The plan that Dhoni and India need for the 2015 World Cup isn’t so much a plan as it is a mission; a mission to keep India interested in cricket.
Last night, reports surfaced saying that the BCCI has asked MS Dhoni to draw up a blueprint to win the 2015 World Cup. Now, Sunil Gavaskar, on NDTV, said that it was perhaps a sign that the BCCI wanted Dhoni to lead the Indian team in the 2015 World Cup. But honestly, it seems more like a mid-term appraisal and Dhoni has been asked to fill out his KRA forms.
It is odd, however, that Dhoni is being asked to provide a plan when he should be in charge of execution. Planning should be best left to the coach and the BCCI... it’s various committees included and it needs to be more detailed then a simple, 'We want to become world champions or world no 1.'
But anyway, since it has fallen to Dhoni, we’ll do out best to give him a helping hand by listing out things that we feel that Indian cricket needs to improve in the short term to get results in the long term.
Too many teams in Ranji trophy: At the moment, India has 27 teams playing in the Ranji Trophy. That is just too many – it dilutes the level of the tournament and BCCI had to address that issue. Maybe they can think about combining some teams or states but as things stand, it just isn’t working.
Something like this may work instead:
Team 1 (Vidarbha, Maharashtra, Mumbai, Goa); Team 2 (Tripura, Assam, Jharkhand); Team 3 (Baroda, Gujarat, Saurashtra); Team 4 (Bengal, Odisha, Hyderabad); Team 5 (Railways, Services); Team 6 (Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh); Team 7 (Punjab, Jammu and Kashmir); Team 8 (Delhi, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana);
Team 9 (Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Kerala)
It looks odd at first take but imagine the strength of each of those teams. There will be no easy matches and that’s what Ranji Trophy should be all about. The players who emerge from this competition will be battle-hardened veterans in their own right.
Get the MRF Pace academy involved again: For some strange reason, the BCCI has just cut off the MRF Pace academy. But Dhoni should insist on getting it up and running again. The BCCI has it’s own pace academy but it hasn't produced any bowlers. Dennis Lillee surely knew more about pace bowling than many of the Indian bowlers and the current head coach Glenn McGrath can gives India’s young stars more than just a few pointers. It would be a waste not to use the expertise of McGrath when it is being handed to us on a platter. To win Tests, ODIs or T20s – you need fast bowlers and right now, India has none; none worth mentioning anyway.
Focus on fitness: There needs to be a minimum acceptable fitness mark. If you are not up to it, you don’t get into the team. Period. And it needs to be enforced without exception. The grounds in Australia are big – you don’t want teams converting twos into threes and threes into fours. You also don’t want to your main players breaking down all the time. Being fit isn’t just about strength; it is also about preventing injuries. And India can surely use its best players these days. Dhoni’s fitness, despite the heavy workload, is world class. Why can’t he get the others to do the same?
Send players abroad to play County and Shield cricket: Till the recent series against England, we would have vouched for the Indian players’ ability in home conditions. But the same cannot be said for the way they play in England or Australia or South Africa. So why do we not have more players playing county or shield cricket? The BCCI talks about the odd India ‘A’ tour as if it is the Holy Grail but playing in alien conditions for a month isn’t going to help you master them. For that, we need to pick young players and send them out to play in those conditions. So pick talented Ranji players and send them to England, Australia and South Africa – let them play for clubs there. And if they do well – picking teams for tours abroad won’t be such a mystery.
The thing is, in the past, this is what Indian cricket did – Tendulkar, Ganguly, Dravid, Laxman, Zaheer Khan, Sunil Gavaskar, Kapil Dev, Farokh Engineer have all done it. So why does the BCCI insist on closeting itself in?
Make Indian cricket more transparent: The best way to pick a good team is to pick a team for the right reasons and those reasons cannot be related to zonal selections. And the way to do it is to make the selectors reveal why they preferred one player over the other. You won’t have a scene where the chief selector (read Krish Srikkanth) picks his son (read Aniruddha) for the Emerging India team and gets away with it. You also won’t have a scene where Mohinder Amarnath comes out and says that BCCI president N Srinivasan interfered with the selection process. You won’t have accusations – stating that he picked players he ‘likes’ -- against the Indian skipper either. Srinivasan may tell you that the BCCI is not an opaque body, but we all know it isn’t. Over the last year, Indian cricket has been rocked by allegations of conflicts of interest – from the administrators, to former players to the current lot. It all needs to go away… quickly.
A spin coach, please: We’ve heard fleeting rumours about the BCCI thinking of hiring a spin coach. It’s time to turn them into reality. The debate on whether the IPL affects the manner in which spinners bowl continues to rage but India needs to do something to ensure that its spinners don’t forget how to bowl in Test cricket. This can mean two things: Identify spinners for the longer format and keep them away from ODIs and T20s (SA have done this to a certain extent for Dale Steyn) and hiring good coaches to teach the young spinners. The subtle mystique of flight, variation of pace, thinking a batsman out are all weapons that spinners acquire with experience. But if India want to survive in the Test match arena then all the young, talented spinners need to be fast-tracked.