Cricket Sport

An Open Letter to Indian Cricket

An open letter to all the constituents of the Indian cricket. A knee-jerk reaction to losing in the T20 WC is short-sighted. We have deeper questions to answer.

Dear Indian cricket fans/ players/ administrators/ coaches,

First of all, thank you to the Indian fan for that massive response to India’s recent T20 World Cup campaign. Even the Zimbabwe game had 82k people in the stands! Harsha Bhogle famously said that the Indian cricket fan “…keeps on giving!” I sat in front of the TV for every game that India played and watched it without fail (except the semis!).

For all that we, as fans, give to our team, haven’t we analyzed the debacle enough? Some may even argue that it was not a debacle – we reached the semi-finals whereas 12 other teams did not. In which case, what are we discussing? The fact that we could have done better? Isn’t that always the point? Let’s define ‘better’ before we get anywhere. What is better than semi-finals? Finals? Would that be good enough? Winning the championship is better?

As a staunch Indian cricket fan, I certainly want our team to win every tournament they play in. Not because I fancy my team, but because I believe we have the potential to do so. So why don’t we play to our potential? Have you ever considered this question?

It is not that we do not play to our fullest potential in every match. I believe we do. I trust the players we have put out there give everything they have to help win. So, I am not questioning if people have the intention to win or not. Each of the players out there is giving their best. Or so I choose to believe. Hence you give them all your support and love.

So, am not going to endlessly discuss dropping Rohit Sharma, discussing Virat Kohli’s age (he’s a 37 but looks and moves like 25), cursing KL Rahul as a pet favourite, making Hardik Pandya T20 captain, replacing Bhuvi, playing Chahal, etc. I did that when I was a younger fan. I thought I knew the strategy better. Now, I believe I might not know the strategy or the choices better, but I have every right to question a few things which seem like common sense. So, as an Indian cricket fan, let me ask a few questions.

We give a lot of ourselves to watch and stay involved with this game. That results in some expectations. We just want to see our team play to its fullest potential. Not falter repeatedly at the final hurdle (or the semi-final hurdle as has been the case recently!) As an expression of our involvement, we are allowed to ask some questions.

The last ICC tournament we won was the 2013 Champions Trophy. Since then, we have reached the finals in T20 World Cup (2014), Champions Trophy (2017) and World Test Championship (2021). We reached the semi-finals in T20 World Cup (2016) and ODI World Cup (2019). Are we the official chokers now? South Africa have begun losing in league stages itself. So, maybe it is the right time for us to relieve them of the C-word.

Are we the official chokers now? South Africa have begun losing in league stages itself. So, maybe the right time for us to relieve them of the C-word.

Asks Mysorean. India hasn’t won an ICC World trophy in what will be 10 years in 2023.

Since 2021, we have had 8 captains across the different formats. Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma, Ajinkya Rahane, KL Rahul, Jasprit Bumrah, Shikhar Dhawan, Rishab Pant and Hardik Pandya. Throw in a few more names, and we can have an India captains XI which would be good enough across all formats! Do we really have a clear leader of the team? Please do not bring up the MBA nonsense of captain v leader. The Indian cricket team’s captain is the most powerful un-elected leader in the country. We have had 8 of them in the last 2 years. Who is really the leader of the team? And if there’s one, can he please stand up and take charge? Who is the leader of the team you are cheering for? Is there one at all?

Who is really the leader of the team? And if there’s one, can he please stand up and take charge?

Every 8th player is a captain. Do we have one too many captains wonders Mysorean.

Now that we have seen the number of captains that have played for us. Shall we take a look at the number of players? Maybe the argument is that we have had different teams for which these different captains can be a viable option, right? We have had a field of 40 players to have played for us in the last 12 months across formats. Out of this 8 are or have been captains. At one point in history, we were accusing Pakistan of such mismanagement. They would have 8 ex-captains on the ground playing a match. We are not very different today. Though on the field we may not be displaying as much chaos, we still get ourselves into similar situations not knowing the way out of it. We panic against left-arm fast bowling, for example. Every team now plays a left-arm seamer against us even if he is a village cricketer!

