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Is Indian cricket really shining?

Fans feel Indian cricket is shining as they see a dressed up product that combines fashion and entertainment, writes Amrit Mathur.

cricket Updated: Jun 04, 2007 04:06 IST

A current India player, slotted to bat at number three, sat under a shamiana pitched close to the boundary waiting for his turn. And, as the openers feasted on the new ball on a brown pitch that resembled rolled mud, he shook his head in disapproval at the carnage.

This, he said in a pained voice, is the sad reality of Indian cricket.

There are many who would dispute this assessment. Most fans feel Indian cricket is shining ---that too brightly --- because they see a dressed up product that combines high fashion and exciting entertainment.

Cricket, to them, is a dazzling world of celebrity stars, of glamour and glitter, where top players earn top rupees and the Board signs multi-million deals that contain more zeroes than in Ajit Agarkar's batting records.

Such abundant riches generate a pleasant, soothing feeling of wellness. The outlook is rosy: India has defeated Bangladesh to redeem lost honour, Dravid has visited Tirupati to seek divine blessings, Sachin has scored two more hundreds — so can anything be wrong?

And if this wasn't the case, ask die-hard cricket bhakts, would the hairstyle of players hit national headlines or TV networks offer six hours of programming around a six-hour match?

But some pessimists detect gloom in this India-shining cricket world. Improvement kaise hoga, moaned the player twirling his bat. Each year Ranji captains meet the Board and repeat suggestions made the previous year, the same CD is played all over again but nothing happens.

The concerns of players centre around wickets and umpiring, and on both scores, there has been little movement.

Despite much noise and occasional seminars, pitches are pathetic (either too good or too bad) and first-class umpiring is more unreliable than the power situation in Gurgaon. In contrast to those at the privileged high end, for others cricket is an unrewarding grind.

Players across the country struggle in tough conditions, existing on the hope that one day they will hit that stylish cover drive or the big hundred that will catch the attention of the selectors.

They know cricket as a career is hit-and-miss, more miss than hit because the competition is intense, jobs are scarce, even Test players are unemployed and searching for commercial endorsements.

For Indian cricket to step up, fundamental issues need to be addressed. The choice of coach, the selection of an apparel partner, the financial mess of TV rights do not materially affect Indian cricket. Also, the performance of the Indian team is independent of the Board having a website or whether an Indian heads the ICC.

Indian cricket will start to glow, let alone shine, once it is ensured that bowlers don't get massacred by batsmen. It is ok for the bat to dominate ball but not in a way that fast bowlers go into depression on seeing a dead track and spinners start bending their arm to avoid a thrashing?

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