'The BCCI thought India would just turn up and do well'
The Argus review showed that Australian cricket had diverted its focus too far from the success of the Test team. Must India recognise that it has done the same?
Ian Chappell, former Australia captain The BCCI are in the business of making money, more so than cricket. They have let the senior players have a bit too much say in what they want and the selectors have been negligent in their duty. It almost seems to me like the selectors have said: this is a terrific period for us, we are going to make the most of it, and if we leave the mess to the next lot, too bad. I say that they have not done anything really to plan for the future at all.
All you have got to do is have a system that produces good young, skilful, competitive cricketers. And if you are producing a number of good, strong leaders then you will be fine.
Work on the things that are going to get you wins in any game of cricket. If you are going to produce leaders, then it is not going to matter if you are going to play Test, one-day or Twenty20 matches.
India need a decent bowling attack to build a good team around. I wrote when India became the No. 1 Test team that I did not see them maintaining that position under all the different conditions. Apart from the fact that the selectors have not faced up to the issue of an ageing batting line-up that is terrible in the field in a five-day game, they have not also faced up to the fact that Harbhajan Singh has not been a good attacking weapon for at least for a good two years now. And where are the good fast bowlers?
I have never seen a winning team tire. All the tired teams are the ones that are losing. India at the moment are losing. India should have been able to stay at the No. 1 for a quite a long time because have a look at the numbers that play the game, just for starts. Then they have got all the money, but if it is not well administered then the money does not mean anything.
Aakash Chopra, former India opener For a very long time we buried our heads in the sands and refused to believe a problem existed. That is why we were so thoroughly underprepared for the England tour, because the BCCI thought India are No. 1 and would just turn up and do well. Now they are asking Cricket Australia for an extra warm-up match. But it is just not about scheduling. Preparation for me is a long-drawn process: it starts from identifying the right personnel and then taking it forward. If you are not improving by 10% as a team every time you play overseas, you become stagnant. Other teams are also improving, so you cannot be No. 1 anymore.
You have to be extremely ruthless in your preparation. We cannot just have one strike bowler in Zaheer Khan. If Chris Tremlett broke down, England had Tim Bresnan, Steven Finn and Graham Onions. You have to have a pool. Imagine if Zaheer had broken down during the World Cup; we would have lost it there and then. In fact, about a year ago we knew we were over-reliant on Zaheer in Tests and one-dayers.
Success can always tell a lot more than failure can. When you are doing well, if you know why you are doing well, it is always easier to just keep doing the same thing and keep improving alongside. That is what good teams do.
Kiran More, former India selector The biggest review the Indian board needs to do is at the National Cricket Academy [NCA]. It has become a joke. The last time I was there, all the bowlers and batsmen were being just cloned mechanically. I was shocked. You can't have everyone do the same thing. How many cricketers has the NCA helped produce who are at the level of Anil Kumble or Rahul Dravid or Sachin Tendulkar? The NCA has failed in feeding good talent to the national team. It is time the Indian board seriously rethinks how the NCA is run. Kumble [now the NCA chairman] should be given a free rein. He will make sure the right structure is put in place. You can't just have coaches who are equipped with Level 1, 2 certificates. To an extent these guys can help, but you need national cricketers playing a bigger role.
Is it time that at least the most important players get an off-season window? And how long should it ideally be?
Chopra It should be left to the players. I mean, some batsmen might not want that break unless they are playing in all three formats and the IPL. Actually players like Suresh Raina and Virat Kohli are fit and young and don't really need a break. MS Dhoni is the guy who deserves, and should be given, a break. Some of the Indian players who will be involved in the England ODI series will have to directly fly to Hyderabad to play in the Champions League Twenty20 qualifiers three days later.
More importantly, in the last few years the number of injuries have shot up massively and players are breaking down. That needs review.
More The BCCI needs to prioritise the events where players need to play. Look at England and Australia, whose best players don't play in tournaments like the IPL. They are well-compensated.
