Why the England series is a big win for the BCCI too | Cricket - Hindustan Times
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Why the England series is a big win for the BCCI too

ByAmrit Mathur
Feb 29, 2024 06:53 AM IST

The BCCI made a strong statement about supporting Test cricket, first by hosting a five-match contest and then producing tracks that produced quality cricket

The scoreline reads 3-1 for Team India but the real winner is the BCCI, and captain Rohit Sharma and chief selector Ajit Agarkar are real heroes. Rohit for his calm composure and creating a stress free, enabling team environment. Agarkar for inspired team selection.

Indian cricketers celebrate a wicket during Day 3 of the fourth Test in Ranchi(AP)
Indian cricketers celebrate a wicket during Day 3 of the fourth Test in Ranchi(AP)

India’s home record is phenomenal (undefeated in 17 series across ten years) but the England series is extra special. From the player performance perspective and the manner in which the BCCI has supported Test cricket.

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Unlike the past, the wickets were not akharas that turned square where every batsman is a sitting duck. This time they were challenging-batsmen required skill to make runs and bowlers were not gifted wickets by terrible tracks.

Both teams made 300-plus runs many times. For England, Pope, Duckett, Root made hundreds and if others failed it was due to bad batting not bad wickets. For India, Jaiswal, Rohit Sharma, Gill, Jadeja made hundreds and if others missed out the wickets were not to blame.

By producing decent Test match tracks, the BCCI buried the criticism that our ‘home’ wins were because of ‘manufactured’ wickets which give spinners an unfair advantage. That criticism is now dead - more so because Bumrah, Siraj, Akash Deep made vital contributions.

The BCCI made a strong statement about supporting Test cricket, first by hosting a five-match contest (unlike SA where we played 2 games) and then producing tracks that produced quality cricket. All Tests were riveting; quality cricket with equal opportunities for batsmen and bowlers.

Besides wickets, there are other reasons for BCCI to be happy? Alarmed by the trend of players prioritising IPL over Ranji and Tests the BCCI read the riot act to players, threatening them of 'serious consequences'. The nature of these consequences were not specified but the message was don’t mess around, anyone doing so could lose central contracts/ be barred from IPL/ not considered for India selection.

The BCCI acted swiftly to curb a disturbing trend where players (even domestic, non contracted) were openly disrespecting Ranji. Captain Rohit Sharma repeated the warning when he spoke about backing players ‘hungry’ for Tests.

The BCCI is a winner in the sense that, if the England series is seen as an annual health checkup, the results show that Indian cricket is in great shape. Particularly gratifying is the finding that IPL and white ball cricket is developing players who can successfully transition to the longer format.

That IPL can produce quality red ball players is a major victory for the BCCI because this is the path they chose. Dhruv Jurel surprised everyone by his remarkable maturity (and patience) but he is not the only one to demonstrate the benefits of white ball cricket. UP’s Sameer Rizvi, no tiger in Ranji but worth 8.4 crores in the IPL for CSK, smashed a triple century in the U- 23 tournament. Which shows that formats may be different but players learn skills needed to succeed at the top level. Till now the feeling was IPL stars can only conquer small mountains but won’t get past base camp of Everest. Now that perception has changed .

The England series has also demolished the theory that Test cricket is a tough exam that only experienced players can ace. To everyone’s surprise India won with half its side missing: no Kohli, Shami, Pant. Jadeja and Bumrah available not for all games.

That youngsters stepped up is a big win for Indian cricket. More bench strength provides options for selectors and sends out a subtle message that however big you are, the game is bigger. Nobody is indispensable and for every King taking a break there is a ‘hungry’ youngster waiting to grab his chance.

In the England series, the BCCI selectors were on the top of their game. Ajit Agarkar and his colleagues are heroes because they chose youngsters, resisting the temptation of going back to Pujara when Kohli and Rahul were unavailable. The selectors rewarded Ranji performer Sarfaraz and gave Patidar an extended run, picked Akashdeep based on India A games and saw the spark in young Jurel, an IPL player. Also, don’t forget the tough lesson handed out to Ishan Kishan and Shreyas Iyer.

The BCCI can righty look at Indian cricket and feel a sense of huge satisfaction. It runs the biggest cricket structure in the world - with age group cricket from U 14 going up to Ranji/ Duleep/ Irani more cricket is played in India than all other countries put together. The system is developing quality players, cricket’s conveyor belt is throwing up exciting talent and the WPL is a game changing moment for women’s cricket.

Cricket’s fan base keeps growing, sponsors continue to queue up and the IPL is a monumental commercial success. So, whatever the yardstick, the BCCI is the MOTM.

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