September 1, 2011

Let Kumble take charge of the Indian team

The BCCI needs to consider giving a three-member body, with Kumble as its head, complete responsibility for the side

India's Test series in England gave us a peek into the depth of Indian cricket, and that for me is more worrying than the 4-0 result.

Very often you get talent without having to look for it, but that does not mean it's not important to have the right systems in place. At the cost of being labelled naïve, here is my five-point programme of change for Indian cricket.

Declare a goal
It has never been India's style to set goals and make plans to pursue them, but if the BCCI announces its goal and its priorities, there will automatically be pressure on everyone connected with Indian cricket, right from the grassroots level, to do what it takes to achieve that goal.

That goal must be to be the No. 1 Test team, which means you place Test cricket at the top of your priorities. Test cricket has been a real surprise package in recent times. With the rise in popularity of Twenty20 cricket, many of us thought Test cricket would just fade away, but instead, Test performances and match results have made the greatest impact on the sport.

Take the last Ashes in Australia, where England won the Test series and retained the Ashes. That's what people remember today. Nobody recalls that England were thrashed 6-1 in the one-day series that followed.

Cricket Australia, through the Argus report, has already placed Test cricket as its No. 1 priority. It's time India did the same.

I recently saw Chris Gayle dive and lunge - he usually walks about like he's just had a heavy dinner - during the IPL. Financial incentive aside, I believe it was also because the owner of his team was at the ground, watching like a hawk.

We need Indian players to feel the same when playing for India. Of course, playing for the country and its million die-hard cricket fans should be the ultimate motivation, but when you are playing every day of the year, it ceases to be all that special every time. To get players to take that extra effort, they need to understand there is one person who they must impress to keep their places in the team. Ideally this person should be the coach, but for that he needs to be given more powers than he currently has, starting with a vote in selection.

The BCCI has a lot on its plate other than managing the Indian cricket team, so it's time the board gave complete charge to perhaps a three-member team (excluding the captain), which could comprise the national coach, the chairman of selectors, and one person who's in charge, who makes the plans, manages the team and liaises with the BCCI to ensure the team is always on track to achieve its goals. I can't think of a better man than Anil Kumble to be assigned this task.

This management team must be paid very well, for it will have a high-profile, high-pressure job - that of taking care of the biggest brand in Indian cricket, the national team.

Earmark important series in the calendar and manage players accordingly
India underestimated the significance of the England tour. As it turned out, it was a series the whole world was watching (and one that decided the No. 1 ranking). In the future the management body described above could decide internally which series deserve the most importance and draw plans accordingly to make sure the best players are available and well prepared for them.

Make fitness a priority
If you wish to represent India, skills alone are not going to be enough. You also need have close-to-international standards of fitness. This message must be sent out loud and clear to all those aspiring to play for India. Frequent injuries to a player have to be held against him. And once you have the given the necessary powers to the coach, this should not be difficult to achieve. It was embarrassing to see some players overweight when they came to England. I have noticed that the players who seem to have lost some of the edge in their performances are the ones who are six to seven kilos heavier than they used to be.

Make Test cricket the most lucrative form of cricket
This is purely an administrative matter for the BCCI to undertake, and if the will is there, it should be simple enough. Test cricket sets the brand value of a country's cricket, so it makes sense for it to be the most lucrative form of the game. Granted, the five-day format doesn't generate that kind of money, but it's always possible to channel the earnings from other formats to Test cricket so that a Rahul Dravid makes more money playing Tests than a Suresh Raina does playing T20.

I feel a lot of us hold a permanent grudge against the IPL and have found this a good time to get our own back, as it were, by holding it responsible for the England disaster. I think that if the time between the IPL and the England tour was managed better, vis a vis the players, things may not have been as disastrous. But I believe India can still be the No. 1 Test team in the world while letting the IPL have its seven weeks a year. It's just a matter of setting the right priorities.

Former India batsman Sanjay Manjrekar is a cricket commentator and presenter on TV. His Twitter feed is here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • San on September 4, 2011, 10:47 GMT

    First thing to do is to prepare sporting pitches in Indian domestic cricket. Then select players who play well on this pitches. The main reason for India debacle is technical deficiency in batsmen to cope very good bowling in seaming conditions. Mainly our star players couldnt deal with bowls which are angling in and leaving the batsman.Resuly edges to slips. Ex Dhoni,Like laxman,sehwag. Simply saying we lost the series mainly due todrawback in technique . Coming to our bowlers, frankly at present we dont have talent to take 20 wickets against good teams. This is fact.Lets face it.

