It’s been a long and crazy few days since India exited the World Cup. It’s very easy to join the over-the-top ‘reactivists’ and crucify the players, but that makes no sense to me. While we definitely do have to look at the cricketing issues involved — like the batsmen being unable to cope with bounce — the responsible thing to do would be to use the opportunity to address other major issues.
Like the art of player management and making sure whatever available talent India has is harnessed properly and maximised. Far too many times for comfort, I’ve been where the current lot of Indian players today are — vilified by all and sundry, having every single thing they do torn apart and then some.
Someone’s got to look at handling both them and the things that come with playing for India, responsibly. There’s the pressure of performance, the pressure of expectations, pressure from a very intrusive media including former players.
These pressures can be overwhelming for a young man, more so perhaps, for a suddenly rich and famous young man coming to terms with his newfound status.
So I think it’s equally important to prepare him to manage life during and beyond cricket.
At the same time, without getting into which cricketer partied too much or drank too much or got into a brawl, or whether anyone did at all, there’s a need to educate young cricketers about their responsibilities. Not that they don’t know what these are but they need help on how to handle themselves with regard to these.
It’s important for the BCCI to ensure that contracted players at least are given not just cricketing infrastructure but life infrastructure. Today’s players need management skills, communication skills, professional media skills — they are, after all, brand ambassadors for the country. Yet, it’s also critical to emphasise the team’s performance and stop either making individuals too important or making or breaking them at the drop of a hat.
Look at Australia and their captain Michael Clarke, who’s led beautifully but had a poor world cup with the bat so far. No one’s questioning his place or hold on the captaincy.
If India had not made it and some Mr. X had played the Mike Hussey kind of blinder but in vain, people would be calling for the skipper to be replaced by that Mr. X. Or, they would have castigated the India captain for not sending him up the order earlier. But Hussey has a specific role to play in the Australian set-up and he played that to perfection.
That’s what has made Australia the team it is. In India’s case, even when we have the bench strength, we don’t have faith enough to use them and concentrate on the specifics of a role — England did this when they picked Twenty20 domestic performers for specific roles.
I’m saying all this because I made these mistakes, as captain and otherwise, and am speaking from experience.
That’s why I was exceptionally happy when this Indian team became no. 1 in Tests. Team performance is big and you need to start giving credit to someone who sacrifices for his team.
Both Australia and England, the best teams on show in the World T20, have been doing it in the Caribbean, so it will be interesting to see who continues their polished performance in the final.
England have no world cups to their name and that’s likely to put pressure on them, so I’d say the edge is with Australia. Yet, Kevin Pietersen could well be the difference between the teams.