It is obvious that top form cannot be always maintained and for every win, there is a loss waiting on the horizon. (AP)
To err is human. And cricketers, their demigod status in India notwithstanding, are indeed human beings. To expect more than what is physically possible is a trait of the masses who haven't really experienced the grueling schedules the players are subject to. It is but obvious that top form cannot be always maintained and for every win, there is a loss waiting on the horizon.
This is not about defending team India though. Let it be said here that two consecutive 4-0 Test series losses away from home have left the cricketers no place to hide. Instead this is about accepting that somewhere on the road to becoming the Test number one ranked side and the ODI World Champions, some mistakes were committed. And currently, this team is haplessly paying for those same.
You can say it began with the retirement of Sourav Ganguly and Anil Kumble. The last decade has been a truly golden era for Indian cricket and it was down to five players primarily. Those two aforementioned as also Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman - each of them is a legend in his own right. Around them, the likes of Zaheer Khan, Harbhajan Singh, Virender Sehwag and Yuvraj Singh came about to take the team to greater heights. But when in autumn 2008, two of those five legends bid adieu, the much-talked-about transition phase had already begun. Except, no one seemed to have noticed!
There is glaring evidence for the same. Has a replacement for Sourav Ganguly been found yet? Over the last three to four seasons, India have tried out Yuvraj, Suresh Raina, Virat Kohli, Cheteswara Pujara, S Badrinath, Manoj Tiwary, Rohit Sharma and a few more for this role. A few of them haven't yet made their Test debut. But none of them made a frantic effort towards getting picked, making that spot all his own and making it hard for the team management to drop him. So while the search for a proper number six continued without success, suddenly other spots have opened up too after continuing failure.
It was the same with the second spinner slot. Bhajji and Kumble bowled in tandem in the 2000s but once the latter left, much of the spin burden has fallen only on one shoulder. It has been four seasons yet, where is his spin-twin? Pragyan Ojha and R Ashwin have only now started blossoming when the process of nurturing them should have begun long ago. The dip in Bhajji's form only highlighted India's plight in this case that they had no one else to turn to.
The story for the rest of the batting order and bowling attack, in terms of names ready to take up their spots, follows a similar trend. Maybe, just maybe, the young names mentioned above are adequate enough to sort out the batting. But what about taking those twenty wickets? Has anyone thought of a replacement for Zaheer Khan? Who are his support bowlers because clearly Ishant Sharma is not as penetrative and Sreesanth never seems to be fit long enough. Umesh Yadav has only just about begun his career.
All fingers point to the BCCI of course. But it would be too simple to just chalk out collective failure instead of sticking out what has precisely gone wrong and where. For beginners, blaming the IPL is just an easy excuse. Yes, it plays heavy on the minds of youngsters and bowlers die on flat tracks out there. The slam-bang stuff doesn't really encourage technical play. But to say that it hinders them from learning more about their game is balderdash. Sachin, Dravid, Laxman and players from all over the world have played in the IPL and only adapted their game likewise.
What youngsters lack is the experience to enable them from grasping their learning and integrating it with what they already know. That has to come in form of able coaching and expert advice from mentors. That is the core of the matter, wherein the BCCI does not have in place a proper system that nurtures its young players. The National Cricket Academy in Bangalore is grossly inadequate to handle everything on its own.
And this is where an ex-cricketer would have been valuable. Someone like Anil Kumble performing that role of heading the NCA, knowing what is needed to enhance the young players and devising a plan that chalks out various clinics and camps as per the requirements of their batsmen, bowlers and even fielders. Every discipline cannot be handled under one umbrella and it is necessary to branch out responsibility from time to time, without interference from political hands of course.
The benefit of hindsight allows one to point out what should have been in the Kumble situation. But all of that only transpired recently. This process needed to have begun a long while ago, perhaps hand in hand with the development of the brand that is the IPL today. That tournament could have been used for identifying talent and the money generated ought to have been put in use to develop that very same talent, putting on course a proper future for the most beloved game of this country.
Instead, what we are left with is the very foundation of Indian cricket standing on shaky grounds.