Massacre at Adelaide
If our 'chalta hai' attitude continues, we could lose a T20 in future with even less overs
England has won the T20 World Cup 2022 but the discussion about India's defeat in the semi-final to England is continuing. There are two main schools of thought in the media. According to one line of thinking: "So what, it was just a game; after all the hosts Australia and winners of the T20 World Cup 2021 didn't even make it to the semi-finals; imagine England losing a match to Ireland"; and, "West Indies also could not make it to the semi-finals."
The other group has scores of comments, such as: "India lost the semi final even before it started; need to sack X, Y, Z players so on and so forth; India was lucky to reach the semi-final, earlier they almost lost to Pakistan and Bangladesh; no conviction and confidence displayed, uncertainties were visible; before axing sportspersons remove politicians and their brats from the helm of the sports bodies", and; "it was tragic humiliation – Massacre at Adelaide".
There is no doubt that in the match with Pakistan before the semi-final, India was lucky to win because of that one free-hit in the final over. The match with Bangladesh was also won by a whisker. After the semifinal loss, it is being said that nothing can be worse and we can only improve from this point. But then England won this T20 in just 16 overs and if our 'chalta hai' attitude continues, we could lose a T20 in future with even less overs.
The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) is supposed to be an autonomous body which does not fall under purview of the Sports Authority of India. It enjoys about 80 percent of the International Cricket Council's (ICC's) annual revenue. The BCCI's income in 2021 was around Rs 3,800 crore. Politicians are attracted to money as hyenas smelling blood. So, the BCCI has had and continues to be infested by politicians.
Sharad Pawar (NCP), Madhavrao Scindia (Congress), Anurag Thakur (BJP) were presidents of BCCI, Anurag Thakur's brother Arun Singh Dhumal is current Indian Premier League (IPL) chairman. Jay Shah, incumbent secretary is son of Union Home Minister Amit Shah. Rohan Jaitley is son of former Union Minister Arun Jaitley. Rajiv Sukla (Congress), whose chaploosi in Parliament was witnessed on TV, is associated with BCCI past decades and is present vice-president of BCCI. Ashish Shelar (BJP) is the treasurer.
The BCCI is a consortium of state cricket associations, and the state associations select their representatives who in turn elect the BCCI president. But the presence of politicians and their wards makes BCCI's autonomy misnomer. The politician/their wards may or may not know how to hold a cricket bat, hold it once and enter the state cricket team with the final destination as the BCCI.
It would be naïve to think that politicians in the BCCI do not have major say in selection of players in the teams and most importantly, who is "allowed to play" even if part of the team. They tow the dictum of the respective political party.
Sachin Tendulkar was below 17 years of age (16 years and 205 days) when he made his debut in international cricket playing for India against Pakistan in Karachi in November 1989. How many young players have we taken into the national team in the last 8-10 years? How many of these have been given a chance to actually play in an odd/few matches and then made to cool their heels as reserves in order to continue with the favored ones?
Is there a method in the madness? Yazuvendra Chahal, the only wrist-spinner was not allowed to play in any of the matches India played in this world cup. Was this with the concurrence of our bowling coach Paras Mhambrey who is supposed to be one of the fastest bowlers?
How is it that Pakistan had better bowlers despite a foreign bowling coach – Shaun Tate? Did Mhambrey have the freedom of saying which bowlers from the national pool should play in the world cup squad? How come Umran Malik, who can bowl at speeds over 150 kmph was not given a chance? Can Mhambrey explain the reasons why our bowlers could not take a single Pakistani wicket in the semi-final?
Planning, preparations and rehearsals for an event like the world cup are required well in advance, certainly not experimentation till the last moment. The performance of both our openers Rohit Sharma and KL Rahul in this world cup was extremely poor, barring an odd one.
Rohit Sharma should have resigned as captain after the humiliation at Adelaide but he will not because he captains Mumbai Indians owned by Mukesh and Nita Ambani. Both Rohit and Rahul appeared visibly unsure of themselves whereas they should have been exuding confidence in the semi-final.
Getting out on casual shots is inexcusable. Moreover, the pitch conditions need to be keenly before adopting a rigid approach to bat first every time the toss is won and then post a poor total.
Overall, our players were playing T20 matches as if these were ODI series or test matches. There were hardly any sparks other than by Virat Kohli, Suryakumar Yadav and on some occasions by Hardik Pandya, like it should be in T20s. As batsmen both Rishabh Pant and Dinesh Karthik were useless.
Pant needs to get rid of the pig-fat he has gained, especially now that he is named vice captain and wicket keeper for the upcoming tour to New Zealand. For a game like T20, our players need to develop the "killer" instinct for which physical and mental fitness is essential, in addition to coaching and rehearsals.
The performance of most of our players creates the impression that loads of money from being part of the national team, playing for the IPL and earnings through advertisements is leading to intransigence. Some psychological advice is definitely warranted.
For the upcoming tour to New Zealand (November 18-30), many players have been rested. This has been the norm earlier also whenever the national team has performed poorly. But later we get back to square one because anything and everything in India has political overtones.
The 'Cricket Live' commentary, normally for 60 minutes before a match, was increased to 90 minutes before the instant semi-final; blowing the trumpet of our past wins and deeds of our players but the match result was humiliating. The BCCI is scheduled to host the 2023 Cricket World Cup, 2025 Women's Cricket World Cup, 2026 ICC T20 World Cup and 2031 ICC ODI Cricket World Cup.
It is for us to address the above issues and prepare for these fixtures. Whether this will be taken seriously or we will continue with business as usual is anybody's guess.
Lt General Prakash Katoch is an Indian Army veteran. Views expressed are personal.