Whom should we blame for India’s poor performance in the Twenty20 World Cup? The cricketers? A complacent administration?
The unexpected win in the 2007 Twenty20 World Cup and the carnival of the Indian Premier League that followed have not only masked deficiencies, but also made India believe it can do nothing wrong when it comes to cricket—on and off the field.
India’s weakness against the short ball and fast bowling is not new. It has been well documented, dissected and discussed by national coaches, ex-cricketers and fans for decades—from the infamous “Summer of 42” at Lord’s to Nagpur in February 2010, when South Africa’s Dale Steyn threatened to topple the locals from their position as the No. 1 Test team in the world. Losses at the ongoing Twenty20 World Cup to Australia and West Indies have yet again highlighted this weakness which seems to be evident to everyone but those selecting the Indian team or maintaining Indian pitches.
No one in India—not the administrators, not the curators, not the cricketers— seems to like green, pacy pitches. And the cricket board’s preferred approach to developing the game is to hand out money to lower level administrators and local bodies. Indeed, there are national academies for young cricketers and pace academies for specialist fast bowlers, yet quality sportsmen aren’t appearing. Instead, we have a generation of cricketers weaned on placid batting pitches, and nurtured on pedestrian bowlers. Many of them parachute into Twenty20 teams without going through the rigours of first class cricket. In the hit-and-giggle version of the game, a two-wicket burst or a quick-fire 25 is all you need to be hailed as a world beater. Blinded by lucre and lionized by the media, young cricketers have no one to turn to and nowhere to hide when their shortcomings are exposed.
The Board of Control for Cricket in India could do well to take a leaf out of Cricket Australia’s book—the way they have rebuilt a team after the likes of Warne and Gilchrist retired. You can create a world-class tournament to sell cricket, but building a world-beater team is an entirely different ball game.
What is to be blamed for India’s performance: mediocrity or plain bad luck? Tell us at firstname.lastname@example.org