Cup of woes for Indian team
Rahul Dravid looked drained and, it was apparent, was making a tremendous effort to keep his emotions in check. His coach, Greg Chappell, seemed less subdued, and, as his statements indicated, was unwilling to concede that he too might have played a large part in this loss of face for Indian cricket.
The two men who have ruled Indian cricket for the last 18 months had forged a partnership that had raised great hopes — that was to culminate with a possible World Cup win.
But it wasn’t to be. On Friday, India were comprehensively beaten by Sri Lanka by 69 runs, and will not make the elite eight who will enter the next round of this Cup — unless Bermuda pull off the improbable and knock out Bangladesh on Sunday.
So who shares the blame for what has been an unmitigated disaster for India? Straight off, of course, the players, the stars who failed when it mattered and the youngsters who failed to live up to potential.
But, it is, as Chappell said, a "collective responsibility", one that also should fall on the administrators from the BCCI, who, in these last two years, have concentrated so much on making mega-million deals that the cricket itself has been sadly neglected. On Saturday, BCCI secretary Niranjan Shah told HT, "Though the World Cup loss was disappointing, it was a one-off instance".
But it wasn’t. When Chappell first took over, he brought with him "Vision 2007", a plan that was directed at India winning the game's most prized trophy. In fact, everything that has been done these past 18 months has been directed at that end.
People tend to overreact, yes. But, as Dravid said, sport can be both "beautiful and cruel". At the same time, we must also remember that when a team on which so much is invested, fails badly, questions must be asked.
Chappell, dubbed "Guru Greg", was right when he said, "We need to introspect and address why India has not won anything of worth since 1985 seriously." Yes, we need to do that, which also means, his own role has to be probed and the question asked: Why has a team that was once being thought of rivalling Australia (in Tests) as the best in the world, disintegrated into one that is disjointed, filled with insecure players ill at ease and suspicious of each other.
Things like scribes being sent text messages or emails about players (and it getting back to them), haven't helped. Many, from players to officials, blame Chappell for this insecurity, saying his "divisive methods" made almost every senior distance himself from the team's collective vision.
A stage was reached this month when some alleged the coach had told them that Tendulkar was "more interested in becoming captain" and Ganguly was "aloof and disinterested".
Meanwhile, in Dravid, India had a well-intentioned captain who, however, did not realise his team was crumbling. Teams are not always forged on theories of flexibility, lateral thinking, and concepts that sound good, but are difficult for middleclass boys from small towns to understand. WIll the BCCI ring in the changes?