On April 2nd 2011, every Indian in every part of the world was overjoyed, jubiliant and proud to be an Indian. Just over 5 months later, all of us Indians were relieved that a tumultuous English tour had come to an end. A tour on which Team India did not win a single international encounter spread over the 3 formats of the game.
Going into the tour, we were the number one ranked Test side and the 4 match Test series was the most awaited Test series in recent times. We looked forward to it as much as we look forward to the World Cup and as much as the BCCI look forward to a successful IPL. But alas! We lost 4-0. It had been a while since we lost a series; we had forgotten that we too had a set of humans who turned out to play for the country. Yes, the way we lost, without a fight, was heartbreaking but then it is ok to lose a series. Take into account the number of injuries, and I dare say that any team would have struggled.
However, we must not just brush this aside completely. We are now entering that phase where one generation, a generation of greats, will slowly leave us and pass on the baton to a younger lot. Are they ready to take up the mantle? We will never know till they actually take to the battlefield but we must ensure that they are fully prepared. It has been a couple of years since Anil Kumble retired, and where is his successor? First, Piyush Chawla and then Amit Mishra were tipped to take over from the leading Indian wicket taker, but both have not risen to the next level. While Piyush Chawla has declined quite considerably, Amit Mishra still hangs onto his place in the squad and plays a Test now and then. We have Pragyan Ojha, but I do not think the skipper believes he can be a match winner in Test cricket. So, from the land of spinners, why are we not able to produce any quality spinners? And then we laugh at Australia, saying that they haven’t found a successor for Warne. It is here that the BCCI will have to pull up its socks. We have all the money we need, why cannot the BCCI have a specialised spin bowling centre where the top ten spin bowlers of the country ply their wares and learn the tricks of the trade from an Anil Kumble, an EAS Prasanna or a Bishan Singh Bedi? It is time we look at this seriously as the time has come to find a world class spinner. Unfortunately Harbhajan Singh seems to be fading away quicker than we thought.
And now coming to our next biggest concern – the fast bowling department. The MRF Pace Academy has been in existence for quite a while now, yet, our hopes of competing in a series are dashed as soon as Zaheer Khan pulls up with an injury. How long will Zaheer play? He is at the twilight of his career and even in his years before retirement, he will probably miss more matches than play. If our pacers could not make an impact in English conditions then they will not in any known cricket playing nation. We have 26 teams in the Ranji Trophy, can we not pick the best pacer in each of these teams and work with them throughout the year? Have someone like Venkatesh Prasad appointed full time and have atleast ten bowlers ready to wear India colours at any given point of time.
And now the batting. Sachin, Dravid and Laxman will not be there forever. They might leave very close together and these are really big shoes to fill. But I do feel that we are a little better equipped on this front compared to our bowling. In Kohli, Yuvraj and Raina we have established one day performers. Cheteshwar Pujara looked impressive in the couple of Test innings he played. Rahane, Parthiv, Badrinath, Mukund, Tiwary and there appears to be a good reserve. Again, all these, let’s say, top 20 batsmen in the country must be constantly monitored and trained by the likes of Gavaskar, Ganguly and Sachin and Dravid once they retire.
Yes the former greats that I mentioned, all have media and other commitments but I am sure they will be willing to do this for the country, atleast on a rotational basis. The BCCI is in a position to compensate them sufficiently and should not hold back. Another important aspect is county cricket in England. This golden generation all played county cricket and honed their skills and technique there. The younger lot do not have that much of an opportunity now to play in the English summer because of the IPL. The BCCI must work out an arrangement where the top youngsters get to play atleast a season of county cricket.
Will the BCCI wake-up now? We might already be a bit too late but its better late than never. The new BCCI President has taken office and has straight away focussed on the IPL by terminating the Kochi Franchise. Right now, Indian cricket and its future, and not the IPL, needs more of the Board’s attention!