until we see some systemic changes happening at the BCCI, it will always be run as a money-making, no accountability-type organization. One offshoot therefore, will be the team it puts out. There is nothing wrong with making money but you should also put out quality product. The ingredients are there; it’s has always been up to the BCCI to start to bake them in. Of course, the most drastic action that can be taken is by us “mango people”. If we stop watching the mindless tripe being organized in the name of the IPL, or at least get selective in what of the IPL we watch, it will eventually hit them where it hurts.
    One quick question – I believe there was a PIL filed (with the Delhi High Court?) sometime back to make the BCCI more transparent and accountable. Do you know where that stands and what its chances are?

    • sidvee says:

      Good point about the PIL. I haven’t been following that saga. As for ‘mango people’, when has the board ever cared? As a start, they can actually acknowledge that some people still follow cricket seriously in India (despite being treated like pariahs). If they continue to take the fans for granted, they will lose people in thousands. Already empty stadiums are an indication of things to come.

  56. Dhananjay says:

    Very well put. And I must say, a very healthy debate in the comment section going on. Have nothing much to add except that these are testing times for Indian cricket. The swagger and bluster around the former World No.1 and current ODI champions has been crushed. How things shape in the future will show us the inherent character of our cricket setup. Granted Indian cricket has never been the most organized. However we always have been graced with individuals who swam against the tide and tried to make a difference. The immediate future depends on whether 1) those few men are still having the bottle to fight and get company in the form of upcoming fighters.
    2) the tide is too strong for them to overcome.

    Fingers crossed.

  57. Sunil says:

    Dear Sid,

    Thanks for writing this and facilitating the discussion. I haven’t read all the comments, but will do so once I have a bit of time on my hands.

    Yes, suggestions? I had written long back after watching the Edgbaston Test, so this series isnt all that of a surprise.

    India should acknowledge there will no more stars in the team like there used be for the last 20 odd years. India should establish a three tier system – distinct and separate for three formats. There will be players shuffling across formats but at least the standards can be set and modulated, based on injuries, performance, and talent.

    I had said the same on my blog long back here.

    http://sunilification.com/dejavu/2011/08/17/england-india-test-series-a-historical-perspective/

    Cheers
    Sunil

  58. bongopondit says:

    Lovely, insightful read.

    Lots of great suggestions in the comments section as well, but I don’t think anyone has brought up the potential usefulness of more ‘India A’-team tours. (Perhaps I am just dreaming, but seem to recollect a few of these tours being organized in the late 90s-early ’00). Given the financial and political influence of the BCCI, organizing these tours to SAf, Eng, Aus should not be that difficult. Itineraries could include playing against county sides, the respective A team (Eng Lions e.g) etc. This would provide the players on the fringes of the national team with real match experience of playing in pitches abroad. Might somewhat alleviate the problem of throwing young, inexperienced into the cauldron during a tour.
    Obviously, this is not a solution in isolation – other structural and leadership changes as already discussed needs implementation as well.

    • Vishnu says:

      I agree that A tours along with county cricket will be good in general.. Instead of selecting someone purely based on IPL performances (Rahul Sharma), A tour will give a better indication..

      But on the flip side, I read somewhere that Vinay kumar was a shining star in the past emerging team tours to Australia.. Which is kind of hard to believe based on his display in Perth.. Right ? I’m hoping Vinay proves me wrong in the ODI’s..

  59. Srikanth Ramachandran says:

    Great piece Sid. I agree completely on the key points you make. Here’s my two cents:
    1) Dhoni must go as Test Captain. Primary reason – he seems to both place a higher priority on and also enjoy, ODI/20-20 more than Test Cricket. Perhaps that is because of his own game being better suited to those versions. Any captain who is in denial after 8 successive overseas thrashings has to be replaced, for a new vision and succession to fall into place. Also, he has a poor record in Tests.
    2) Coach Fletcher has to be shown the door. Total failure. Look at SL and Geoff Marsh, it can be argued that their decision was premature. Our situation is begging for DF’s axing.
    3) Selectors must have a chat to the ‘holy trinity’ and agree on plans to phase them out. This must be done NOW. Agreed, someone like Tendulkar might well tell the selectors “I am not ready to think of retirement yet” and that will be the real test for the committee. We all know Sachin holds sway everywhere. I am sure Dravid will be the most reasonable of the three and will hopefully agree to call it a day after the next home series. If Laxman does not agree he must be told that will be his last series as well. As for Sachin we all know that he will not be touched, so no point in discussing further.
    4) Sehwag must be placed on probation. He does not have the same abilities as before and definitely does not need a ‘reservation’ in the team. He too must perform and soon.
    5) Rohit and Virat must be given permanent runs in the team (for next few years atleast). Raina too preferably.
    6) Bring back Abhinav Mukund – we need to groom a solid, dependable opening batsman.
    7) Give Pragyan Ojha a decent run in the side – and by side I mean playing eleven.
    8) Bring back Ashish Nehra – he should have gone to Oz in the first place. Zaheer Khan is great and all that but with an oversized ego to boot. He wont last long anyways.
    9) Overhaul the selection committee of course. Kris Srikkanth is too obsessed with CSK and IPL anyway.

