You may have noticed that the Indian team has been playing and acting differently over the past couple of months. The team’s attitude during the Sydney controversy, the lack of rancour about who was picked or dropped in the XI, the camaraderie on and off the field — all this could be born from a code envisioned as a blueprint for the game, now and in the future.
<b1>Meant to be Indian cricket’s vision document, sources said the eight-point draft was unveiled by Anil Kumble in the team’s hotel in Delhi late November. India’s new Test captain had put together a three-page note, detailing what had thus far been a mélange of ideas coming out of chats and loud thinking.
The document was not a mission statement like the Australian ‘Spirit of Cricket’ drafted by then captain Steve Waugh and coach John Buchanan.
But the basic idea, said sources in the team, was the same. The thought was that India too needed a specified system of cricket, a plan by which all cricketers would play the game. The document would be a stated vision that would serve as a set of guidelines, which could be revised by future generations of Indian players.
According to sources, the document focuses on eight areas including selection issues, training methodology, strategy, recognition, conflict resolution, and dealing with an intrusive media.
This one turned out to be the most critical. When the team refused to leave the hotel during the Harbhajan Singh incident, the players had a closed-door meeting. Unlike other instances, this time the press was completely out of the loop.
Action plan for the future
The code calls for an openness that hasn’t always been apparent in player selections. It asks that team leaders be more sensitive to their teammates, especially when a player is to be dropped from the playing XI. It recommends that playing XIs be decided a day in advance (and not on match day) and that players be told of this as soon as the decision is made.
In keeping with the notion of greater understanding and just being nicer and more professional, it asks that the captain or vice-captain personally tells the player who's been dropped that he's out and why he's out. Sometimes though, depending on "team dynamics" — read this as a teammate who is closer to the player concerned — another player could be asked to do the talking.
There's been a lot of heartburn about how some players get short shrift and some get a really long rope, so the document asks that every player gets a reasonable run in the team and if they are dropped after that, they are informed of the reasons for that axing.
The team strategy would be aggressive (as opposed to being defensive) and built around taking calculated risks, not dependent on factors like the weather, pitch conditions or the toss. While the planning would still be done by the team management and senior players, the captain is to be held responsible for the execution and implementation of that strategy on the field.
And given all the talk about a reported senior-junior gulf within the team, the document also calls for the recognition of achievers. It recommends that players who have accomplished a lot be respected and recognised appropriately by their peers and by the system.
It also recommends “conflict resolution” at the earliest, and asks that players be professional at all times. Since inter-personal relationships play a vital role in any team building exercise and issues and problems arise periodically, it asks that players sort out these issues rationally and then move on. “Basically, even if you hate somebody within the team, you have to remember that once you cross the line, you're on the same side,” said a player. “So it’s far better that issues are sorted out immediately.”
The document asks players to adopt either a closed-door policy or an open one when dealing with the media. Under the first, only the captain or a nominated player can speak to the media under certain conditions on tour while, under the second, anyone can speak to anyone. In both cases, certain rules will be followed, dressing room confidentiality maintained and players will not deviate from those rules.
Most believe that Indian cricket works on a combination of luck and fate. This document is obviously still quite basic. But for players and fans alike, this vision could be the start of something special.