| NEW DELHI
NEW DELHI Jan 25 For a month, a nation of
1.2 billion cricket crazy fans woke up at an ungodly hour,
crawled out of the blanket's warmth and switched on their
televisions hoping to watch India's favourite sons winning their
first test series in Australia.
With captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni and his Indian team
hurtling from one humiliation to another in Australia, most have
stopped this self-flagellation.
Instead, they are wondering what happened to the bunch that
promised to rule cricket much like West Indies and Australia
have done in the past.
A myopic board, an indifferent captain and the transition
crisis that both have been trying to run away from have largely
led to the spectacular decline of the team.
First the board.
Being the world's richest cricketing entity, the Board of
Control for Cricket in India's (BCCI) rude financial health
remains a role model for other Indian sports federations
surviving solely on government largesse.
Not its short-sightedness.
Last of the top boards to embrace Twenty20, BCCI sniffed
easy money in cricket's shortest format and launched the Indian
Premier League in 2008 which now has an estimated $3.67 billion
While it secured many a career, IPL also effected an
aspirational change which resulted in an IPL slot being more
coveted than an India test cap.
For many budding cricketers, the very thought of whacking
every ball out of the park, a Twenty20 demand, appears much more
exciting than mastering the painstaking craft of grafting.
This in a country notorious for producing batsmen vulnerable
against seam and bounce which England and Australia have so
ruthlessly exposed over the last six months.
Punjab Cricket Association have already banned their
under-21 players from all Twenty20 tournaments, including IPL,
to make sure the brevity of the crash-bang format is not allowed
to paper over the cracks of their technical inadequacies.
BCCI, however, remains blind to reality and immune to
demands for better promotion of four-day cricket and the need
for lively pitches to help batsmen improve their technique.
The board also chose to ignore the transition crisis that
looms large over the team.
Ageing stalwarts Sachin Tendulkar (38), Rahul Dravid (39)
and VVS Laxman (37) are well past their prime but a lack of
succession plan means there would be intimidating big boots to
fill when BCCI eventually musters the will to phase out the
"We can't always think short-term. We need to start building
a team as well," former India opener Anshuman Gaekwad told
Reuters earlier this month.
Building a team for future was the theme of Dhoni's media
interaction as well minutes after he guided India to the 50-over
World Cup victory in Mumbai last year.
Ten months since and Dhoni himself appears to have lost
interest in the longer version of the game, hinting in Perth he
might quit test cricket to focus on the 2015 World Cup.
"I definitely feel that Dhoni does not enjoy test cricket,"
former India skipper Sourav Ganguly told Aaj Tak channel.
"His performance in test and ODI cricket are poles apart and
by making such a statement, he has also perhaps explained his
complete disinterest in the longer format of the game," Ganguly
Dhoni's leadership has lacked the usual edge in Australia
and 'Captain Cool' was ridiculed by a cricket expert who likened
him to an Indian bank clerk - with no real passion or anger.
Be it opting for a baffling all-pace attack in Perth, poor
handling of his bowlers and fielders or his own prolonged bad
patch with the bat, Dhoni hardly looked like the captain of the
team that won the World Cup and topped the test rankings last
Since then, it has been a steady decline under Dhoni as
India got whitewashed in England last year and face another in
Australia now, triggering a media backlash and prompting an
Indian model to call them "faithful husbands" who "perform only
Introspection has never been BCCI's strong point but the
rout in Australia merits a thorough soul-searching and the
earlier they realises it, the better it is for Indian cricket.
(Editing by Patrick Johnston; To comment on this story:
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