    Cheers,
    Srikanth

    • sidvee says:

      Agree with most of the points. But the Nehra thing puzzled me. I don’t think he will last too long either. Especially given his past injury record.

      • Srikanth Ramachandran says:

        Well, yes I cant argue with that – but I guess my reasoning is to have another senior pro and leader of the attack or whatever, whilst the next generation of medium pacers is groomed. Also gives Zaheer Khan a poke. Perhaps Sreesanth has to be nurtured – looking at the likes of Ishant Sharma and the slower lot, I feel Sree could have been groomed much better. That is the job of the coach isnt it. And Sree is a wicket-taking bowler, unlike the Ishants of this world.

  60. Adarsh says:

    I remember during the WC 2007 debacle, how media literally forced BCCI to take drastic actions against Greg Chappell and overhaul of the system. Somehow BCCI. Selectors and Team Management now seems immune from any criticism too such an extent that they seem to operate like a close-knit mafia. Irrespective of what the fans(the biggest stakeholder) feel about, they know no one can harm them. There is no organization in world which keeps producing defective products and ignores end-customers and yet keeps on making profits. BCCI seems to be a glaring exception. How they are managing this defies basic law of economics!

  61. Vinod K says:

    Hey Sid,
    I’ve been going through your piece and the responses from the many aficinadoes of the game for the last hour or so. And the time spent has been SHEER QUALITY!

    Team India’s ‘performance’ in the Adelaide Test for me has been THE WORST I’ve seen by ANY TEST SIDE. Period.
    And what has bewildered me is how come ALL ASPECTS of our cricket have come a cropper AT THE SAME TIME.
    I can even shrug off Kohli’s silly run out at the end of the day’s play as a rush of blood by the youngster. But just prior to that, the decision to send in a nightwatchman at the fall off VVS’s wicket EASILY takes the cake when it comes muddled thinking. Have you seen anything more daft in a Test match?

    VK

  62. Deepak Rao says:

    Hi arzvi,
    I do not see rehearsals… but I do see the play or the film.. likewise I do not always follow Ranji trophy, but do follow international cricket… And you are right about entertainment… it is objective and everyone has their own standards or enjoy different things and you are quite correct to hold your ground on that. However I would rather had the Gambhir’s, Sehwags, Tendulkars skipping the IPL and tending to injuries and rest and then playing in the west indies rather than the other way round. But like many others who like IPL, you can have no guild in wanting it the way it panned out…

    • arzvi says:

      True. I begin to get scared Cricket (club vs Nation) in India is going along the path of Soccer in which the money making and pompous club football is preferred n times more than international.
      I’ve read many news articles where club managers take on the national football association on events of their player injuries. You and I are looking the other way now, but we’d have to wait and watch.

  63. Deepak Rao says:

    Suhas,
    It would be ethical if Sachin skipped a few ODI series.. He played only the world cup last year… Missed the last few ODI in SA.. Now will play the Aus One dayers.. no word on the Asia cup… And due to that despite a reasonably bright start by Rahane in the one dayers, he is out of the team…
    For some reason though, Sachin plays all the matches in the IPL… no word of rest… and I am not grudging him for the money he makes… But it would be clearer if he can clarify where he stands on one day cricket

    • Suhas says:

      I would like to believe the chairman of selectors does know whats the future plan of Sachin is w.r.t not just ODIs but Tests as well, but i’am not sure if they are obliged to make those public. If the selectors have no idea about what his plan is and are relying on a phone call to Sachin every-time they pick an ODI squad, then it leaves a really bad mark on the them.
      I agree it creates a bit of instability in the team if the guy keeps coming in and out, and is surely hard on someone like Rahane, but the same happens in tests as well, a guy like Rohit is made to carry water bottles for a month when he could have easily played the Ranji games.
      The ODI team will be stabilized once we near 2015 and we will see a regular 12-14 member squad.

