Needed: More respect for Test cricket
India’s 1-2 loss to England cannot be tackled with some lusty hitting, but some smart, along-the-ground shots to produce a stronger base.
This is no time to play to the gallery. It’s the time for some solid old-fashioned grind, the very ingredient needed for a revival in a Test match.
While India’s limited overs team still does justice to the 2011 World Cup honour, the Test scene resembles a ‘day after’ scene of carnage, even though it must be said that top-drawer outfits like England and Australia have smashed India’s Test reputation. These two countries have featured in 12 out of the 17 Tests India have played in the last 18 months.
The hosts did not have the services of Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman, a huge loss to endure for any team. Yes, these two great players did not figure in the previous two-Test series against New Zealand, which India won hands down, but the Kiwis attack didn’t have the same destructive firepower as the English.
The loss to England was the end result of a so-called endeavour to produce total cricket. England simply did that better and stole India’s candy bar which they were enjoying before the Mumbai Test.
To go back to India’s preparation for the series is inevitable. While England had three practice games before the Ahmedabad Test, India had a short camp in Mumbai. It seemed hastily organised and too short for a huge series.
Will coach Duncan Fletcher explain this soon or will we have to wait for his next book to be out? And India’s resistance to make maximum use of breaks between games can no longer be considered cool. It’s not that the players don’t care about dishing out sterling performances, but they send out the wrong signals at times by not going back to the nets often enough. Test match cricket demands the best preparation and preparedness to do more than what lies within a comfort zone.
Old timers found it astounding that the BCCI had their players attending a function at the Cricket Club of India the night before the Mumbai Test. And Sunil Gavaskar was spot on when he expressed his displeasure at the sight of smiling faces within the team after India lost the Kolkata Test, not to forget the post-Test football game.
Indeed, India needs to show more respect to Test cricket. And that does not mean the players alone — administrators and curators too. The pitch for the Nagpur Test was a slap in the face to the premier form of the game. It signified all what is wrong with Indian Test cricket — lethargic, uneven and unproductive. That Kevin Pietersen said it was the toughest pitch he has ever played shouldn’t make the curator proud. Nagpur must get ready to spend some time in cricketing exile if at all the BCCI is serious about setting things right from all quarters.
What now, is the big question. Sachin Tendulkar could be the next star to leave the scene. Do we have a player to replace him? Stupid question. Do we need to identify his successor? Stupid question again. No one can replace a 23-season veteran. But Indian cricket can move on well if they face inevitable situations with character. The next three years in Indian Test cricket are critical. Probably, India will have to lose a bit to win in the end. And while the selectors will be challenged at all times, the BCCI will have to ensure they have the right kind of support staff to help prepare for a fruitful era. The appointment of a permanent team manager who has played at the highest level will help.
A simultaneous process to make domestic cricket stronger should be nothing less than mandatory.
Meanwhile, the BCCI must make a statement about the loss to England and give the cricket-loving public some idea as to how they intend going about a repair job. They owe it to you.
Clayton Murzello is MiD DAY Group’s sports editor