August 5, 2011

Blame the BCCI for the team's shoddiness

If India have held on to their No. 1 ranking so long, it is despite a board that doesn't take the team's needs into account

This was supposed to be the marquee series, wasn't it? A side holding on to No. 1 rather more tenuously than they believed, against one that had forsaken empty talk for a tough, hard-nosed approach. It was the kind of series you look forward to. India were meant to light up the English summer with their brand of cricket; indeed, even an excellent Wimbledon and a celebratory British Open had been done with and the big bully, the EPL, was almost a month away from the start of the first Test. It couldn't have been timed better. But so far it has been a damp squib, a big-budget flop. The crowds have turned up, but they haven't seen a contest.

When India ascended to No. 1, they did so without any favours done to them. It is important to understand that, because a good team doesn't become bad overnight, and this is, by any yardstick, a quality team. But having reached the summit, India needed to distance themselves from the opposition; it is part of the aura you create as No. 1. To do that India needed to prepare well to give themselves the best possible chance of staying ahead. They didn't. They were made to turn up and get into a contest against a well-prepared team in home conditions. It wasn't the first time this has happened, nor will it be the last.

The Indian administration likes to fill the itinerary, every available moment, rather than leave breathing space. In doing so they give their side the worst possible chance of making an early impact. And so, it is my argument that India have done well in the past in spite of shoddy preparation. It is not a new argument; some of us have been shouting about it from the rooftops. But it merits another look.

In the last four years India have had three tough away series. Against Australia in 2007-08, the captain, Anil Kumble, asked for three warm-up games. He was told that he would get no more than one. As it turns out, that was washed out with scarcely any cricket played, and India went into the Boxing Day Test with the baggage tags still on their kit bags. They were bowled out for 196 and 161 (an interesting sidelight being that Rahul Dravid was made to open the batting) and lost by 337 runs.

India then went to South Africa in December 2010 without a single first-class match behind them, even though much was made of sending players early for acclimatisation. They were bowled out for 136 and lost by an innings in spite of a tremendous second-innings performance.

On each of those tours India came back to score landmark wins, leading to the unwelcome tag of a team who start slowly and fight back. A fightback can be over-glamourised, especially if it can be avoided with better planning. The wins in Perth in 2008 and Durban in 2010 showed how good India could be, but that they weren't always allowed to be by the people who scheduled their tours; the people who were meant to be on their side.

Being the dominant figure in the ICC would allow India to get what they want in order to remain No. 1. Instead the BCCI flexes its muscle over appointments and the Decision Review System. India could have got the calendar they wanted in England and South Africa, but clearly that wasn't priority

Both those results suggested that the players were good enough to win overseas if India were to play two or three games before their first Tests. You would have thought that if the BCCI was serious about India staying No. 1, it would learn from that. But the board steadfastly chose not to. It is like knowing paracetamol will bring down your child's temperature but choosing not to use it.

The BCCI is better placed than anyone else to get the best possible schedules. Being the dominant figure in the ICC would allow India to get what they want to remain No. 1. Instead the board flexes its muscle over appointments and the Decision Review System. India could have got the calendar they wanted in England and South Africa, but clearly that wasn't priority. Often you get what you deserve but you also get what you genuinely want. India's players have the ability to stay No. 1 but their administration doesn't have the drive to be No. 1 on the field.

And nothing is going to change. The Champions League Twenty20 is sandwiched between this series and the limited-overs matches against England at home. There are then, 57 days before the Melbourne Test. You would want India to get there 15 days earlier to play two games. That leaves 42 days in which to play three Tests and five one-day internationals against West Indies at home. You need a minimum of 37 days, if the games are packed back to back, to achieve that.

Great organisations manage their brands very well; they nurture them like they would their children, giving them the best possible chance of success. Great brands make quality non-negotiable before managing profitability. If you do it the other way round, you allow quality to slip. Profitability at the expense of quality is always a short-term measure.

You reap as you sow. India could still come back in this series, for this is a quality side, but if they do, it will be in spite of what those who are meant to nurture them have allowed.

