Crowded calendar will give Indian fans relief
Before the Perth Test began, I had been tossing around ideas for a post on how India could console themselves with the fact that a 2-2 result in the Test series against Australia would feel just as good as a win; India would be besides themselves for having drawn the series, and Australia would be distraught at having let a 2-0 advantage slip away. Even if the chance to win an away series in Australia was gone, there shouldn't be any lack of motivation for India.
That was a few days ago. This morning, as I sit in my apartment listening to a chilly East Coast wind rattle the windows of my apartment, I shiver, and not just because the occasional gust has made it through some mysteriously located aperture. My overly-optimistic piece of blogging tomfoolery remains stillborn, and just as well. I would have looked like a fool, and the comments space would have been consumed by the scorn and ridicule of those treated to more abject cricket in the latest installment of India's horrible run overseas. I could call it Annus Horribilis, but summoning up fancy Latin phrases doesn't seem to do justice to this carnage. What is needed is simple outrage; the time for fancy analysis of how cricket should be restructured at the grassroots, how the next generation of young batsmen should be nurtured, and so on, will present itself later (to us fans; I'm not sure whether the BCCI will pay attention).
I have to be honest though. Defeats as comprehensive as the ones India have suffered on their tours of England and Australia seem to provoke in me not so much outrage as wearied acceptance. The hints of the current disaster were always visible to the nervous Indian fan, always needing reassurance about the ability of the team to perform consistently and winningly overseas. On these tours of England and Australia, a collective set of long-held fears simply came true. There is a sense of relief perhaps. This was the worst that could happen. The bottom of the trough has been reached. It couldn't get any worse. (For those who think losing at home would make it worse, think again. Some fans are old enough to remember losing Tests at home, others multiple Tests or entire series.)
But most fundamentally, I think that while the tunnel may be long and dark, the light at its end is not that of improved performance by the next reincarnation of the Indian team; it is, rather, provided by the knowledge that this crowded cricketing calendar of ours will simply not allow for too much wallowing in the muck and mire of the current catastrophe. There are home series, the IPL, and of course, other nations playing cricket. How long will the fan be allowed to brood and sulk before the next installment of the cricketing world's package of televised entertainment is upon us? And compulsive consumers of cricket will find their healing balm in more cricket, perhaps of a different format, perhaps that played by a different team. The interminably long gaps between the series of yesteryear, that allowed endless mental replays of their worst moments, have now been successfully plugged by a succession of series, cups and leagues.
Unfortunately for the Indian fan, this dizzying panoply of staged cricket will also serve to obscure the handiwork of those committed to keeping Indian cricket frozen in a ghastly time-warp of mediocrity. The belling of that particular cat needs doing. When, and by whom, are questions that demand answers. But only when there is a break in the programming.
Samir Chopra lives in Brooklyn and teaches Philosophy at the City University of New York. He tweets here