What is it with taking breaks? How can playing for your own country require a break? Where exactly are Dravid, KL, Kohli and Rohit going off to instead of going to NZ? Such breaks contribute to the inconsistency of presence of players in the dressing room. Each combination will produce a different culture. What is the real culture of the Indian dressing room? And please don’t give me inane answers like we are there to win matches for India and to give our best, etc. That’s not the question. The question is what’s the ‘feel’ in the dressing room? How does one feel when they want to speak up? Scared? Or scratch that. Do they know who they can speak to? Do they know that things will happen if they speak?

Each time we announce a 15-member squad and 11 of them take the field, what are the other 4 speaking about? That indicates the culture of the team. The Head coach is supposed to manage all this. But our very own Dravid – who I love a lot – is taking a break after changing the team for the NZ tour. These may seem very small in the overall scheme of things. Consummate professionals and all that. But these are millionaires playing a sport. Egos have to be managed. No wonder people feel taking breaks is alright. While we seem to have a pool of players, nobody is there challenging the guys who have got A/ A+ contracts from the BCCI.

The culture is driven by superstars. The not-yet-superstars are striving to become superstars. There are some who think they are already superstars like KL, Pant and Pandya. Do we really know how to manage a team culture that has individuals who are journeying on a spectrum of superstardom? Because a loss or a victory, doesn’t seem to be reducing their financial emoluments? Not that it must reduce but what is the incentive for them to really win? How do we bring that in? Only through culture right? Where is it? What is it?

A superstar focused culture where breaks are taken at will with nobody challenging them. Is everything purely financial now? Are we not worried about consistency in the dressing room culture? Who is managing that?

Professionalism doesn’t bring results. Culture does. Are we not focussing on building the dna of a successful culture? Asks Mysorean.

We did not win 2007, 2011 and 2013 under different captains and vastly different squads. The core of the team was built around the same set of players with MS Dhoni and Gary Kirsten leading from the top. If you look at the Australian teams of 90’s and 2000’s, you will observe the same. Constant core team, leader with long rope, and a coach to look up to!

We are losing across formats in key matches. The results show that something is wrong with the process we are following. I don’t want to blame the IPL. Not because it has nothing wrong with it, but it was supposed to spot, identify, train and fast-track talent to the world stage. And it has done that commendably well. There are certain unfavourable byproducts such as impact on batting style, etc. which we can discuss some other time.

Our own process of divisional level, Ranji, Duleep, Deodhar, etc is a solid process. We have tweaked our pitches to move away from being completely spin-friendly. Such changes have helped fast bowlers emerge. We have looked deeper and wider into tier-2 and 3 towns for talent. There is little doubt that we have developed a good talent pool. But we have missed in helping them develop the temperament to survive when fame hits suddenly. Like Hardik’s aaj main karke aaya or Pant’s Urvashi Rautela scandal – we have always had such things going on. Earlier days, these scandals would go away. In the age of social media, they become memes and trolls and regularly come back to haunt these players. How do they learn to switch off the noise and focus on the game? Do they have a support structure that helps them go through this?

The players need talent, training and hardwork to make it to the Indian cricket team. But once they make it, they need a different set of skills to sustain and survive. Where do they have access to such skills? Some players like Sachin, Dravid, Ganguly, Zak, Kohli, MSD, Rohit, Shikhar, etc come through a certain income class. They have seen stability earlier and they know the levers to turn to continue staying stable. Players like Kambli, Pandya, Pant, etc. need some guidance or mentorship. During Kambli’s time it was not available and I don’t think anybody spoke about these things either. It was easier to blame the player and move on. “He has no morals”, “He doesn’t know how to manage”, “He got too much wealth too quickly”, etc. Isn’t it BCCI’s responsibility to do something about this? I think so. If we want to preserve the talent pool and expect them to do well then we need to support every dimension of their lives that would have an impact on their cricketing performance.

