For the third time in a row, Team India led by MS Dhoni failed to make it to the semi finals of the T20 World Cup, leaving behind a trail of bitterness, frustration and disappointment. However, the most expensive side in the 12-nation tournament, the winner of the first edition of the competition, did achieve one thing that it had failed to do in the two previous editions. It won two of the three matches in the Super Eight.
The overall performance of the team in the T20 World Cup left a lot to be desired. It was a patchy display by the ‘rich and famous’. The ragtag Afghanistan team gave Dhoni and his men a run for their money. Australia humiliated the men in blue, who huffed and puffed against South Africa. In between, thanks to Virat Kohli’s belligerence, the 2007 champions overwhelmed England and Pakistan.
Even before the tournament opened, India, despite having the cash-rich and glamorous IPL, was not considered the favourites. Three teams - West Indies, Pakistan and Sri Lanka - were touted as the title contenders. All three made it to the semis with the team from the Caribbean isles emerging winners.
West Indians played T20 as it is meant to be played - with abandon. Not that they succeeded on every occasion but when they did their rivals had to run for cover. Australia will take a while to recover from the thrashing they received from Gayle and company. And for those who talked about pitches helping slow bowlers in Sri Lanka, here is some trivia: of the 315 wickets during ICC World T20 2012, 23 were run out, 165 wickets were taken by pacers and 127 wickets went to the credit of spinners. But why did India flop again? The country won its first and only T20 title in 2007 when the competition was launched but after that, despite IPL, it has failed to regain the title.
The tournament effectively busted a myth regarding the role of the coach at this level of cricket. Gary Kristen, who was given credit for transforming Team India into a very aggressive outfit, failed to do that with his own country - South Africa - this time. In fact South Africa has never had a worse tournament than this. Pretty much the same happened with Duncan Fletcher, who was coach with England when it won the 2010 T20 title. As Indian coach he has nothing to show for his effort. This raises a serious question over whether a team needs an expensive coach at this level.
Virender Sehwag failed and so did Gautam Gambhir. Zaheer Khan was tentative, so were Harbhajan Singh and Suresh Raina. Yuvraj Singh was there because of emotional reasons. Rohit Sharma was there for reasons best known to the selectors. Manoj Tiwary continues enjoying travelling and exploring various countries, all expenses paid. Ashok Dinda, Piyush Chawla, Balaji and Irfan Pathan chipped in here and there but failed to leave a mark. Dhoni’s only achievement was that he was leading the team for the fourth successive time, the only captain to do so in the T20 World Cup.
That all was not well with the team was known to everybody. Indian mediapersons covering the championship wrote more on the divide in the team than on its performance. Sehwag remained an enigma. He never had his day and the captain was not keen to have in the team. And that affected the performance of the side and it showed on the field.
“There is a lot of bickering in the team and the seniors are not on the same wavelength. That does not augur well at all,” said a media person who was in Sri Lanka for the championship.
“Seniors feel that Dhoni wants them out so that there is no challenge to his authority,” the media person opined. “Now that Rahul and Laxman have gone, and Sachin has become selective, the heat is on Sehwag. In any case Gambhir has lost the race for captaincy as of now.”
There are some experts who feel that the India team needs an overhaul. “We should have three teams for three formats - Test, ODIs and T20. They say pointing out that India was perhaps the only team which has maximum number of players representing the country in all three formats.
But it is easier said than done. Suddenly there is an uneasy feeling of poor bench strength. The IPL, which was hailed as the best thing to happen to Indian cricket, has not lived up to the expectations. Barring producing a couple of players, it has failed to be a nursery for the youngsters for which it was purportedly started.
It is indeed strange that Team India and its selectors have not yet found a replacement for Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman. The failure to have a solid bench for the T20 is also bewildering. Any talk of sweeping changes in the team is meaningless unless dependable replacements are available.
Cricket is a billion dollar industry in India. In a scale of one to ten, the game occupies all the ten slots. There is cricket going on all through the year. Yet when it comes to the crunch, we run for excuses.
The seniors cannot enjoy immunity on the basis of their past reputation. It is time they are told to either perform or perish. While Team India was battling it out for survival in the World Cup, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) dropped a bombshell by axing Mohinder Amarnath from the selection committee.
Though nobody knows the exact reason for Amarnath’s sacking, it is rumoured the veteran had sought revamping of the national team after its disastrous showing in England and Australia. The BCCI, by sacking him, sent a clear signal that though the selectors have a relatively free hand to pick the team they cannot cross the Lakshman rekha drawn by the board. The BCCI does not like its writ being challenged and that too by its own officials (it considers the selectors as its paid employees). Period.
Amarnath, on his part, has maintained a dignified silence. He has refused to talk on the issue. “I don’t know why I was not considered for an extension. I was told nothing so I have nothing to tell you” was his reply to a query put by me. However, a look at the composition of new selection committee makes it abundantly clear what BCCI wants from them. The exclusion of Saurav Ganguly from the technical committee further gives credence to the theory that the BCCI top brass does not feel comfortable with persons who think independently and are not always ready to toe its line.
It is ironical that while BCCI is not keen to have independent-minded former cricketers in its decision-making apparatus, the International Cricket Council (ICC) has appointed Anil Kumble as the chairman of its cricket committee. Kumble’s appointment has happened with BCCI’s support and approval. So why this dual policy? What was more disturbing were reports in the media (which have not been denied or refuted so far) that some senior players lobbied for a particular person to be made a selector. “it is a much more serious thing (if the report is correct) than India’s failure in the T20 World Cup,” remarked a former Test player.
Interestingly while most of the former players are willing to talk about the BCCI, they are reluctant to be named. They all want transparency but will not like to be transparent themselves. The huge hike in perks for the selectors and the financial benefits that BCCI dangles from time to time is enough to silence the voices of dissent. Though with its money power, BCCI can ride roughshod over any challenge at present, the signs on the horizon are ominous. Every thing is not well with the IPL. Deccan Chargers has collapsed. A couple of other teams are in financial trouble.
From the Rs 1000-crore base price which BCCI quoted last year for new teams for the IPL, it has reduced it to Rs 300 crore for the new team (in place of Deccan Charger) but it is still waiting for an offer.