Tuesday 16 Apr 2024

India and its cricket

It is said that every side has a bad day. But of late Indian teams without exception seem to have reserved it for the finals

PACHU MENON | FEBRUARY 18, 2024, 07:44 PM IST
India and its cricket

The England tour of India is underway and with the series at 2-1, it promises to be a rare treat for the connoisseurs of the game. The third test was finally won by India at the Niranjan Shah Stadium in Rajkot on Sunday.

Playing for the Anthony de Mello trophy, both the teams are evenly matched. England, ever since the inception of McCullum-Stokes regime, has embraced a fearless and aggressively attacking approach to the game.  

Brendon McCullum, the Kiwi head coach of England who goes by the title “Baz,” inspired the name. Quite a few English test players feel that the bold strategy, aptly termed ‘Bazball’, has revitalized interest in Test cricket among fans.

Test matches are the highest level of cricket. As the real test for players, this format of the game is all about a player’s temperament, technique and class. Not for nothing is it called the ultimate version of the game.

But the popularity of the shorter versions of the game has at times questioned the relevancy of test cricket in the present order of things. With the ODIs and T20s played out to packed stadiums and bringing along with them their own charm and excitement to the game, test cricket is already being considered a relic of the past.

With assured results and an ever-growing spectator interest, the shorter formats of the game have also become commercially viable propositions. Ever in an innovative mood, the organizers too have altered the rules and regulations of the game in order to ensure that the game is never short of its excitement quotient.

The success of the IPL and several such other leagues being staged in other parts of the world is a testimony of the popularity generated by the shorter forms of the game of cricket.

Moreover, it is not unusual now to have five-day test matches winding up inside of three days. Need anything more be said about the effect of limited over games on the players!

An editorial in the British daily newspaper was very explicit in its comment that the future of ‘the ultimate version of the game’ is in doubt.

“Test cricket is a luxury in a world preoccupied with brevity, and people (TV executives especially) are suspicious of a game that can last 30 hours and still end in a draw.”

With a proclivity shown by various boards of cricket playing nations to organize endless one-day matches, the idea that test cricket is being given a step-brotherly treatment cannot be ignored either.

The editorial makes a satirical reference to justify its argument.

“South Africa has taken a substandard team to play a Test series in New Zealand because its best players are being deployed in domestic Twenty20 ‘franchise’ cricket.”

According to another sports analyst, “There has been a common perception that the importance of test cricket has somewhat diminished due to the high influx of franchise based T20 league cricket, T20Is and ODIs, hence fewer test matches are being played these days.”

Blame it on spectator craze if you may, but the fact remains that the game of cricket has been commercialized to such an extent that the game will have further innovations coming by to hold spectator interest.

There are already many who are of the opinion that one day matches demand more adjustments and technical excellence from players who have to bring out their best in the limited overs allotted.

The ready availability of talent for the IPL matches which allows franchisees to pick up fairly unknown players and grooming them into match-winners has actually stood the national selectors in good stead.

With many IPL ‘superstars’ walking into the national squad on the strength of their stupendous performances in the domestic league, Cricket India is today in a position where it has a wide array of choices when it comes to selecting the national side.

Yet, India’s record in the finals of major tournaments, especially the World Cups has been dismal.

For that matter, the penchant shown by the senior national side for losing the big games seems to have rubbed off on the juniors as well.

The disappointing performance by the India U-19 side in the finals of the Under-19 World Cup more than proves it.

As a script that has been rehashed thrice now; beginning with the final of the 2021-2023 ICC World Test Championship in June ’23 at The Oval, London, where India cruised to a crushing defeat by Australia to lose the mace for the second time in succession; the devastation that followed at Ahmedabad in the ICC World Cup final severely dented the credentials of the Men in Blue.  

And now, with India failing to cross the hurdle after a stellar campaign in the Under-19 World Cup final played in South Africa, they have crowned themselves the new chokers of international cricket. 

The Indian side, frontrunners for the title till the finals of the ICC World Cup final where the host country lost miserably to Australia at the Narendra Modi stadium at Ahmedabad, have deservedly got their name etched in the annals of cricket history.

Move over Proteas; your worthy successors have arrived!

Just as the seniors did, the U-19 team too enjoyed an unbeaten run all through the tournament, only to fumble at the last hurdle.

It is said that every side has a bad day. But of late the Indian teams without exception seem to have reserved it for the finals.

From unassailable positions when the national side can give disastrous performances it is not as much about the team’s calibre as it is about its mental preparedness for big matches that one can doubt.

For a nation that lives and breathes cricket, it is disheartening to see the national side snatching defeat from the jaws of victory every time it partakes in a prestigious tournament.

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