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HindustanTimes Sat,27 Dec 2014
Top on a cricket fan's mind: is there hope for Team India?
Sandipan Sharma, Hindustan Times
August 18, 2014
First Published: 15:31 IST(18/8/2014)
Last Updated: 16:21 IST(18/8/2014)

The best thing about this Indian cricket team is that it doesn't make you sad. Not for a moment after watching them dance to the swinging ball do you believe that any Indian batsman would survive at the crease. With hope lost, first expectations go out of the window and after that any interest in the result, except for the margin of the defeat.

Mahendra Singh and his boys do not invoke sorrow, joy or pity; they have turned into subjects of mirth and memes. Pity Kapil Sharma has to do so much to make us giggle when the very sight of Indian batsmen at the crease is enough to make you roll on the floor clutching the stomach.

Watch Dhoni bat, for instance. He may have been the top scorer for India but sometimes you wonder why he carries a bat to the crease. His best shots these days come from his thighs, chest, shoulders or whichever part of his body hits the ball first. Dhoni's jump out, walk across off stump, let it hit you routine makes you wonder if he is auditioning for a spot in the Bhiwani Boxing Club.

You know they can't face seamers, not in Australia, not in South Africa, not in England, not in New Zealand and not even in India if cows have not been let loose on the pitch a day before to graze.

Given the choice, some of our batsmen would have politely asked James Anderson to not bother bowling. The ball looks like a grenade in his hand and some of them would gladly offer the long walk back to pavilion before he lobs it at them. In fact, somebody should suggest to the ICC that the Indian coach be allowed to sit near the boundary with a towel that could be thrown in at the very moment an Anderson or a Dale Steyn marks his run-up.

The good thing is that you know things will not change so there is no hope of revival. You know that Gautam Gambhir is done with his gig and there is no worthy heir to his throne. You know that Dhoni doesn't have it in him to lead men in whites but he will carry on serving Mother India because no other player is guaranteed a spot on the playing eleven. You know the bowlers will get spanked, but there is nobody left to replace Ishant Sharma, Mohammed Sami or Bhuvneshwar Kumar. You know Ravindra Jadeja and Stuart Binny should be gifted to South Africa as replacements for Jacques Kallis, but then there are no Kapil Devs or even Manoj Prabhakars waiting on the bench.

Last time when India toured England and lost 0-4 we at least had the excuse that our big four--Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman and Virender Sehwag--were on the decline and once they go home, bigger, brighter talent would replace them. Who do we replace Virat Kohli, Shikhar Dhawan and Cheteshwar Pujara with now?

What should be done?
Truth is, we should stop playing Test cricket. Our players are not programmed to last more than 20 overs. Most of them are picked up by selectors on the basis of their performance in the IPL and then harshly expected to bat or bowl consistently for nearly 100 overs. If they get out in 29 overs, the T-20 stars actually end up lasting nine more overs than their average life expectancy at the crease. To expect somebody like Ravindra Jadeja to last more than 20 overs is to expect a buffaloe to run in the Derby.

But since a five-year moratorium on Test cricket is not possible, the Indian board can at least learn some lessons from Germany and start rebuilding.

In 2001, when Germany lost to England 1-5 at a game on home turf, the existing system was dismantled. The entire system of coaching and selection was trashed and Germany began afresh.

Players with specific skills and talent were identified at a young age. From every school to every club, kids were picked up for being trained to play for the team. Hundreds of coaches were hired at every level to assist and guide them in the same way.

This year, before the World Cup, Germany built a camp on the coastline of Brazil by investing more than $50 million. The entire team, coaches, medical staff and entourage was trained here for a full month before the world cup.

When Germany won the Cup, it was the result of a process that began in 2001.

Is the board prepared to wait that long? Wait till the next IPL and Sir Jadeja's 20 runs off 30 balls for the answer.

(The views expressed are personal.)


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