      • Deepak Rao says:

        As Ian Chappell rightly pointed out in his recent column, the star culture is the problem and it effects the selectors too…

  64. Pradyuman says:

    Couldnt agree more with all you have said here. Obviously there was no plan post England, there never has been one and there is none now. Denying Rohit a test in such circumstances challenges the limits of absurdity, denial and pussy-heartedness. Australia won at least 2 tests purely on young blood – Pattinson and Starc were revelations and Warner gave us a big bitter taste of our own medicine. I shudder to think what if Cummins was also fit for this series! What we need here now is some form of accountability to be imposed on the runners of the game in the country. If cricket has to continue being the life-breath of this nation, like we all are so proud to claim, then it is the ultimate bosses who need to be made accountable, more than the coaching staff and more than the players. But that will not happen and your noble wishes expressed here will most likely remain unfuflilled. We’ll play at home for the next 2 years, predictably, on our own kind of pitches as the board would take no chances. We’ll consistently win or draw the various test series in that period – depending on the strength and form of the opposition – and in 2014, the nightmares of 2011-12 will be too distant a memory and all will be hunky dory till the next debacle. In the meanwhile we’ll of course make do with cosmetic changes like so many times in the past.

  65. Rachit says:

    lovely post, nice comments, maybe even a debate types between true cricket followers (and not the fans of wham-bam-thanku mam cricket) . sad part is, anyone who actually can and has to act on improving matters in Indian cricket may not be reading. :(
    i am not sure if they would even care. anyone else thinks there are too many politicians involved in BCCI?

  66. ypat says:

    Your title is hilarious and says it all. I am still laughing. Agree with most of the points you brought up. In a nutshell, BCCI has never and probably will never care about fans. Fans are true and ultimate stakeholders in my opinion.

    The main reason for that is that BCCI never had to sell their product to consumer (fans). Product being so popular, it sold itself. As long as this fact holds true, nothing much will change in BCCI.

    For example, CA brought in so many changes after last Ashes because cricket has to compete with other sports in Australia. It was a question of their survival.

    BCCI has been operating like mom & pop shop since 1930s. Nothing much has changed in 70+ years. What makes us think that it will be different this time around. Series defeats in Australia are nothing new for BCCI and fans.

    Sadly, we the Indian fans are destined to experience these failures for many times over with no end in sight.

  67. For me, the decline started not when the bottom fell out against England, but when India were 15/5 in a home test against Chris Martin and had to rely on Harbhajan to bail out.Looking back, giving cricketers a time out after the world cup win would have helped. There seems to be a genuine tiredness and sense of ennui in the team. It was a huge wasted emotional opportunity to connect the team to the followers and celebrate in true spirit. Not have a meeting with the president and IPL owners and then start playing IPL in 3 days time. It just send a message, ” Fans, we may have won the world cup, now start watching IPL as it helps everyone make money”. Secondly, from the days of Gavaskar we have this unhealthy fascination with record of the numero uno.. I do not remember any Australian record, other than Bradman’s test average and fact that AB had the leading aggregate for a bit. India looks at records of one batsman only at any given time. No one will know the number of 100s of Dravid or Viswanath. This unnecessary fascination with silly records and individual achievements should desist. Remember the wins and works of high art. Not marketing led records; If I had eaten 51 dosas and 48 idlis, it means just that; Not 99 dosas or 99 idlis.

    Any reform should start with the objective; India should be one of the top 2 in test matches and ODIs in the world for an extended period of time. The team should finish the dots, by winning a series in Australia and South Aftrica in this period. At any point in time, at least one fast bowler, one spinner, 3 fielders, 2 batsman should be rated in the top 10. To achieve this, the team will play attractive and results oriented cricket. Playing for the country will provide twice as much income as playing for the club. BCCI will run the sport in a manner, involving the fans, corporates and players so that the fan is looking forward to the national team playing and develops a pride of association.

