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Play more domestic cricket: Gavaskar
By Sunil Gavaskar
After the early return home from the 2007 World Cup, the question on many an Indian cricket-supporter’s lips is what can be done to give the Indian team a great chance to win the next World Cup that is to be held in the subcontinent?

If it was as easy as the soft-drink commercial to go to a corner-shop tailor and get the Indian team’s uniforms made for some quite clearly overweight and chubby kids, then it would be a piece of cake. Thankfully, Indian cricket team uniforms are not made in street corner establishments, nor are World Cups won by drinking a cola.

What was seen of the Indian team in the West Indies was that they seemed a jaded side and did not have the zip that is needed to go that extra mile. India simply play far too much international cricket, and no matter what the ICC Future Tours Programme may be, there is no doubt that by committing itself to play off-shore series, there is an extra load on the players.

If, like Australia, the players could be rested, then it would be different, but that’s not possible. If star players are rested from these games, then sponsors back out and the whole package gets dented. Australia rested players like Ponting, Gilchrist and Michael Clarke from the Chappell-Hadlee trophy that took place just after their home season ended.

That meant that though the Aussies lost that series 3-0, when the team subsequently gathered for the biggest cricketing event, three of its star players were rested and fresh for the fray.

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It is crucial to have the skipper be the one to show the team how to do that ‘extra,’ and that can happen when he himself is fresh and raring to go. Once an Australian skipper is decided, then there is no danger to him if he sits out a few games, unlike in India where a rival is created instantly when a new man is given charge, even if it is due to an injury to the incumbent. Read moreread more

 
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By reducing international commitments, the Indian players will be able to participate in domestic tournaments and raise the standards there and give the selectors a more realistic appreciation of the potential that is there in a player knocking on the doors of international cricket.

That brings us to the next point, and that is the selection of selectors. It’s not just the national selectors but the junior selectors in India that are also important, because they are the ones who are selecting the supply-line to the Indian team. It is here that a selector needs that special ability to pick out a gem and ensure that he is given the breaks at the right time.

There has to be more coordination between the senior and junior selection committees and a regular exchange of information. It is at the junior level that the selector has to get rid of his zonal and state bias and look to pick the best for India’s junior teams. The BCCI has decided that it will change the Constitution to see that selectors henceforth are not picked on a zonal basis. It has to be the best five guys, irrespective of where they come from, and it’s got to be the entire BCCI that selects them and not a nomination by zones, as has been happening for years now.

After selecting these guys, the BCCI has to send them to different zones to watch not just first-class cricket, but also junior cricket, so they are aware of the emerging talent in the whole country and not just in their zones. Of course, that is pretty much a time-consuming job, and so the selectors, if need be, should be compensated for the time that they are giving as they will not be doing their regular business during these months.

The pitches that are prepared for the first-class matches have drawn criticism for years, and still nothing has been done about it, simply because nobody in the BCCI wants to pass a resolution that may one day turn back on its own state association. The argument that every home team needs to prepare a pitch to suit its strengths is no longer valid when one sees the pitches prepared in Australia for its Tests as well as domestic games. They are good cricketing pitches, which give ample opportunities to batsmen and bowlers if the effort is there. That’s why the Australians are comfortable wherever they play in the world.

It is important to have pitches that encourage new-ball bowlers to try a little harder, and that does not mean grassy pitches. The Indian concept of a fast pitch is to leave plenty of grass on the surface, which makes batting a lottery and exaggerates the deeds of the new-ball bowler in much the same way as a flat batting pitch flatters a batsman, and both get exposed on foreign soil.

We need more expert curators, and if need be, they should be sent all over the country to teach their craft to others. The two really sporting surfaces in India last season were the ones at Mohali and in the Ranji final at Mumbai. Both these pitches were not grassy where the cows could fatten themselves, but they had just the perfect sprinkling of grass that gave the new-ball bowlers the incentive to bend their backs and bowl the extra over or so. That the BCCI has decided that all major games will be played at neutral venues is also a good thing, because it will stop home teams preparing pitches to suit their strengths, and there will be pitches that are fair to both batsmen and bowlers.

India should also be sending its ‘A’ teams to tour countries like Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and England, and that too the year before the senior team is due to go there, so if a junior player makes the grade next year, he already has the experience of playing in that country.

India has by far the best organized junior cricket in the world and it gives ample chances for players at various age levels to show their potential. These players should be taught that there is no substitute to fitness in modern cricket, and unless they are fit and good fielders, they do not have much of a future in international cricket. In that sense, they have to be all-rounders who can bat and field or bowl and field too.

Lastly, if Indian cricket has to progress, it is absolutely important that all stakeholders, which means the board administrators, selectors, former players, media, fans, sponsors, and all those connected in some way to it are honest to it. If that means that one does not promote one’s favourite, then so be it, for if only the best team is selected then only will India have a realistic chance of winning the next World Cup.

Points:

Reduce international matches to get the stars to play more domestic cricket

BCCI should select the best selectors for the senior and junior levels

‘Sporting’ wickets a must

India has the world’s best organized junior cricket

Frequent ‘A’ team tours to Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, England

Stakeholders, the Board, players, sponsors, media, etc. must work together

Do you feel strongly about the state of Indian cricket? Do you have an idea that will take Team India to the heights of glory? If you have a word of advice for the BCCI or the Indian team, write to us at kheleditor@sify.com.

(PMG)

 
 
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