Future of Indian Cricket: BCCI needs to address the problem of plenty.

Sanjoy Roy

April 3, 2021, 11:13:14   

If the recent success of Indian Team against England series and historical victory in Australia are considered as benchmark of success for a Team, it may be concluded that future of Indian cricket is resplendent and prevailing circumstances point it in right direction. Many legendaries of International cricket have highly rated the current Indian team and they particularly have cited the cricketing atmosphere and infrastructure created in the country as cardinal reasons for such heightened success. In India, the cricketing talents nowadays are not only found in the erstwhile centres but cricketers are emerging from small cities and rural areas also. Number of cricketers coming up from unconventional towns surprises many cricket pundits astonishingly. Many legendary cricketers of Australia, West Indies and India have expressed their satisfaction on the success of India against England and Australia. There is no lack of talented cricketers in India and process of building and grooming players is very good. Cricket is not a religion in India only but a profession also.  Ranji Trophy, Duleep Trophy, Indian Premier League , Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy etc  organized in India regularly ,  National Cricket Academy established in 2000 by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) for training young cricketers  potential to represent the Indian cricket team and 'players benevolent schemes' introduced by the BCCI  are rendering awesome contribution for growth and development of cricket in India.   Thus a number of promising players like bowlers, batsmen and wicket keeper cum batsman are coming up in abundance, posing a serious challenge to the BCCI for the better management and handling of these players. Over the last three or four years, innumerable number of young cricket players had come up and represented the country and performed well at the beginning of their career  but many of them despite having talents failed to mark their essence in latter course and got fallen off due to many reasons warranting a distinct policy framework. Although the current process of Indian cricket is definitely good led by the BCCI, that also looks after the interests of players as per the stature and contributions of respective players, unequivocally admitted by many international players including some Pakistan and Australian stalwarts as well along with some former Indian players, the overall development of cricket in India, the interests of BCCI and players, call for proper policy regarding the problem of plenty. The present article views the problem of plenty on the backdrop of India's win against England etc.

The recently concluded India-England cricket series in all three formats was really interesting pulsated with high degree of intensity, uncertainty and thrill. Although Indian team has come out successful in all formats, the pandemic stood as fundamental stumbling block for the spectators in particular compelling five twenty-twenty matches (T20) and three one day internationals (ODIs)  held in empty stadium  either in Ahmedabad or Pune respectively.  Both teams exhibited their class, stature, professionalism and legacy of their cricket fullest to their potential. Barring the ODIs , India has won the test matches and twenty-twenty matches (T20)  coming from behind. Current series was very important to both the team given the test championship in June 2021 in England and T20 world championship scheduled after the upcoming IPL tournaments in India. With the clinch of test series by India by a margin of 3 -1, India is qualified for final to compete against Newzealand for Test Championship scheduled in England. Both the team management have experimented with all permutation and combinations for the coveted Tests, ODIs and T20 matches. 

England came to India after completing their successful campaign in Sri-Lanka where they outperformed and outclassed the hosts on a spin wizardly wicket and sustained their record till the first test match at Chennai while India team was equally ready after their historical victory in Australia with renewed strength of Captain Virat Kohli and other key players in the side. The lessons learnt by both teams are immense and these vary from team to team. The lessons learnt by bowlers and batsman of both teams would differ from test cricket to ODI matches to T20 format. For example, England team was found very susceptible to playing on bouncy-spin track in Test cricket while the same team is found very comfortable on a slow spin track used for ODI and T20 matches. While England batsman had been very defensive and tentative in Test cricket, the same team was found very attacking and aggressive in ODI series and T20 matches. In Test cricket, England openers had failed miserably while they succeeded in ODI and T20 matches. On the other hand, Indian cricket team has garnered a lot of lessons and these need to be taken care of very immediately before they compete the world cup Test championship at England in June 2021, Although admiration and approval from legends are definitely are worth listening and added advantage, the Indian team should not be too much pumped up for such praises. Rather it is important to concentrate on the limitations why Indian team sometimes suffers from sudden downfalls causing havoc humiliation.  The following lines would an attempt to discuss some of the factors hindering the success of Indian team awfully for which the BCCI needs to harp on. 

