India’s cricket is in crisis, but they have a lot to be cheerful about. Where do they go from here?
India’s winter has been woeful to put it mildly. A damning test defeat to England and then a tragic one day series loss to Pakistan has brought up several million dollar questions all of which need some serious answers. But what exactly left the world champions looking like a minnow team?
The first myth that needs to be dispelled is that the Indian Premier League (IPL) has had a negative impact on Indian cricket. The British media love to pounce on the IPL and it is mainly out of jealousy. After all, county t20 hardly draws the crowds in, nor does it bring the excitement that the best league in the world does. The IPL can only be a good thing for world cricket, since it keeps the game alive and pulls in young spectators who go on to watch test cricket. All the English players like Nasser Hussain, who partake in IPL bashing, need to realise that it is here to stay, and for English cricket to move forward over the next decade, it needs to embrace the tournament.
India’s real failure this winter is down to some fundamental problems in the country’s cricket organisation. The team selection for the test series against England lacked dynamism and originality. Virender Sehwag, who can win a game on his own, has been in lacklustre form of late. The “Little Master” Sachin Tendulkar, the best batsman to grace the game, also struggled to find fluent form, and his retirement from ODIs is a welcome move. Zaheer Khan lacked any malice with the ball and Harbajhan Singh continued on his downward spiral. These are greats of the game, and no doubt will leave the cricketing world as legends.
But Indian cricket is going through a state of transition at the moment, just as the Australian’s did a few years back. Now look at them, one of the most feared teams in the world once more. India need to run down the road of development. Despite critics slamming the IPL, it has created a pool of talent for Indian selectors. Ajinkya Rahane, Parvinder Awana, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Cheteshwar Pujara are all IPL talents. Shami Ahmed was electric in the final ODI game against Pakistan. These are the players that have been the most impressive this winter.
Selectors need to be looking to these players with young blood and hungry appetites for cricket. It is no good just trialling them for one or two games, they need to become the new faces of Indian cricket and cement their name on the world stage. Virat Kohli, Indian cricket’s poster boy will lead them, and he is one of the most intelligent and gracious cricketers around at the moment. Kumar, Awana and Ahmed could be one of the most dangerous bowling attacks in world cricket. They can swing the ball out and in and have an armoury full of variations. But they need development. Their pace needs to go up by six or seven miles per hour.
Batsmen like Rahane and Pujara are impressive. Their stroke play and mentality is Dravid-esque. And with the number of highly skilled batsmen floating around India, the team should be looking to the future, to the defence of the world cup and to cementing their place back at the top of the test rankings.
A final point needs to be made in defence of skipper Dhoni. While much of the media has criticised his captaincy over the winter, MS is still the man for the job, at least for one more year. He is a fantastic batsmen and great team leader. Dhoni’s problem has been down to resources. He has not always had the players fit, or in form to work with. He has never been an orthodox captain, from the way he bats to his field placing. Yet it is this uniqueness that has brought him and India so much success. If the selectors bring in some new talent with Dhoni at the helm and Kohli waiting in the wings, India could be one of the most dominant forces in world cricket again.
This winter showed India at their worst, but it also offered them hope. New, raw talent was on show with the potential to be made into truly feared players. If India let go of the past and invest in their future, their cricket will flourish once again.
Why do you think India failed this winter? What do you think they need to do to improve? Tell us what you think.