Harsha Bhogle is a commentator, television presenter and writer. His Twitter feed is here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Gowhar on August 8, 2011, 17:46 GMT

    Mr. Harsha, with due respect, your argument about India's shoddy performance in England so far is shrill; to say the least. Had India been winning then commentators would have been blowing MSD success trumpet and showering praises on 'Mr. Cool's' leadership skills, but when the men in blue are finding themselves in a deep blue sea there is all this talk of lack of preparation! Give us a break, please! Also, when Sachin, Sehwag, Yuvi & Zak could choose to miss West Indies series to take rest and were more than happy to enjoy the IPL, no one blamed the BCCI then...Mr. Harsha, these are lame excuses, and remember great and dominant teams in world cricket do not give excuses they give performances! Injuries, match preparations or the lack of it; etc are all part and parcel of this game called cricket. Indian attack is being torn apart and batsmen compelled to offer catching practice to English slip fieldsmen, that is quality English bowling...By Gowhar Geelani

  • U on August 8, 2011, 16:52 GMT

    Wake up Harsha...India do not have the bowlers to win tests abroad...What about when dravid goes?? clearly he is the best test batsman....

  • Scott on August 8, 2011, 12:51 GMT

    You know your target audience well Harsha. Not sure the rest of the world quite see it like this, but hey - India is the world when it comes to cricket, isn't it ...

  • zuber on August 8, 2011, 8:40 GMT

    very well said, the only truth behind the failure of India in first two tests

  • Shanmuga on August 8, 2011, 5:06 GMT


    Who the hell are U to ask SACHIN to retire? Lets wait and see what RD does for rest of the series. English will be enjoying bowling to RD than Viru,Sachin coz they don't need to run for fielding the ball. So they focus on rest of the players and pressurise them.

  • Dummy4 on August 8, 2011, 2:38 GMT

    I am not a big fan of Harsha"s columns on Cricket but this one is right on target....... England team is in form but Indian team is always thrown into any carnival without any preparation. Quality is compromised and we cricket lovers have been taken for granted. Is there a solution in place...not in any recent future

  • Dilip on August 7, 2011, 15:13 GMT

    There have been these murmurs about the 'amount of cricket' from some players esp. MSD for a while now and its probably just a matter of time before BCCI gets the planning and scheduling of tours right with more gaps and breaks in between for rest. else the only rest for players would be the injury-induced rest which obviously is twice as long.. so one can only shout WAKE UP BCCI ! and hope for the best.

  • Venkatesh on August 7, 2011, 14:26 GMT

    As long as there is no added bonus in staying 1 which overlays the profits earned through India playing the umpteen # of tournaments, BCCI isn't going to change their mode of operation !!! Guess the responsibility and authority is in different areas. The responsibility to win with the players and where, whom and when to play with BCCI. So, the day the responsibility and authority is clearly defined, the business organization is going to strive to make as much profit as possible which is currently its responsibility !!

  • ahmed on August 7, 2011, 10:37 GMT

    This should be an eye opener for the people. Test cricket is the most authentic form. I personally feel that ODIs and T20 may come around as fresher and attractive formats but the team who rules test cricket deserve to be the no1 side. Indian team has been a big disappointment for its fans but they should realize that they were only labelled no.1 but the performances of a no1 side were never there.

  • Big on August 7, 2011, 6:56 GMT

    As usual Harsha rambles on making little sense. One can make all the excuses one wants, but the reality is this team is NOT #1. They have no bowling strength - cannot take 20 wickets -- and cannot bat on tracks that provide any assistance to seamers. Dravid and Gambhir are the only exceptions. Laxman can only make runs when the ball does not seam because he stays back most of the time. Bring him at #5. And, for god's sake, retire Tendulkar and Harbhajan. Its ok to lose as long as you fight and learn from it. Why didnt these guys pick Irfan Pathan, R.P Sigh and Waseem Jaffer for this tour? Irfan and RP are great on seaming tracks and Wasim Jaffer plays close to his body. Srikkanth is doing as good a job as selector as he did as a player, which is to say awful.

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