1.The problem of plenty is a challenge to the team management in choosing right combination of the team for different matches keeping in view the nature of wicket and local conditions. As the expectations of Indian spectators stand high, the team management also hopes success and better performances. In turn it poses extra pressures on the individual players for achieving something special. Now, the problem of plenty is also a big challenge task for selectors as well so that no talent becomes the victim of their wrong choice.   
2.The experience of Indian team in Test matches shows that the problems of batting are more serious particularly in the opening slot and middle order. Although Rohit sharma is adept from one end, another end is felt as void and vacuum. Mayank Agartwal, KL Rahul and Prithi Shaw and Shuvaman Gill   had been tried but none could succeed at the opening slot to the desired level. As regards, T20 and ODI, finding batsman at number 4 is a prolonged problem along-with a right handed miserly leg spinner with a 'Google' in his arsenal and a left-handed quick bowler, preferably having  deadly accurate 'Yorker'.

3.Sometimes team management and captain are found suffering from complacency and they could hardly read the pitch properly for which they chose wrong combination of players. As a result the confidence of management reposed on players becomes vacuous as found in 1st test match against England. As a result bowlers leaked enormous runs allowing England Batsmen to pile up mammoth scores against India in 1st test match and, later on, the team succumbed to the pressures of 1st innings total and lost the game badly. The defeat of the first test match against England was not the fault of bowlers alone; it was the failure of captain and team management for poor choice and unviable combination. Thus the use of the talents and their careful handling depend of the team management. On a flat track, no finger spinner can do wonder on 1st day or second day and this needs to be considered by the team management. But it impacts havoc on the future of a player as opportunity does not knock at the door, time and again.

4.The lesson learnt from the test series by Indian team is really thought-provoking. Except Rohit Sharma and Risav Pant, the performance of Indian batters against the England’s bowling was   below par. Even Players like Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinke Rahane and Virat Kohli had been below par their usual standards and they played either wrong shots or got out in silly manners. Thus England series was an eye opener for the selectors to think again about the middle order batting for test matches. The crisis of opening batsman is resurfaced with the repeated failure of openers. Agarwal was successful in last season in Australia and in India also but his poor performances in two consecutive tests against Australia had opened the door for Shubman Gill who rendered good services in Australia but found him off-form against England in home conditions for four tests. 

5.Thus the policy of team management regarding the selection of best eleven should be crystal clear.  A consistent policy should be followed in respect of each new player without bias and favour. When the credibility and capability of new player are known, he should be allowed a particular number of games irrespective of the results of match. Question arises  if Shubman Gill may be allowed four matches uninterruptedly , why Agarwal would be dropped following his dismal performances in  two matches when there lies  no serious technical  batting  flaw except his ill -timing coupled with  good bowling  by opposition team on bouncy wickets . 

6.Pluses emerged for India is Axar Patel as test match bowler while Ishan Kisan, Surya kumar Yadav etc are new finds for T20 matches. It must be mentioned that the Indian team won the test series against England on the strength of two frontline spin bowlers particularly Axar Patel and Ravichandran Ashwin who bowled exceptionally well on spin friendly pitches. England batsman surrendered to the spin-twin completely except 1st test match, while the victories in T20 and ODIs are largely due to combined team efforts.

7. The recent series shows that there is a paradigm shift in selection of best 11 players. Earlier Indian team would comprise 6 batsman and 4 bowlers and 1 wicket keeper. But now it is found that Indian team goes with 5 batsmen and 5 bowlers with 1 wicket keeper with a view to collecting 20 wickets in a test match or restricting the opposition to a paltry score or defending the score in T20 matches. Apparently it seems very good and definitely an aggressive policy. The same formula is good as long as, this proves successful with specialist batsmen getting runs profusely. When three or almost batsman fail miserably, the plight of the team suffers badly, the responsibility gets shifted on the lower order batsman and to some extent on the bowlers as observed in some matches. 

8.Problem of plenty has put the team management in a dilemma whom to select and whom to sit out. Ravichandran Aswin was not in best eleven against New Zealand and it was Rabindra Jadeja who played in the test matches. But when he was chosen in Australia he rendered commendable services in Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney and he was found in sublime form and batted about 42 overs in Sydney to save the test match. 

