When India loses at Trent Bridge — and I don’t need to see the odds to be fairly certain they will — I want to see plenty of fingers pointed at the BCCI. I know Indian fans aren’t always a reasonable lot, and tend to either vilify or worship the players in the middle, who, to be sure, have a fair amount to do with the end result of a game. But, but, but!
What we are seeing in the middle isn’t just 22 players fighting for the spoils, but two very different models of sport administration working against each other. Close observers of the Flower regime regularly note two motifs: its ruthlessness — cherished players are cast aside if they are not performing — and its methodical approach to strategy. India has a different take on the game: first, it commits its players to outrageously demanding schedules that require athletes to jump around continents like they were a hopscotch board. And second, at the same time, its fans demand increasing returns. Won a T20 World Cup? What about the ODI? Won the ODI WC? What about No. 1 in Tests? Got that? Why not 2-0 against the West Indies? Drew for the first time in South Africa? Why not 2-1?
Look at this team: Praveen and Ishant have bowled their hearts out without a break; Gautam Gambhir is coming off an injury (that he and his IPL overlords should have checked way before hand); Zaheer Khan looked plump and unfit after a month-hangover from the WC; Dhoni — God bless him — has run from a WC to an IPL and a West Indies tour. Meanwhile, Sehwag remains injured (from this wonderful IPL thing) and the other batsmen were expected to cope and adapt to swinging bowling and colder weather in a jiff.
On the other hand, look at the English. Indian fans point to the Dominica Test as evidence that India is not ruthless enough; I look at the English team setup and say that’s what ruthless is. A single-minded pursuit of victory that begins well before the first ball is bowled. A well-rested team that knows what they are supposed to do and how they can do it together. A team that relies just as much on practice and strategy as they do on individual brilliance. Quit talking about that Tendulkar ton already and get down to business.