In India the situation now is such that nobody is held accountable. Look at this season's IPL, where Tendulkar, Gautam Gambhir, Virender Sehwag and Zaheer played with injuries immediately after winning the World Cup. It clearly showed that priority was never given to the England series.
The workload of players needs to be managed really well. Everyone, from the player to the selectors to the physios to the trainers, needs to chalk out a plan and work on it, otherwise this will never change.
Is there a case to offer incentives to players to build their skills in Test cricket? And how do you go about doing that?
Chappell The administrators made their bed. If you are going to provide enormous riches for playing T20 cricket then most people will take the easy way out. Occasionally there comes a Dravid, Tendulkar or a Laxman, who wants to be good Test cricketer, but most people are lazy and opt for the easy way out. It is going to be bloody hard to turn that around.
You can't really solve it by upping the wages in first-class cricket, because if money is the only incentive then you have a problem. The best cricketers I know of are the ones who love playing it well, and because they play it well they get paid well.
This is the problem with cricket administration - they do not think things through. The IPL has done some good things for cricket, but the best of ideas do have downsides. And it is not restricted to India. It is a global malaise.
Chopra There is definitely a good way - make first-class cricket (four-day matches) the key tournament in the country. Then increase the remuneration in the Ranji and Duleep Trophy. At the moment a player gets Rs 1 lakh (US$ 2200 approx) per first-class game, but in the IPL the average player gets about Rs 30 lakhs ($65,000) for 14 T20 matches. So why should he sweat earning Rs 5 lakhs ($10,900) for playing one full season of first-class cricket? That gap needs to be bridged. You need to start rewarding players in domestic cricket.
How can you have the Irani Trophy (October 1-5), a premier domestic tournament and the curtain-raiser to the main domestic season clashing with the Champions League and also the Challenger Trophy? You are actually ridiculing it.
More importantly, keep T20 out of bounds for teenagers. You need to take such radical steps to popularise one format which is losing its sheen - not because the quality of cricket is not there but only because people are not willing to put in those extra hours. Across India most Under-12 and Under-14 tournaments are T20 format. If kids are exposed to the shortest form at such a young age, what will they become eventually?
The dynamics have changed in the last four years - with the IPL coming in, guys playing a lot of cricket, and India having reached the summit. So you need to review a lot of things. The impact of the IPL on domestic cricketers - are these performances prioritised over domestic performances? If we are going to pick a player on his IPL showing, then you are ridiculing the domestic system.
More Our system that needs to change right from the state level. Everybody blames the BCCI for everything, but I will blame the 31 state associations. All the states receive a fantastic amount of money from the Indian board, but they don't make the right use of it. They need to develop the right infrastructure in the form of a good academy, set up a good format of domestic cricket…
I will cite the example of Baroda, where I come from. There are hardly any three-day matches played, so how can a Baroda player develop a good mindset for the longer form? That is not the case in states like Mumbai, Karnataka or Tamil Nadu, where structures are in place and there are different formats that allow youngsters to develop the right skills. So there is a strong need to play the right tournaments at the domestic level. Our state associations are only interested in raking in the money. Building a good stadium does not mean the money is being utilised in the right way. The BCCI does not organise camps at age-group levels. That is the responsibility of the states.
Has the time come to phase out the old guard? How do you do it?
Chopra I definitely do not agree that the time is up for the Big Three. Having said that, what we should have started doing more than a year ago is blooding youngsters. Say, we are playing an inconsequential Test match, like a dead rubber, or against Bangladesh, like last year - it's a good time to throw the youngsters in at the deep end and see if they can stand up. Without really letting go of the senior pros, I would put a new player in a series like the Caribbean tour with a clear process in mind, and not just trying for the sake of trying out a newcomer.
