August 22, 2014

The ECB's blueprint for success for India

If they want to win like England, they need to muck about with their captain, coach and best player

Sack him before he starts texting the opposition the "secret" to dismissing India's batsmen: just bowl at 'em © Getty Images

India capitulated to England. Well, to say capitulated doesn't really do it justice. They repeatedly collapsed like a row of deckchairs built from dominoes a herd of buffalo had just decided to have a little sit-down in. From the galactic highs of Lord's, in Southampton, Manchester and at The Oval they plummeted back to Earth faster than a meteorite with vertigo. Did they get too distracted by Pushgate? Has the IPL destroyed their Test techniques? Did the entire squad have a mass portentous vision of Ian Botham's future Twitter feed, rendering the eye part of their hand-eye coordination irreparably damaged when batting?

There are no easy answers to this malaise, but if India want some inspiration for how to bounce back from an away shellacking, they need look no further than their rampaging hosts. Some may suggest England's post-Ashes New Era eventual success has come about as much by luck as judgement, but if the BCCI adheres to the following blueprint (as devised by the ECB), their team too will be back winning matches in no time. Well, certainly within a year or so.

Appoint the right sort of captain
When Giles Clarke noted that Alastair Cook's family were "very much the sort of people" the relatives of the England cricket captain should be, many observers scoffed. They were quite wrong to do so. No one is casting aspersions on MS Dhoni's kin, but India must take heed from England's elitist selection policy and find a leader who was born with not so much a silver spoon in his mouth as an entire cutlery set carved out of diamonds. There's just one man who fits the bill. Although his being long retired may be something of a sticking point, only Sourav Ganguly has the blood blue enough to lead India out of the darkness.

Sack your best player
After an initial wobble in results lasting a mere six months, the ditching of Kevin Pietersen by England has proved a master stroke. Granted, his supporters outside cricket claim his absence had nothing to do with India's batsmen swatting manically at the ball like it was a wasp at a picnic. Sure, they further hint that Pietersen himself may well have been able to make a vat of runs in this series, even against the ferocious inswinging exocets of Stuart Binny. Alas, these are mere pinpricks on the hide of the overall success of the ECB's revitalisation strategy. Sorry, Bhuvi. You may well have been India's Man of the Series, but you've got to go.

Muck your openers about
India already have potential in this area with the recall of Gautam Gambhir to figure on a spicy Old Trafford wicket after playing less cricket than the average rhinoceros in the month previous. They have still a lot to learn from the English hierarchy, however. Nick Compton was harshly dropped, presumably not because he was from the wrong sort of family. Michael Carberry was harshly dropped, presumably because having handled Mitchell Johnson quite competently it was felt he'd be toast against Sri Lanka's new-ball attack. Both had reason to feel a little bit aggrieved at being replaced by Sam Robson, who at times has batted so rigidly it seemed as if he were trying to convey the concept of C-3PO in a game of charades. With these selections in mind, India's only opener who showed any steel, M Vijay, needs to be dropped and replaced by, well, for example, Binny.

Reappoint your old coach
England's recipe for success has been to reheat Peter Moores, and the BCCI again has shown signs of copying this canny plot by appointing Ravi Shastri, briefly in charge for the 2007 tour of Bangladesh, to be "Director of Cricket" for the aforementioned ODI series. Although Shastri will undoubtedly throw the kitchen sink at the role, India really need someone who, like Moores in his first stint, oversaw mediocre results and had a huge bust-up with the team captain. Pity whoever it is who has to tell the newly restored Dada, but on this basis the permanent replacement for Duncan Fletcher has got to be Greg Chappell.

Organise a home series against India
Admittedly this presents a number of logistical and existential problems, but if India can't play against themselves, then they at least need to follow the ECB's post-away tour debacle policy of hosting a side that's quite likely to pose the same level of threat as a puppy on Ritalin. On this front, the BCCI has already actually surpassed itself: West Indies arrive on Indian shores in October.

So that's all India have to do to restore themselves to greatness. If it all goes wrong, blame Paul Downton.

James Marsh writes Pavilion Opinions. He is also a Tefl teacher whose students learn superlatives by being shown Graham Thorpe videos