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Challenges ahead for Indian cricket

So, it seems all is well with Indian cricket once gain. With India victorious and England vanquished, the disaster of summer is forgotten and Dhoni, emotionless as a mannequin in a mall, is pumping his fist in celebration. Amrit Mathur writes.

india Updated: Oct 31, 2011 22:35 IST

So, it seems all is well with Indian cricket once gain. With India victorious and England vanquished, the disaster of summer is forgotten and Dhoni, emotionless as a mannequin in a mall, is pumping his fist in celebration.

But all is not well with Indian cricket and for a change it is not just the players who are facing the heat. The administrators need to worry because fans have clearly demonstrated they are tired and a bit bored. The recent ODIs failed the box office test, crowds rejected the matches, tickets did not sell and even the demand for free passes dipped.

Till now, cricket was supposed to be a recession proof, unique, economics-defying product for which demand always exceeded supply. Now, the latest message from the market is fans are more discerning and demanding and won't support low-quality cricket.

Besides this scary off-field signal, there are other challenges confronting Indian cricket. These pertain to selection, to team building and to looking ahead instead of focussing only on the immediate. The new annual contracts list is meant to please all because players — old and young — have been accommodated. But the problem is national selectors can’t announce a squad of 20, they can’t duck the question about sticking with youth or pressing rewind to stay with the big boys.

The India team for the Delhi Test starting next week provides an indication about which way they want to go. In batting, senior players are back but there is a major shift in the bowling with selectors searching for fresh talent. Harbhajan and Amit Mishra have been benched and Umesh Yadav and Varun Aaron have got the nod because they hit the deck hard.

But, will selectors be brave and, going forward, choose hope, promise and the thrilling uncertainty of youth. Or, will they play safe and carry on with the known and the proven. Why, they might argue, take a risk and invite failure. Quite likely they will look at the middle path and strike a balance between youth and experience.

(The writer is CEO of Delhi Daredevils)