The West Indies are in the process of reviewing their cricket. Pakistan have appointed a three-member committee to inquire into their Cup debacle, asking them to report in three months what anyone in Karachi can tell them in three minutes.
Likewise, if a Class X student is asked what is wrong with Indian cricket, his answers will be similar to what the BCCI’s maha panchayat is likely to come up with next week in Mumbai. The problems plaguing Indian cricket are well known, as are the solutions. The question is, will any concrete step be taken? If you put this question to that boy again, he will shake his head.
After the exit from the World Cup, popular sentiment is against the players. They have been accused of discord (player vs player, player vs coach), distraction (too many endorsements, too much money) and of being unfocussed and unfit. I thought financial reward is a strong motivating force, but it turns out it is a deadly virus that has corrupted the system. Money is linked to results, but the situation is obviously not that straightforward.
Money, and the comforts that accompany it, apparently makes cricketers too comfortable, dulls their competitive edge and extinguishes the fire to excel. Being featured as much on Page 3 as in the sports section, these soft khiladis become unfit for tough battles.
So, is controlling players’ income the answer? I am not sure. One, why should you? Two, it isn’t practical. There is a feeling that money is hurting cricket, at least at the junior level in a few states.
Still, the issue is not money but how it is used. Money is a critical resource, you can’t do without it. And as sport gets integrated into the economy, with the media acting as a conduit, economics will play a larger role.
The challenge, therefore, is not to slash players’ salaries but to make money work for you. Ian Chappell suggested Tendulkar should look into a mirror but there are others, besides players, who need to do the same. The answers are all there.