“Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.” Andy Dufresne lied. As I watch the Indian cricket team slink away to the sort of defeat I grew up scarred by, I do not see hope. No hope today, No hope in 2012 and no hope that India will be a top notch test cricket team for the better part of the next decade! There’s no knights in shining armor waiting to replace the old and tired souls who’ve shouldered the burden for long. There’s only one light at the end of the tunnel and it belongs to a high-speed rail barreling right back at you!
Almost anything can be a metaphor for life. Test cricket is one of the better ones. Test cricket rewards the diligent and exposes the flawed. Edges carry to the fourth fielder behind the stumps. Pitches deteriorate to where they resemble the median Indian road. Bowlers are asked to stay loose all day. Test match cricket exposes the not-so-tough, the not-so-patient and the not-so-good. It rewards patience, concentration, effort and skill. And the eight days of test match cricket in Australia so far have exposed the members of the current Indian team for what they are – The not-so-tough, the not-so-patient and the not-so-good.
There have been worse teams to represent India, worse defeats and far more painful losses. This, this and this caused enough pain to scar generations of fans for years. But for most of the last fifteen years, losses had silver linings – A promising masterpiece , the simultaneous emergence of gifted game changers, the most unusual batting talent in a decade , an actual living breathing pace attack and captain calm and courageous!
After this shellacking in Sydney, even the most partisan Indian fan will see that there’s nothing to hang the metaphorical hat on –
Batting legends who have scripted the most colorful history in Indian batting lore are on their last legs. While it would be foolish to read too much into any of Laxman, Dravid and Tendulkar’s recent dismissals, it is fair to wonder what these doyens have left to play for? With the final frontier unconquered and the prospect of a zillion games against Sri Lanka on the horizon, why would they want to spend precious years away from their families? Genius needs motivation and drive. Genius needs a stage to perform and after nearly two decades on the road, the three greatest Indian batsmen may choose to call it a day after Adelaide. And would any one begrudge them?
Bowling and fielding have always been India’s bugaboos and there’s no real sign of change in those domains. The MRF Pace foundation has been in existence for a quarter century now and has virtually nothing to show for it. Who’s to say it hasn’t been an elaborate scam ? Has the foundation delivered any young fast bowlers of late? The National cricket academy web site has player lists that have not been updated since 2003 ! Ranji trophy and domestic cricket while providing good entertainment have failed to deliver a consistent battery of bowlers or healthy, agile fielders. There is precious little international talent coming thru the pike for a team that has lost its last six away test matches handily.
In spite of all this, an organization with fairly rudimentary vision and well minded individuals will find ways to tap in to the talent pool that spans across the nation. Unfortunately, the Board for Control of Cricket in India (BCCI) has never shown the vision or had leaders! It chosen to be lucky rather than good. With piles of IPL money and success in home conditions, the honorary and unaccountable behemoth that presides over the national religion can continue to pay lip service to the greatest form of the sport while ensuring that there is a fair amount of success in limited overs formats. With a guaranteed monopoly over the attention and finances of a billion people, the BCCI will need several Anna Hazares to be remotely threatened into action for the common good.
So, that’s where we stand. The impending retirement of once-in-a-generation talent, the lack of young, reliable talent and a system that has the track record of the most shameless white-collar thieves of our times. Over the next decade, many a young under prepared batsman will be called upon to replace the Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva of Indian cricket. Any successes achieved will be incidental and in spite of the system. Several ex-cricketers will don the hats of honorary selectors and blame will be placed on easy shiny objects. The system will remain the same. Unfortunately for Indian cricket fans, the game will stay the same.
I hate to be the bearer of bad news and would love to be proven wrong. I hate to disprove Andy Dufresne. But after the shellacking at Sydney there’s hopelessness, Deja vu and a return to the dark ages in the offing for Indian fans for the long foreseeable future. Time to pray!
Happy New Year!