If a list is compiled of hits/misses, what’s in/out and hot/un-hot in Indian cricket, chances are the negatives would outnumber the pluses. Which demonstrates that a serious crisis has hit the team, and there is much to worry about.
Topping this list is the inability of star players to deliver when it matters. All of a sudden our cricket heroes are not unlike aging celluloid superstars who have lost their grip over the box office. Fans are getting round to the view that senior players are, sadly, in the twilight of their careers and their wonderful days of glory are now only romantic black and white memories of yesterday.
Even Dravid is feeling the heat — the appointment of former captain Tendulkar as vice-captain is seen as a blunt hint for him to watch it. Maybe this is an incorrect reading of the situation: now that Sehwag (captain in one-dayers recently in South Africa ) is in Najafgarh and not Nagpur someone had to be nominated to fill in if the captain was missing from the field.
Faced with such a situation the selectors had to pick Tendulkar because others are not sure of being on the park.
But the current crisis of Indian cricket extends beyond just players or individuals: it is what management gurus call systemic failure. Led by an imported tutor from Australia, and supported by a progressive captain, India looked to reach the next higher level of cricket but the journey failed as the driver took a wrong turn and crashed the car.
Kapil Dev thinks it is wrong to blame the coach. Asked to name a mujrim he responds by releasing a string of aggressive questions. Tell me, he asks in a tone that conveys anger, hurt and disappointment, tell me, who is Greg Chappell? Does he know our culture, our habits, our psyche, our diet, our pitches, our…our…?
Maybe, as the revered Paaji feels, the problem is more deep-rooted than players or the coach, the real culprit is the collective, and comprehensive, failure of Indian cricket to deliver quality.
While everyone is heartily applauding an India that is shining and rising (with a surging economy and an expanding middle class that is assertive, aggressive and skilled) the only display of vitality in cricket is Sreesanth’s Prabhudeva imitation in response to Nel.
The issue therefore is: what happened to the generation that was supposed to succeed Sachin/Dravid/Sourav/Kumble/Laxman? Clearly, the Yuvraj-Mongia-Kaif lot has not seized power, and we are left to hope that the generation next in line — Raina/Robin and Rohit — together with Gambhir and Jaffer will step up and lead India’s charge.
Though the current balance sheet of Indian cricket makes depressing reading there is, hopefully, more cheerful news round the corner. Playing the West Indies and Sri Lanka at home is a great opportunity to mend averages and scale up confidence before entering the global big fight early March in the Caribbean.