    The short term focus is an outcome. I remember in 1977/78, India played tour matches with each state in Australia. It is just not easy to turn up, play a match, lose the first test and play catch up after that. If there are going to be 150 days of cricket played by a India player, how many will be in first class cricket globally, how many in tests and how many in ODIs. BCCI has been trying to build a winning team through home ODI series. This just helps us to win home ODI series and home world cups; Nothing else.

    THen the players. Who are the next 12? Who are the subsequent 12? Have they been tested at all outside their comfort zone? Have they been seen by the selection team? Have they been tested in first class cricket by test level players?

    Creating a conceptual roadmap is not difficult; It is always difficult to change, especially when the players are as old as the administrators should be.

    M/S Ambani and Mallya, Can I please have my game back?

  68. sandeep ajila says:

    A pretty lengthy article, more lengthy than pretty. This vision u talk about for the future seems pretty blurred to me. The argument about playing with a young team as the loss would not have been worse than 4-0, seems stupid to me. I thought playing ur best team every single match is what matters.How is losing 4-0 with a YOUNG team going to help the youngsters? That way all the blame would have been on the youngsters and a few careers would have ended at the age of 24. Descriptions like ‘unfit to play test level’ ’embarrassing’ etc would have freely been bandied about, not encouragements like ‘will do better next tour’. Now atleast the blame is on the seniors and no one else. Aren’t we complicating a simple game like cricket by analysing too much? Pick the best available players ,regardless of age and play them. If they lose, replace them with who u think is a better player. Thats it. What does long term vision mean? 3 years , 4 years? As Dhoni said ‘ i could be dead by then’. And what happens if 4 years down the line, u havent won anything? Can u give back the years to these seniors, just cuz your vision turned out to be a dud?I thought the vision is to win as many games as possible in the present,( as games are normally played in the present in this world and not in the future). Before a series, at the meeting , what will be discussed? I would think, how to win the series. How would you go about it? By picking the best possible team, is the logical thinking. Am i going to think ‘hmm, 4 years down the line, is this same team going to win here again?’No. So what is this vision u talk about? Concentrate on the present, the future will take care of itself.

    And the point about sachin and his picking and choosing his tours. If he skipped australia and played ODI’s against west indies at home, i could have understood ur comments. Now in the absence of Yuvraj, doesnt it make sense to have a senior batsman around in a foreign country where u r losing badly, especially one who is our greatest one day batsman of all time and in pretty decent if not great form?
    Do u think the seniors r not hurting badly by this defeat? Do you think we r the only people who feel saddened by their performance?We have our daily jobs to look forward to. This IS their daily job.
    How do you know the players havent made a plan for the future and told the selectors about it? Is it important to share every detail with the public,especially with everybody amongst our 120 crore population having an opinion and more than eager to express it without an invitation.

    • sidvee says:

      Sure, you may feel that trying out youngsters would have damaged their confidence. I am of the opinion that we will never know until we try (and that making a youngster wait for long is also damaging to his confidence). You say: ‘Pick the best available players ,regardless of age and play them’. So you think this is the best available team we have? I think that the team we’re putting out is not the best available. If we all say ‘we may die tomorrow’, then the word ‘planning’ would never have existed. Also, I am concentrating on the present only (I am wary of planning 5-10 years ahead). And at the present, this team is a dud.

      The same sort of arguments were made when India dropped Dravid and Ganguly for the tri-series four years ago. That time, the team took a risk and it worked. Sure, the risk may not work all the time but one will never know until one tries.

      Of course the seniors are hurting. Of course they too feel saddened by the performance (more than us). Of course it’s their daily job. And of course there’s no need to share every detail with the public. But can you please list some of your solutions? I see a lot of disagreement (which is fine) but no suggestions for what must be done. Or are you suggesting we just continue to pick the same team for the next series? And the next series? And the next one after that?

      • sandeep ajila says:

        Hey ,thanks for reading my post and for ur comments on it. Feels nice when the author actually takes time to read the feedback and has the courtesy to reply to it. Anyway, my point was we took the best possible team we had to australia and lost. So now the ones who were out of form or didnt perform would be dropped and their replacements taken on the basis of form. Now u may think the best possible team did not go to australia (or did not play) but then everybody’s opinion differs.I thought the selectors had done a decent job then. Age does not or shouldn’t come into it. Youth has its advantages, granted but also many faults and every person is different and will react to a situation differently.Some one wrote above that raina, kohli and rohit should be assured places for the next few years to come.Now such a decision may install confidence in some but may also make the other one lazy. I think in India we have a tendency to give youngsters chances very early on( which is fine) but once they fail, we forget about them quickly and are very reluctant to give them a 2nd chance after 30. Which i think is very unfair.

        What also bugs me is that i have been reading most comments on the cric info site and i see that everyone is very quick with their advice and solutions ,after the match. But if some of their ideas r implemented and it doesnt work( i.e team changes), not one of them says that they were wrong. I have no sympathy for the BCCI and believe they deserve every criticism they get but i think the treatment the seniors have got over the past few days has been shameful (not by you, but in general).
        Now this vision thing.Everyone agrees that we need to win matches everytime we play (irrespective of home or away).The only way that is possible,at least with this team,by picking our best 11. We r not that great a team that we can win by resting a few of our best players ( in tests).And even if we do rest them and play with juniors and lose, do u honestly think that our media is going to support them? AND when someone like sachin does opt out of tours so that the young ones can have a chance, u seem to have a problem with that and think he is above the game.
        Other than this, i agree with u on the IPL and the bcci. Cheers!

      • Deepak Rao says:

        So many “of course” Sid… As if it was Dhoni writing…of course it wasnt

  69. Brilliant article Sir.

    I have never been a fan of this current group of selectors and do not feel like they really have any vision for India’s future. However, I do hope Dhoni or Fletcher take some hard calls and show that their is some sort of plan on the various issues like phasing out the seniors.

    One thing I want to see right NOW, is accepting the facts that we were outright beaten in consecutive test series away. Accepting our errors is the first step towards correcting them and unfortunately, Gambhir, Shukla among others have gone to press conferences and talked about how we will beat them at home. Living in denial and giving excuses is not helping whatsoever. For a start, we need to accept our shortcomings and then start looking at medium-term and long-term plans.

  70. Shruthi says:

    Really cool article. Absolutely agree with your view on Sachin playing in the CB series and your view on the IPL. Really time for tough decisions.

  71. Shiv kumar says:

    Sid- always an enriching exp reading your posts-you sure paint our collective euphoria and despair with your brilliant brush-i agree with all your points that decode the systemic flaws in our admn but i strongly believe that an Aussie like clinical approach in selection,bench mgmt and elimination of star culture could restore the path towards progression- much as he is hated and criticized, Greg Chappel can take pride in re-energising the wonderkids of Ganguly era- Sehwag,Yuvraj,Harbhajan and Zaheer-who were all woken up from their slumber of arrogance , lethargy and complacence to do justice to their skills-all four contributed immensely in Dhoni’s successes .Chappel’s biggest problem was he did not accord the more than equal status to SRT – he did not even let him tonk the hard new ball opening the innings- that was his biggest error- his prescriptions for Indian cricket are still relevant and crying need of the day- Chappel 2.0 with Dhoni and his hand picked core team of young guns can do more than what Aussies did during their golden run from ”99 to ’07- God should step aside and just bless, soon after the super century.

    • sidvee says:

      Thanks for the comment, Shiv. I agree that hard-nosed selection and bench management will go a long way. And I think hard selectorial calls are the need of the hour. We can’t keep hoping for the Big 3 to take a call on their careers. We need the paid selectors to do it. As for Chappell – I agree that he shook up the system and drove a few out of complacency but I think he ended up doing more harm than good. He crossed a fine line and brought in tremendous insecurity in the ranks. And no player can perform at his best when he is not sure of a place in the team. I think Chappell had some interesting ideas for cricket at the lower levels and (in some strange way) I think his vision might have helped Rajasthan more than it did the national team.

  72. Nilotpal says:

    [This is in response, in part to this brilliantly written post, and in part to a conversation with @sidvee on Twitter on some of MSD’s thoughts -and his style of captaincy – as expressed in an old interview: http://es.pn/hrQTjN%5D

    Sid, to be fair, there were a lot of things to b liked about MSD in that interview. So, yes he does come across as someone with a ticking cricket brain. But there are a few worrying things too, which i have kept coming back to for the past 2 years now. I would think for a gut/instinct based captain, adequate knowledge base of cricket is of more importance. A captain by the book can get away by sticking to a few trusted templates (like Azhar), but the other kind needs to have a much larger canvas to work with. All good gut decisions are based out of something you have seen work somewhere/something you have stored away at the back of your mind. Cases in point, Viru insisting on “ek aur karega”, SG knowing Nehra’s high pain barrier will allow him to play Durban. I havent heard any gut decision being explained by “i dont know why i did it, i just did it.” I still dont know what kind MSD is. It did look like he was more of an instinctive captain, but maybe he just runs out of instincts too soon, and then has to fall back on one of his own plans that once worked (like how 7-2 and deep point worked in Nagpur). He doesnt have any other experiences, apart from his own, to go by. The experience from just watching and studying the game can be the crucial difference between a fluke and a masterstroke. You may get away with it at times: Joginder Sharma bowled 5 bad balls in *that* over….if it wasn’t for Misbah wud have been no win, probably no IPL by now.

    Yes, he has made some gutsy and wise decisions in the past. Despite being a lifetime Dadatard, I completely agreed with dropping SG fr d CB series. But on-field choices, squad/XI selection has been v patchy for a long time now. some bordering on plain stubbornness. A long list: dropping Murali Karthik after a successful Aus home series, calling RP back in England, the blind persistence with Vinay and Mithun, the ordinary handling of Sreesanth the test bowler, having Parthiv as a back-up ODI opener…none of this made sense to me. Lets not even get started on bowling changes and field choices. Folks way more articulate than me have written on it.

    And the point on hurt…if you’ve grown up in the 90s and not hurt bad over Calcutta, Chennai, Barbados, Grace Road, i really dont know how you will comprehend what legacy is all about. This might sound outdated, but i really do want a captain that hurts bad. That is the only way I, a normal fan, can connect with him.

    Having said all of this, i know there is no alternative now. If Gambhir hadn’t had this horror run of late, maybe yes. Kohli no. Being captain of India isnt the same as that of South Africa, so the Graeme Smith analogy is v flawed. Either ways, i know whether MSD stays or not…its not gonna matter much to him. Which is probably my point.

    • sidvee says:

      Hey thanks for the comment. Some fine points here. I wish we had more analysis on cricketing captaincy. It often gets brushed aside as an inexact science and there are these pigeonholes into which captains are fit into – instinctive, bookish, rigid, inspirational etc. I so wish some of our fine leaders of the past (SMG, Kapil and even Shastri – who was seen as one of the finest leaders to have not captained for a long stretch) could be more articulate about the nuances of captaincy. Alas, their columns and interviews are full of cliches.

      I do agree that knowledge of history and hurting when India lost are important factors. But I think the same has also worked to his advantage. A lack of knowledge means he doesn’t get intimidated so easily, he doesn’t really worry about stats like ‘India have never won in this venue’. And while he might not have hurt over several Indian defeats in the ’90s (considering he saw games only until SRT got out) he has sure had to face pain of his own. Growing up in Bihar, playing in poor stadiums, sticking to his technique despite tremendous opposition from coaches etc.

      So I don’t know where one draws a line. Again, I wished we had a more in-depth analysis of Dhoni as a captain. He’s been one of our finest (if not the finest) and it’s a shame that he has not given more than two or three detailed interviews about his thinking process.

      • Sankara Raman says:

        Sid, another great post – although I thought it meandered a bit from talking about getting the veterans to leave rather than waiting for them to leave … to … MSD, Duncan, BCCI etc etc.

        Commenting specifically on this thread since I had alluded to MSD’s captaincy as response to your earlier post too.

        For me the first worrying since of MSD’s captaincy was way back when Hayden threatened to go on the offensive in Dada’s last test. Dhoni went defensive so quickly there (I do not recall the total that Australia had to chase). From there on, there has not been a single instance in test cricket (batting, bowling and fielding), where I have seen Dhoni go for the jugular. That said, even in one dayers, Dhoni’s instinct is to gamble (with team selection, at the toss, or opening the bowling), rather than being aggressive. So much that he comes across as being very proud – the ad blabbering about not giving the ball to Harbhajan and to Joginder Sharma. Other blunders in addition to the above, not having Ashwin in the World Cup final, persisting with Jadeja (who has lost us more matches single handedly, with his bowling than anyone I can remember), not having the nerve to get Umesh Yadav to open the bowling even against Sri Lanka.

        Point 1: Dhoni is a very defensive captain who gambles, at times in the ODI format.
        Point 2: Wait and watch style of his – game of attrition, waiting for the opposition to make mistakes, does not work outside the sub-continent
        Point 3: Captaincy style beginning to rub off on his batting – greatest finisher tag based on the last two matches is rubbish. He single-handedly cost us nearly two wins!
        Point 4: Team seems to have lot of infighting – commentators kept terming it ‘lack of intensity’: Basis for saying this – Zaheer not involved in guiding Umesh/Ishant when Warner went hammer and tongs, Sachin/Dravid/Sehwag not having a word with Dhoni and with one another right through the series; Gambhir and Dhoni differing publicly about the match situation and approach

        From a long term perspective, we need to look at alternatives – for the test team, sadly nobody (Sehwag/Gambhir/Zaheer – if we can think of a bowling captain) is in form and can put up his hand. We will continue to bumble along for the next 2 years with Dhoni at the helm.

        For ODIs, despite all the above, we will reach the finals and maybe even win here in Australia – so Dhoni will continue.

        Net summary, no change – we will get probably a new physio and a different fielding coach!!!

  73. Nilotpal says:

    Also, to an earlier comment, saying Greg Chappell was good for those players and Indian cricket is like saying Hitler was good for the Jews coz …you know, his actions did lead to Israel.

  74. Was surprised by the depth of anguish that I sensed from the tone of the article. But as usual brilliant writing.
    It has been more than a year since I stopped watching cricket ball by ball, but I could never hold back from following through other means and the sense of anguish felt on every loss is still there, especially when WE give up or do not put on a fight as a team.
    I so agree that we need planning – need to do take immediate corrective measures but also look at mid term and future term. Need a good leader at the helm and a strong sword of accountability on the heads of BCCI as well as the players.
    Agreed money is an important facet of every sport and the sporting bodies need money to run as well as develop the sport. But BCCI as a body has become a money making body with no accountability. It has been said enough in the past, in several write-ups, that BCCI needs acomplete makeover starting from the name of the body (we do not need a board to control cricket). If Indian players are representing the nation then the body managing and the players should be accountable to the public and cannot function as a private body.
    Key is strong leader and a stronger accountability. A team managing cricket which has specialist and plans ahead of time. Team which is passionate about the game. Plans which include plans for domestic cricket to tap talent at the formative stage, facilities given to players at all levels so that worry of future or finance does not come in the way of talent, importantly plans for the playing conditions in india so that we are prepared to play in pitches which are different than ours, not have such one-sided pitch that we stop producing fast bowlers, so on and so forth…
    Indian cap should not be taken for granted by anyone, whether he has 20 yrs. behind him or 2 yrs. Every game is a new game. Respect for experience should not be allowed to rule over present failures. Every player should have the sense of having earned the india cap and not take it for granted. At the same time one should not judge players from 1 failure, but should persist.
    Respect for fans is also missing. BCCI as well as the players should respect the fans who are the ones who are shortchanged, Fans who gain nothing other than a sense of satisfaction and pride in their men playing the game and a strong vicarious joy when we put up a fight whether we win or not. Fans love victory, gives that extra kick, but when you see the players put up a fight then even a loss gives u a great joy.
    God i just so want to shake the management and the players so strongly….come on do something and do not give up without a fight….

    • sidvee says:

      Thanks for the comment, Priya. I can’t disagree with you on any of the points. The BCCI has the best of both worlds – acts like a private little club, yet wields so much power. Unless there is some change in their structure, I don’t see too many major changes.

  75. Sarath Chandra says:

    Absolutely brilliant article sid. What stands out to me personally in this article is that the writer seems to have written what he genuinely feels rather than with an agenda in mind. Sadly, these days, it is all too common for even the biggest names in cricket writing to write for personal fame and glory. As such, neither does their praise have any value nor does their criticism any validity. A sad state of affairs indeed. So thank you very much for an article that is absolutely objective, devoid of any malice and most importantly completely rational in its reasoning.

  76. Sarath Chandra says:

    I would like to touch upon a couple of issues mentioned in the article which have added significance in light of recent events. Recent events being i). the retirement of an outstanding cricketer and a loyal servant of Indian Cricket – Rahul Sharad Dravid ii.) the call for retirement of the greatest cricketer of his generation, the role model par excellence for a nation for a span of 22 years and the biggest name in world cricket – Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar.

    Tendulkar has made a couple of statements which i admit are rather uncharacteristic of the man and he has been facing relentless flak regarding these,
    1. I feel those who say you should retire at the top are selfish,” he said, “because when you are at the top, you should serve the country instead of retiring.
    2.”When I retire is something I will decide because when I started it was not decided by someone else. Those who are advising me about retirement did not bring me into the team. I get my strength from my coaches and family.”

    What are you doing to your legacy by coming back and coming eighth in a race?’ And he said, ‘I can sacrifice my legacy for the love of the sport. As mentioned in the article, Rahul Dravid quoted Ian Thrope thus. How true is this? Isn’t this what SRT also said albeit more clumsily . Yet we have people calling sachin selfish and comparing him with dravid. Ironic.

    The second statement has been widely mis-understood and has been labelled as arrogance. Pray tell me, who else but the player has the right to decide when to retire. Whether to select or not is the selector’s job and sachin has not talked about that.
    “As fans, we would love to see these cricketers go out on a high (and not overstay their visit) but we had no say in the matter when they took up the game in the first place. And we have no say now. Our opinion doesn’t count.” Prophetic:-)
    I am not trying to say that he is perfect, i dont think he is. But learn to accept him as he is.

    • sidvee says:

      Thanks for this Sarath. I think Tendulkar is spot on by saying he knows when to retire. My issue is not with any of these players. Dravid chose to go. Tendulkar has chosen to stay. It’s their career, their choice. But my issue is with paid selectors waiting to just see what happens. I am disappointed that some TV channels have recently got a chance to interview Srikkanth and spent most of the time asking him about Tendulkar’s ‘retirement’ (which he has no control over) rather than the transition, vision and planning for India’s Test and ODI sides. I want to know the selectors’ plans for the transition. I don’t really think have a hand in an individual’s retirement.

      • Sarath Chandra says:

        Couldn’t agree more with you sid. But then again i guess they have a thankless job. Its always the mistakes that get magnified. It’s always a fine line but generally when it comes to dropping a player or persisting with him for a serise more, i personally prefer the latter.

  77. Pingback: Living over legacy | m a n u s c r y p t s

  78. greyblazer says:

    I see Fletch being blamed by some but if Ind. want to use what he is good at why wasn’t he sent with the India A team to WI? He is a good talent spotter and young players reckon he is very good at spotting bad habits that a batsman gets into.

    Fletch was the one who first picked a slight weakness in Yousuf as he plays with a high back-lift. He asked Anderson to bowl the outswinger on off-stump in 03 WC and the rest is history. Fletch was the one who in a way forced Amla to work on his technique against the short ball as he was found out in 05 series in SA thanks to Fletch’s analytical mind. Even when the Ashes 05 was being played out he asked for a few video clips of Hameed, Malik and Farhat as he anticipated that two of the three may open the batting for Pak against England in 05/06.

    At present India don’t have the players especially the bowlers to execute the plans. If Ind. want to use a good coach like DF then ask him to work with the younger players and the results will come!

    • sidvee says:

      Thanks for the comment. I don’t think we were arguing Fletcher’s merits as a coach. He’s obviously had plenty of success with England. And he is no doubt a good spotter of talent and opponents’ weaknesses. The question was what he was bringing to the table now. And yes, the BCCI ought to have sent him on the A tour. It’s a shame that he is on vacation during such an important time.

  79. It is very hard to judge what he is bringing to the table now, as a coach also needs a good team to execute his plans. IIRC in the 1st test at Melbourne, India bowled short to Punter before rain came, but once the match re-started, they want back to the tried and tested tactic that every team employs against Punter, which is to bowl full and look for lbw with him falling across slightly and if he gets set, hit back of a length on a off-stump channel, as these days, Punter struggles a bit to rock back onto the back-foot against back of a length deliveries. Yadav finally got his man by bowling back of a length.

    In the next few tests though, Ind. bowlers just weren’t good enough to execute their plans as they bowled either too short, or half volleys. I am not sure Fletch would have told the Ind. bowlers to bowl short.

    I also saw that under Fletch, Dravid in England wasn’t just walking across the crease and was playing slightly inside the line against the swinging ball. No one knows what happened in OZ as Dravid flopped, but under Fletch, he showed signs of returning back to form in WI and England. Even Kohli showed signs of improvement in OZ.

    IMHO a coach at the international level can’t do much if he doesn’t have the players. At present, India urgently need bowlers and of course, a few batsmen to replace the veterans.

    Anyway I have to congratulate you for writing some fantastic articles!

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