I have been part of Indian cricket for 37 years. First as a player and now as a commentator and a columnist, that’s 37 years of close association with Indian cricket.
I don’t like a trend that I am seeing of late, where the Indian team is treated as the be all and end all of Indian cricket. We must never forget that the Indian cricket team is not Indian cricket.
Indian cricket is far bigger, more sacred with a long history that started 125 years back. The Indian cricket we see today is built by the toil of the 287 cricketers who played for India and hundreds more who could not represent India. The BCCI recently honoured Padmakar Shivalkar and Rajinder Goel with life time achievement awards. Two cricketers who never played for India. But Indian cricket is very proud of them.
Then there were those non-cricketers too, whose sweat and blood has gone into shaping the Indian cricket that we see today. The hardworking administrators with a cricketing heart, the employees of the BCCI, the match officials, the scorers, the media persons who wrote commentaries on Indian cricket and made it even more attractive for the fans. People like Harsha Bhogle.
Indian cricket is a creation of the effort and toil of all these people over 125 years. So Indian cricket is not just today’s Indian team. Yes, the Indian cricket team is a significant part of Indian cricket; it is after all the most visible representation and symbol of it and therefore crucial to the image of Indian cricket.
When we were players, in our twenties, we could never grasp this concept, I understand it only now. Players are far too consumed in their own performance, in trying to win matches that their focus is singular and narrow.
That is why you need senior, wiser men, a bit distant from the field to keep a general watch on the team. Just to ensure that even while it’s winning matches, it is setting the right example. First, for all those wide-eyed kids watching them with dreams of playing for India. Second, for the people I mentioned who have been part of this long journey of Indian cricket.
There is so much to like of this Indian team. Their self belief, the strong desire to win... Indian cricket is on an upward graph in this regard. But it’s a team that also needs to be reined in when their passion gets the better of them. There have been signs of this, especially when they play against Australia.
I disagree that you need to be
aggressive against the Australians. No, you just need better skills than theirs to win matches. Like the West Indies did in the 80s and 90s and the South Africans do now.
That is why there is a need for a senior statesman, right on top of the team hierarchy to ensure that the passion of this team is well directed. Remember the Indian team manager, Wing Commander Shahid Durrani, stepping in to stop Sunil Gavaskar, another passionate and proud Indian cricketer, from taking his team off the field in Melbourne in 1981?
If not for Durrani, Indian cricket would have suffered great embarrassment that day. Gavaskar too realised his mistake later. There is just too much adrenaline flowing through a player during a match; that is why you need a calm, wise head with the team to do what’s right for Indian cricket and speak for Indian cricket. While the players are mostly left to do what they do best, play.