    Secondly selection issue. The main problem is, selectorts dont have intrest to watch domestic matches and judge players quality. Why is yuvaraj given more chances and why badrinath not even given single chance. (Leading run scorrer in ranji for three years). Thay say if you get Badrinath out, thats it.

    Many more steps need to be taken.

  • Dummy4 on September 4, 2011, 5:21 GMT

    Most importnt - get rid of entities like Venkatesh Prasad. If you feel I am talking without any sense, look at 1 fact Prasad has been in and around the India bowlers from the time they became India bowlers. Look at the impact on - Zaheer Khan, Irfan Pathan, Sree Santh, Ishant Sharma ..... All of them had to go back out of the India team to domestic cricket to rebuild themselves. Some succeeded in the rebuild & came back like Zaheer - others have disappeared since Prasad has destroyed them. He just does not seem to understand that you should let a man do what suits him best.

  • Krish on September 3, 2011, 21:05 GMT

    Sanjay, this has been a fab discussion, but, alas, will remain on these pages with BCCI doing nix. In addition to my earlier comments on Sep 1 at bott, i'd say the wickets and conditions are vital. If the BCCI's coffers are overflowing, what does it take to prepare some sporting and lively wickets, to start with in Bangalore, at the practice Academy and at Mohali, simulating foreign conditions so that at least the camps and the season openers ( Challenger, Irani, and add Duleep to that ) that govern selection can be held at these grounds?

  • surya on September 3, 2011, 17:49 GMT

    Stop these thing, First change the grooming systems of the young cricketers. If well groomed 1000 bret lees, malingas, aktars can be manufactured in India. But what u do is just pick the one who took most wickets in domestic. "SEE HOW THEY TOOK WICKETS INSTEAD OF SEEING HOW MANY WICKETS THEY TOOK".

  • Srinivas on September 3, 2011, 13:42 GMT

    Sanjay, thanks for backing IPL. IPL is here to stay for economic reasons if not for cricket reasons. Yes, test cricket needs to be made lucrative and some test match players should get huge money so that youngsters know that there is envious money in test match cricket as well if they can establish themselves as test match players. But then, if that money is equal to IPL money, then probably the youngsters may choose IPL because t20 batting is much easier than test match batting. So, the money for test match batting has to be double the money that an IPL batsman can get. How easy is that? Not so easy. But for a start, they can start by offering at least equal money to test match batting to some batsmen (Dravid, Gambhir, Sachin and VVS) and see how it panes out. IPL is priceless and so is Test Cricket. I am one of the most vocal supporters of IPL. That doesn't mean I'm a hater of Test Cricket. I love test match cricket THE MOST. But, to love TESTS deeply, you don't have to hate IPL.

  • malkeet on September 3, 2011, 9:08 GMT

    i hope the injured/fatigued players are fit and ready for the champions league...and the first one to declare himself fully fit 4 CL will be ofcourse ZAHEER KHAN...he is going like this 4 last two IPLs.....

  • Hari on September 3, 2011, 6:09 GMT

    How can Kumble heat Team India? He has just taken up the top job at KSCA and needs to figure out how the game needs to be managed. His next hop should be as BCCI President to disentangle Indian cricket from the hands of politicians and their minions like Gavaskar and Shastri and maybe a few more. Of course I agree that Test Crickt should be made the most lucrative format.

  • Dummy4 on September 3, 2011, 4:20 GMT

    @ WTEH "......But you.... who do you think you are. Come to think of it, it is amazing that you have guts to point out flaws in the current team....." sanjay only made an observation. it is upto to you to agree or not. so what if he didnt achieve as much as sachin did? does that rob him of his right to make an point? are you trying to say there should be no commentators at all? they all achieved less than sachin, and they all can tell the audience how and why he got out, cant they? even a john buchanan who played fewer than 20 first class matches was at the helm of australian affairs.

  • V.L on September 3, 2011, 0:43 GMT

    100% true. We must make test cricket no.1 priority. If you can play test cricket everything wil be cake walk. Even an inexperienced lad like Ajinkya Rahane proved it(he averages 65+ in FC cricket). Its time that we prepped the likes of Manish Pandey, Cheteswar Pujara, Kohli and the like to be the batting stalwarts of the future. As for bowling we have got some pacy fast bowlers in Ranji circuit like Umesh Yadav, Varun Aaron etc., who can consistently bowl 145+. If groomed well these guys will really wreck the batting lineup. Its about time we got an able fast bowler as a bowling coach.

  • Dummy4 on September 2, 2011, 18:11 GMT

    I would like to see kumble being given an important role in BCCI to manage this indian team. He should be groomed now so that some day we want him to coach an indian team. His commitment, discipline, hard work & love for the game should be passed on to future generation.

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