9.Now Indian team would go to the England with all best players as many players who were not available during the Australia and England series due to injury,  may be under considered , if found fit. If India goes with five bowlers, naturally bowlers like Shardul Thakur , Md Siraj , T. Natarajan and Nabdip Saini etc would have to remain in bench  in Test championship match. If Rabindra Jadeja is selected, bowlers like Axar Patel and Sundar would have limited chance including Ravichandran  Aswin if India goes with four bowlers, vice versa. There would be competition among Md Shami, Burmah,  Bhuvaneshwar Kumar or Ishant Sharma.  Who would be openers, none can predict given the swinging condition of England. Even the Rohit Sharma, who got some runs in India, is doubtful given swinging conditions in England. 

10.Switching over to the policy of five bowlers and five batsmen, it may be mentioned that earlier policy comprising   6 batsmen with 4 specialist bowlers had paid dividend to the Indian Team for long particularly in foreign soil. But the present policy of going with five bowlers and five batsmen supported by wicket keeper batsman is perhaps not going smooth as opening pair is lacklustre and middle order looks tentative and feeble when two or three batsmen get out chiefly. Although all-rounders have buttressed in two test matches in Australia and against England, these should not be expected as a regular feature.

11.India should find out batsman capable of bowling eight to ten overs in a test match preferably in every innings so that team may have 6 batsmen and 4 specialist bowlers as found during the captaincy of Ganguly or Dhoni and other former skippers. The country has witnessed some great batsmen bowled in Test matches and ODI matches earlier. Tendulkar, Sehwag, Yubraj, Ganguly, Raina etc. are known for bowling in all formats if required, and they had collected wickets in critical matches and gave India victory. Their bowling helped India immensely and enabled the batting line very deep. Although Rabindra Jadeja and Hardik Pandiya have emerged, the duo is rarely found together since the world cup in 2019. Available history shows that all successful teams had impeccable batting line up with at least three strike bowlers in the side and one or two batsmen had the distinction of bowling some overs in the match. 

12.Given 'the present conditions of Indian team, the selectors should decide the policy what would be basis of choosing the combination of eleven players, rather than leaving it on the team management. It would embolden and mould the whole process of cricket in India and help the BCCI in finding out such talents. On flat tracks, going by 5 batsmen and 5 bowlers with wicket keeper capable of batting is not bad policy. But if two batsmen are capable of some bowling, team can easily go with four bowlers. At present, England, Australia, England, Newzealand etc. follow the same principle. But in India none of the top five batsmen bowls regularly putting extra burden on team.

13.Problem of plenty has many disadvantages for the captain and coach as well as they are drawn to severe criticism for poor performances of team. Sometimes the necessity of success compel the captain and coach to take harsh decision and many a times it is observed that young players become a victim for his poor performances when the team makes compulsory changes . As a result, the young players in the team always have a fear-psychosis of losing his spot if he fails to deliver the goods for the country. The board needs to adopt a pragmatic view in this respect. 

14.Some countries have introduced rotation policy for players so as to make the best utilization of the talented players. In every match, one or two compulsory replacements are made so that every player gets almost equal opportunity. In England team this rotation policy is restricted to bowlers only, so as to protect the bowlers safe from any fallout of injury caused from increased workload. But the result of such rotation policy is not free from criticism.  As dropping the in-form players from playing matches unhindered not only thwarts his form but it also may go against the interest of team impeding its success.

15.The captaincy issue of Indian team is a bone of contention. Question whirls whether Virat Kohli should be allowed to continue as captain of Indian team for all three formats or not as he is found sometimes over-excited. Although his performances as player and captain of India in test matches and T20 matches are really worth mentioning and beyond doubt, some experts opine Virat Kohli should be relieved from additional burden of leading the side in all formats and the role should be given to  Rohit Sharma keeping in view the overall interests and future of India. 
To conclude it may be mentioned that BCCI should look into the problem of plenty with utmost care so that the future of Indian cricket does not tumble and it can run flying high as today.  


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