Highest Run Scorer For India In 2011 World Cup Tough Times Ahead for Indian Cricket

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Tough Times Ahead for Indian Cricket

Barely a year after winning the ODI Cricket World Cup, Team India finds itself in a soup. Two humiliating series whitewashes against England and Australia followed by a disappointing defeat at the hands of minnows Bangladesh in the Asia Cup are not exactly the results a World cup winning team would like to put on their resume. Even the harshest of Team India’s critics could not have predicted such a collapse. Moreover, the way things seem to be going, one gets the impression that not much is being done to change the situation.

What exactly are the troubles plaguing Team India? Although some challenges have existed for quite some time, others have arisen in the recent past. Historically, Indian cricketers have been portrayed as lions at home and lambs abroad. This perception changed in the early 2000s when India posted series wins in both Tests and ODIs on foreign soil against heavyweight cricketers that included Australia, England and South Africa. However, recent test series whitewashes are a testament to the fact that Indian cricketers have never really mastered the art of playing in foreign conditions.

The main reason for this failure is the one-dimensional nature of Indian fields. Most Indian pitches, being flat and lacking in bounce, are batsman friendly. Any pitches that offer support to bowlers are usually spinner friendly. The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has done nothing to change the nature of playing surfaces in India. As a result, players at the domestic level suffer from severe inexperience in batting and bowling on fast and bouncy tracks. This lack of experience is clearly reflected when they play at the international level. With the exception of Virat Kohli, India’s Gen-Next struggled against a mediocre attack that was a mere shadow of the legendary Austrian pace attack of the early 2000s. Gone are the days when Indian players used to get valuable attention by playing county cricket in England. Thanks to the IPL, they no longer have the incentive to play county cricket.

The Indian Premier League (IPL) has come with its own share of complications. A batsman who scores a quick 30 or 40 in a match is hugely rewarded, in T20 cricket, as is a bowler who can restrict the run rate to 6 or 7 an over. While these strategies may help teams win T-20 internationals, they are hardly appropriate for ODIs and Test matches. The younger generation of batsmen found it difficult to build an innings in England and Australia. The experienced Rahul Dravid was responsible for saving some pride for Team India in the Test series against England, while Sachin Tendulkar emerged as the highest scorer in the Test series against Australia. With Dravid announcing his retirement and Sachin nearing the end of his career, the team desperately needs new faces who can adapt to all formats of the game. Virat Kohli is the lone such player. Others like Suresh Raina, Rohit Sharma and Murali Vijay, despite having immense talent, have struggled to find their feet in Test cricket.

Another significant cause for concern is India’s inexperienced and vulnerable pace attack. The Indian bowlers were unable to defend a score of 289 against a second-run team like Bangladesh in the Asia Cup. Barring Zaheer Khan, Indian new ball bowlers rarely pose a threat to rival batsmen. Time and again, the team has had to rely on the experience and talent of Zaheer Khan to bail them out of tough situations. Praveen Kumar and Munaf Patel have shown flashes of brilliance from time to time. Players like Ishant Sharma and Irfan Pathan have not only lost their pace but also their wicket-taking ability. Youngsters like Varun Aaron and Vinay Kumar have not had enough opportunities to prove themselves at the international level. Although Zaheer Khan could continue to play for another two or three years at international level, his potential replacements will hardly inspire confidence.

Player burnout is an additional concern. Earlier, cricketers used to enjoy a break from the game for a month or two every season. That would give them enough time to relax, recover and prepare for the next season. With the advent of the IPL, cricket is now played throughout the year and players hardly get any time to relax. Also, far too many games are squeezed in, for no apparent reason. For example, it did not make much sense for India to play an ODI series against England at home, in 2011, immediately after playing a grueling Test and ODI series in England. Recently, the Indian team traveled all the way to South Africa to play just one T20 international match. The players returned home after the match only to take part in the IPL within a week. Players pretty much live in planes and hotels. Playing cricket 24×7, and regularly traveling long distances, often to countries in different time zones, can naturally take a toll on players’ mental and physical health. The recent spate of injuries in the Indian camp underlines this fact. These injuries not only deprive the team of its best players but also make game strategies ineffective. Unless players get a breather, this situation is likely to continue.

So, drastic changes are needed in the way Indian cricket is run and played. Unless such changes are implemented urgently, the challenges facing Indian cricket would only worsen the dilapidated situation the team is currently in.

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