Oscar Wilde once said, ‘The truth is rarely pure and never simple.’ With the BCCI, unfortunately, the truth is rarely ever known – so we are hardly in a position to judge its simplicity.
But India’s struggles at the moment are simplicity personified to everyone but Mahendra Singh Dhoni, N Srinivasan and the powers that be in Indian cricket. Go out in the streets and ask someone why India is losing, the answers will range from the hysterical, ‘They are all playing only for money,’ to the philosophical, ‘After Dravid and Laxman’s retirements, this was bound to happen.’
Indeed, as India hurtled to another defeat at home, former skipper Sunil Gavaskar couldn’t hide his disappointment: “It’s not so much about post-mortems. Action needs to be taken!”
But all the criticism is greeted by a wall of silence. When India lost in England, the defeat was dismissed as an aberration. In fact, Rahul Dravid – in his celebrated Sir Donald Bradman Oration – said it in as many words: It (The Australia tour) is India’s opportunity to prove that the defeat to England in the summer was an aberration; that we will bounce back.
But that didn’t happen. If England was bad, then Australia was much worse. There were calls for an inquiry. That didn’t happen and slowly but surely, the tours were forgotten by the players and the administration, all that remained was N Srinivasan saying, “It’s not that we get exposed when we go abroad. Every country is used to its own conditions, whether it is England, South Africa, Australia… so they tend to play better in home conditions, which is what we also do.”
Of course, the interview also had other gems like: “The BCCI is not opaque. We are quite open to discussing how we function.”
But the truth is much harsher. India play well at home against middling opposition. Against the top teams like South Africa, they have struggled for quite a while. And now against England, their lack of preparation has become even more apparent.
Before the tour, England spent time in Dubai trying to work on their weakness against spin and also trying to acclimatise. The majority of the Indian players, however, decided that spending some time in South Africa and playing the Champions League made more sense. Some might have argued that a training camp would have made more sense to bring the players back together and work on some concrete plans against every England player. And looking at how the current India-England series is panning out, perhaps they would probably be in ‘I told you so’ mode at the moment.
It’s hard to imagine that this same team went to England in 2011 as the best Test team on the planet. For the fall to be so sharp, something has to be horribly wrong. And India needs answers.
1. Do we have a succession policy in place? Did we even think of phasing out the seniors or were we forced into change because Dravid and VVS Laxman decided to call it quits on their own?
2. How did Harbhajan Singh get into the Test team despite not performing in Ranji Trophy?
3. How does someone like Yuvraj Singh walk into the Test team despite never having a very good record in the longer format?
4. Does Indian cricket have a vision statement that goes beyond the IPL and making money?
5. Australia called Watson back because they thought he needed rest. Why did the BCCI not call its players back from the Champions League?
6. Mahendra Singh Dhoni has said that he is ready to step down. Have we identified the man who will take over from him or is the BCCI waiting for him to call it quits as well?
7. What exactly is Duncan Fletcher’s role in the team and despite the heavy defeats since he has taken over, why has there been no action?
8. Zaheer Khan is clearly struggling with his fitness. Has anyone had a talk with him?
9. Why are India’s selectors not asked to explain their decisions?
10. Does India really care about Test cricket?
In the usual course of events, the BCCI will greet the questions with undignified silence. Indeed, the players and the coaches will turn around and say that they answer only to the BCCI and not the nation. But surely, it’s time to clear the air.
If the BCCI is serious about wanting to improve the standard of cricket, it needs to come clean now. Australia did it with the Argus report and they did it openly. Can India follow suit and show genuine concern not just for the players but for the fans too?
This one time, silence will just not do.