Chappell It was time probably two years ago. There is no doubt that Dravid, Tendulkar and Laxman are certainly among the best batsmen, but have they picked the right young players in the squad? Rohit Sharma is twice as good a batsman as Suresh Raina and he has not yet played Tests. Okay, there may be personality problems, and Rohit might not have a big amount of first-class runs, but you don't worry about all that. You just back your judgement. Some guys adapt to the big stage faster than others.
You can leave guys at the lower level for too long. Graeme Hick is a classic example. He played a lesser standard of cricket way too long and by the time he played Test cricket he had flaws that were found out. If he had played Test cricket earlier maybe he would not have got into sloppy habits. You have got to get Rohit up there and find out whether he can do it.
You do not pick teams to please people; you pick teams to win cricket matches, but while you are always picking a team to win the next game, you are also selecting a team with an eye on the future. Good selectors are good enough to do both: pick a team that will win and also know when the time has come to start making some changes. And it is much easier to make gradual changes rather than have to make four or five changes all at once. Australia have suffered that fate.
Take the Indian fielding, which was atrocious in England. It is going to be worse in Australia, where they will be playing on bigger grounds. You can give an allowance to the Big Three, who have slowed down, but what about some of the youngsters? Absolutely rubbish. India's best fielder can't bat.
The bowling attack struggled in conditions that favoured the bowlers more than they will in Australia. I would love to hear from the selectors what squad they will pick for the Australian tour. If they come with the one seen in England, then good luck.
More The selectors need to take some hard decisions. What was the point of asking Sehwag to come to England when he was half-fit? It would have been better to play Abhinav Mukund instead for four Tests, even if he failed. If there is a senior player who is unfit it is a suitable time to pick a youngster and give him as many chances as possible.
As for the Big Three, we need them, but some time down the line we need to make a call for phasing them out in the right fashion. After the World Cup win, nobody is bothered anymore. You have to make some tough calls even if people might not like it. If you don't do that at the right moment, it will only be bad for Indian cricket.
Does India have a pool of fast bowlers? How do you create one and manage it?
Venkatesh Prasad, former India bowling coach You have to travel around the country if you are a coach and attend important matches like Ranji Trophy or Duleep Trophy finals to check if there is any interesting talent coming along. You have to go and talk to the people at the domestic level and gather information. There should be a pool of shortlisted players who will be sent to the zonal cricket academies and then the NCA. I do agree with the opinion that Indians bowlers have not been fit.
When India won the World Twenty20 in 2007, there was a trainer like Greg King working his backside off to make sure the players were at their peak. He made sure every player was religiously following the routine he had given them, and if the player was not doing so, King personally ensured it was being followed. In the last two years fitness has been left to the individuals, but fitness is something where you need to push the players. To a certain extent, yes, it is a personal responsibility, but you need to raise the bar and you need someone to push you.
As for the pool of fast bowlers I can confidently say that India have a good bunch of six to seven bowlers. But these bowlers need to be given a break after the IPL for about 15 days. After that get them to the NCA where you work only on their fitness to begin with, during this off season. Make sure there is personal attention given to each of them and push them to work hard. Don't make them bowl a lot as they do that during the domestic season. I would make them bowl two sessions in a week during the off season. During the remaining time work on their fielding and fitness. Also get them in batches of five to seven bowlers, and every 10 days work with a different batch. This way you are working on about 15 to 20 bowlers.
And if the player has a BCCI contract, make sure he is always around doing something at the NCA. You can't have guys holidaying somewhere and suddenly being recalled to the team.
As you come closer to the season you need to taper down the speed- and agility- and strengthening conditioning and focus more on your bowling. You have to bowl a helluva lot of overs to get match-fit.
Our bowlers have the talent, but I am not sure about the planning during a series. Have we been bowling to our strengths? Have we analysed the opposition? Look at England, how they have tried to map Sachin Tendulkar's brains and work out algorithms to work him out. When I was a bowling coach, I would make it a point to have a chat as a bowling group in the coffee shop once we got back to the team hotel after the day's play.
Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo