Hardly four days have passed since India’s painful exit from the T20 World Cup in the Caribbean and we have heard all kinds of sinister stories on TV channels and leading newspapers of the country. Unfit players, fitter coaches, unruly skipper, pub brawls, torn t-shirts and quiet flights back home have some how ironically overshadowed that Viswanathan Anand won a world chess championship, again.
Now one isn’t trying to shift perspective to other sports from cricket here, for let’s be honest, that can’t be done. But there is a need of looking at whatever little light there is at the end of this gruesome dark tunnel and be happy about it. Yes, amidst the fact that the batting, bowling and fielding all failed in the West Indies for the Indian team, there is hope yet.
First of all, there are the players. For how long have we known that Yuvraj Singh isn’t the player he was three years ago? What does that say about the ‘highly talented’ Rohit Sharma who considers Yuvraj his idol? Couldn’t we make out that Zaheer Khan and Harbhajan Singh have hints of pot bellies just like many of us who were watching on television during the IPL? Gary Kirsten seems to have targeted these three senior players and the fledgling Sharma, if you go by excerpts of his reports.
We knew all of it all along, yet no one would ask questions off these players for they are ones who supposedly carry India’s hopes. The difference is that now they will indeed be asked. They will be monitored when they return for the Asia Cup if they have at all worked on their fitness. The media eye will be on them throughout the next one month and if they indeed do not pass Kirsten’s test, they will not find a place in the squad. And that is the best part because team India has been built on ethics of past greats not for spoilt brats to squander the legacy.
If somehow they do find a way back, the spotlight will then be on the selectors and the BCCI in that order! Time and again, Kris Srikkanth and his band of merry men have selected the same bunch of players, mostly on whims and fancies. How else can they explain Yuvraj’s inclusion when he couldn’t even fire for the Kings XI Punjab in two months? Did he show any match winning form, well, no. What about Bhajji who went wicket less in the tournament and has been towing the same defensive line in Test or ODI cricket of late?
There was a huge case for picking young and raw talent for the T20 World Cup. Players like Ambati Rayudu, Manish Pandey, Robin Uthappa and Saurabh Tiwary who are eager to make a mark, not the overburdened stars who are drowning out there under public and peer pressure. Yet the selectors handed out a rusty and ragged side to the captain and coach in the vain hope that they might just turn it on. Guess what, they didn’t, and if the entire team is to blame, so is the panel who selects them.
Simple speaking, MS Dhoni cannot alone be held responsible and fired from his job, as some sections of the media have been suggesting. If he is put on probation for the next couple of months then so should be the five selectors. They are the ones who have backed him all through the last three to four years, and with just about ten months to go for the 2011 World Cup they are contemplating a change in guard?
Dhoni has been fairly successful in leading the side and it is quite astonishing to notice that the same media was hailing him as the best Indian captain ever just three months ago, when the India ended 2009-10 ranked number one in Tests. But this is their job and that is how they make money, by catching the imaginative public. However if the five wise men do head down that same road and the unthinkable does abound, the BCCI needs to take a look if Srikkanth and his gang are indeed the right men on their payrolls for this particular job.
Why the BCCI? Because, they have been the ones beating around the bush about accountability for the past six weeks. If Lalit Modi needs to give answers for what he did and why he did for the good or bad of the IPL, then please let this be clear – the same rules apply to international cricket and more so. For, the people may be divided when it comes to eight/ten franchises but team India unites one and all. People, and the media, will need answers why the supposedly ‘best captain’ is removed with the ODI World Cup close by and for a change the Board will not be able to hide.
After all, everything is about the ODI World Cup next year. The fact that it will be held in the sub-continent means it is India’s best chance at glory. Not just because the likes of Gautam Gambhir and Suresh Raina will not have to worry about bouncers and can hit through the line as and when they want. But also, when in 2007, after the failure under Greg Chappell and Rahul Dravid also in the Windies, the process towards the next showpiece event began. The selectors first invested in Dhoni’s leadership and the move started paying off. They realized a nucleus of players who could work as a team and they started clicking. Of course there will be some hiccups on the way, otherwise how will this young team learn? This is a time for grasping the mistakes, instead of making all new ones.
That we won the T20 World Cup three years ago was through some daredevilry and by some chance. Just as well, it happened. We were T20 champions recently but we haven’t been ODI champions for a good twenty-seven years. That is a couple of whole new generations of cricket lovers who didn’t witness Kapil Dev standing on the Lord’s balcony in ’83. Point is if you set out robbing a bank – what would you want? A bag full of coins or a box full of currency notes? 2010 T20 World Cup is small change compared to the 2011 ODI World Cup and it is a price we should be happy to pay.