Indian T20 competitions
Mushtaq Ali Trophy
The Indian team is creaking and groaning under the weight of the cricket they’re playing. As India lost disastrously to England, a senior player told Outlook that the team’s tired, in body and mind. It was mentally exhausted after the World Cup victory and the preceding tour of South Africa. Then there was the IPL tamasha, in which several players participated, aggravating injuries they were already carrying. The IPL was followed by the practically conjoined tours of the West Indies and England. “How much cricket can one play in one year? We’re getting drained. We now realise that our careers aren’t going to be as long as that of Sachin,” the player says. “We have aching bodies and tired minds, and we know that it could end one day suddenly, with the amount of cricket we’re playing, if we pick up an injury that interrupts our careers.”
But why don’t the players opt to rest, as the Indian cricket board (BCCI) says they are free to? The senior player points to the dilemma: “We always want to play for the country, and we must play in the IPL because that’s where most of our income is coming now.”
We’re the world ODI champions but, having lost the No. 1 ranking in Test cricket so spiritlessly, are we doomed to remain only one-day wonders? However much the fan may hate it, sooner rather than later Tendulkar, Dravid, Laxman and Zaheer Khan are going to go. What happens after that? “I fear we’ll get thrashed in Test matches—as we were in England, and it will get worse when players like Tendulkar, Dravid and Laxman are gone,” says Ramachandra Guha, historian and cricket writer.
The BCCI has called for a review of the deplorable performance in England. But much of the review should focus on the BCCI’s handling of its most precious assets, the players. It needs to decide between commerce and sport, and set the exchange value between playing for India and playing for a private club. As sports enthusiastic and activist Rahul Mehra, who has worked tirelessly to make the BCCI accountable to its biggest stakeholders, the fans, says: “The BCCI wasn’t created for profit. The officials are not paid a penny because they all hold honorary positions.”
There’s a proliferation of T20 cricket around the world. England’s 18 county teams played 149 matches this year; in Australia and South Africa the numbers were lower, 20 matches. But there’s one crucial difference. England, which prizes Test cricket over other formats, protects its players from an excess of T20. A player like Graeme Swann, for instance, plays around eight T20 matches a year, including the ones played for England. Those England players who’re not national regulars can run up large numbers—Ravi Bopara has played 104 in his evolving career, Luke Wright 98. A key bowler like Stuart Broad has played only 45 T20 matches. It’s up to coach Andy Flower to determine whether to release an England player for counties or not.
Ironically, India has got that very man as coach now. But Fletcher could help transform England cricket because England gave him power to put country above county. For him to get this authority in India is well-nigh unthinkable. Booth foresees a frustrating time for Fletcher, for he’s a meticulous man who likes to control everything concerning the team’s welfare. “It could be a frustrating time for him,” Booth says. “He’s a brilliant one-to-one coach, but can he change the Indian cricket set-up? I’d be very surprised if he is able to. There are a lot of irrelevant Twenty20 and ODI matches, and I think he’d probably think it’s not ideal. But I don’t really see how the IPL issue is going to be resolved, because the BCCI is in bed with the IPL, it makes too much money from it, and there are so many conflicts of interest in it.”
The third England-India Test in progress at Edgbaston. (Photograph by Reuters, From Outlook, August 29, 2011)
Senior Indian players, including Tendulkar, believe that the toughest form of the game, Test cricket, should be monetarily the most rewarding format, making it more attractive and prized for younger players. But with the BCCI sold on the IPL circus, this off-season tournament is an immovable reality. Also, for the sake of financial security of friendly cricket boards, the BCCI commits to lots of senseless one-day cricket with them. Which means that the players keep on being mercilessly flogged.
This player says that it’s not fair of the BCCI to tempt the players with massive amounts of money, and then let them be open to the accusation of being “unpatriotic” if they opt out of national duty. Sunil Gavaskar wrote recently that the BCCI must designate players to be rested. England is doing it this way, as planned by Fletcher years ago. If only he had his way, and do the same with India!