The players need talent, training and hardwork to make it to the Indian cricket team. But once they make it, they need a different set of skills to sustain and survive. Where do they have access to such skills?

BCCI needs more to build a sustainable ecosystem for players, thinks Mysorean. Are they doing it?

Just making and counting the moolah is not enough. BCCI needs to do more. Not just be a capitalist entity. Look out for the welfare of your players not only in terms of money being paid, but provide them with the support they need from moving out of the lower economic strata straight into superstardom. It is like sitting in a rocket that is escaping the earth’s atmosphere. The players have the fuel to escape the atmosphere and maybe even sustain in space. Do they have the skills to make it back safely? If they don’t, shouldn’t BCCI build a support system for them? An advisory board of ex-players who have navigated these challenges successfully perhaps?

Cricket is not just a sport anymore

I think Indian cricket needs reforms at various levels. Our players are fine. It is the song and dance around them that needs to change. They need more support. As absurd as it may sound, money doesn’t solve all the problems. Fame doesn’t bring success on the field. We need to think of cricket on a wholesome level. It’s not just a sport. It’s a source of livelihood to many. Not just the players. We need to build it as an industry.

BCCI needs to define how it wants to work. The fan engagement can be better. The support system for players can improve. There is enough money to do all this and more. Is there intent? That’s my final question.

Does BCCI have the intent to do more? Do they even see the problems? Or are they content with counting the moolah?

Mysorean questions the intent of the BCCI to do what it takes

Signing off,
Mysorean – another cricket crazy Indian.

2 replies on “An Open Letter to Indian Cricket”

First and foremost, we need to stop giving so much importance to cricket, all this fan following, the ad world etc., its just a colonial time sport, should be treated just like me this crazy fan following is the fundamental issue.
That match against Pakistan,Virat’s heroics was shown as though it was bigger victory than the finals itself.

Hi Vishnu, not sure I understand your point. Why is the fan following an issue? As a country we seem to like cricket as a sport. Every country has a sport they are crazy about. What is wrong with India liking cricket?

In fact, Indira Gandhi had used the 1983 World Cup victory to distract people from communal violence. Sport can be used to revitalize a nation.

Rugby was used by Nelson Mandela to unite South Africa during a critical Apartheid time. There’s a movie and a book on that called “Invictus”.

Sport is useful. And also has a social evolution based reasoning on why we like sport. Watch Human Playground on Netflix to understand how sport has evolved into what it is today.

If you are saying that any other sport is fine, but cricket is not because it is colonial, etc. Well, we are way past that conversation in my opinion. Today cricket is controlled by India across the world. The Indian consumer demands that cricket be played at a certain time and to cater to that the rest of the world adjusts. While it may have its origins in an English Imperial rule, today India’s hold and power that India exercises over the game is considered by many as similar to Imperialism.

Virat’s heroics in the Pak game was certainly once-in-a-lifetime kind of a knock. Even he won’t be able to play so well again. Nor will we see such a brilliant innings again I suspect. I think that innings got the respect it deserved. There could have been some hype that was unnecessary. But as a country, we are used to hyping everything up. Aren’t we? Why single out Virat’s innings alone?

So yeah, I don’t understand where you are coming from with your comment. If you don’t like cricket, it is understandable. Or if you want some other sport to take precedence over cricket within India, even that is valid. But to say we must not give so much importance to cricket is not exactly actionable. Also, what does it mean to treat something as a colonial sport? How does one do that even if someone wants to agree with you?

The fan following exists in every department of our country today. Right from the Hon’ble PM to a maybe more hon’ble film star who has just delivered a massive masala hit movie! It isn’t endemic to cricket alone. Wonder why and how that is a problem only in cricket!

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