Apropos your story on IPL versus the Test format (Them Cowcorner Blues, Aug 29), someone like Sachin Tendulkar, who will never face any negative consequences from saying what he thinks, should make a Sangakkara-like speech slamming the BCCI.
Arun Sagar, Pavilly, France
What else can you expect when the BCCI is run by one of India’s most corrupt politicians? T20 is an insult to cricket and the board’s first priority should be Test cricket which, as the name suggests, is the test of a player’s/team’s talent and ability. The English have their priorities right.
I feel dejected, distressed and disappointed after the continuous bad performance of the Indian team (Them Cowcorner Blues, Aug 29). I can’t say that the players will get any better, but they can’t get much worse.
Thank you to all those who have taken the trouble to read the article and share their thoughts. Out of the arguments made here, there are two that perhaps need answering. So here they go.
1. The first part of the article compares outcomes (relative percentages of population of the religions concerned) irrespective of the process that led to those outcomes - whether immigration, relatively faster population growth or conversions. This was for two reasons. One, to put the figure of 2.3 per cent in "numerical perspective", as the article itself explained. The second reason was that outcomes are ultimately what the crux of debate is about. The rest of the article in any case dealt with process - or conversions in this case, from both a contemporary and historical perspective.
2. Some commenters have tried to cast doubts on the reliability of Census 2001. Those who do this should bear in mind that Census 2001 was conducted by a BJP government. Considering the extreme importance that BJP gives to this issue, it would be reasonable to expect that IF it had perceived a problem with the methodology that was distorting the numbers, it would have fixed it. As the article mentioned, BJP or BJP-supported governments have been in power for 10 of the last 40 years, or about a quarter of the time, and the only reasonable conclusion one can arrive at is that any misreporting of numbers, real or perceived, would be marginal and hence, not of importance.
To all other arguments made, my answer is the following: Please read the article again, with particular focus on the quotations of Vivekananda and Monier Williams, and the history of the missionary efforts in Bengal and their outcome.
BCCI could modify the Tata Steel ad and claim, with a straight face, that we also play cricket.
Someone like Sachin, who will never face any negative consequences from saying what he thinks, should make a Katich- or Sangakarra-like speech slamming the Board's policies.
What else can you expect when the BCCI is run by one of India's top 10 most corrupt politicians?
T20 is an insult to the game of cricket and the first priority should be test cricket which as the name suggests is the final test of a player's, or a team's, talent and ability. The English got their priorities right when they won the T20 world cup and it was treated as an event of very little significance.
What IPL has done is that it has diluted cricketing skills.The biff and bash version involves throwing the bat at every ball and hoping to contact it and send it to the boundary in any direction-deliberately or accidently! The bowler, with literally one hand tied to his back, has to bowl accurately and defensively with a field setting favouring the batsman.The batsman is not concerned about spending long hours at the crease as his effort is restricted to maximum 20 overs and the bowler doesn't have to tire himself with long spells as his bowling duty finshes after 4 overs! The tournament allows the players to collect a king's ransom; mingle with glamorous people they dreamt about and attend glitzy parties where rich food and unlimited supply of liquor flow uninterruptedly.What motivation can a young starry eyed player have- to go through the grinder of hard, intense training to prepare for Test cricket? Isn't it much more profitable to play 6 or 7 weeks of undemanding cricket, not requiring much technique or sweating, every year and earn enough riches to last them several lifetimes of comfortable living? Which fool would opt for the gruelling demands of Test cricket which pays only a fraction by comparison? When one sees the windy wafts of batsmen like Raina,Yuvraj, Yusuf Pathan,Uthappa etc or the ponderous bowling attempts of RP Singh and Nehra at international levels against classy opponents we realise what the future of Indian cricket will be if it continues to be run by the mob which rules BCCI! While England,Australia,S Africa have their focus on Test cricket, BCCI is content making money at the expense of Indian cricket! Hope the Sports Ministry has the courage to take on BCCI and make it accountable! But this is unlikely with the omnipresent Sharad Pawar backing the BCCI board!
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