Indian cricket 50 years behind
Massive decisions like the shift of captaincy have been communicated via press releases.

The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) is the richest cricketing body in the world, and by some distance at that. It plays the most international matches in a year on most occasions and also organizes the Indian Premier League (IPL), the most lucrative franchise league globally. Indian players earn hefty sums through exorbitant BCCI contracts, unending endorsements, and IPL deals. However, despite all this, one wonders whether Indian cricket is at least 50 years behind nations like England and Australia. There are a few pertinent reasons that raise this giant question.

If we look at the organization of tournaments, the IPL 2023 final and the first Ashes 2023 Test between England and Australia demonstrated a stark contrast. Despite possessing all the means to have the best resources available, the BCCI employed what on screen seemed like ‘ancient’ methods to try and get the pitch at the Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad ready for the final between Chennai Super Kings (CSK) and Gujarat Titans (GT) after constant rain hampered proceedings. Eventually, the efforts did not succeed, and the match had to be pushed into Reverse Day. Luckily, there was a result, even though rain also interrupted the final.

In contrast, the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) completed the Test match at Edgbaston despite incessant rain lashing the ground in Birmingham. In fact, there was a time when puddles seemed to form everywhere. At first look, it did not seem like any play could be possible on Day 5. But once the rain subsided, the groundsmen got to work and ensured that the place was fit and ready for the players to complete what was a pulsating climax to the enthralling Test match. IPL 2023, too, had a sensational finish, but images of how the pitch was being dried after rain caused quite an embarrassment to Indian cricket.

Allowing players to critique their own body

Rather refreshingly, England’s current cricketers in the Ashes 2023 were openly critical of the surface on offer at Edgbaston for the opening Test of the five-match series. Writing in a column for The Telegraph, England bowling James Anderson described the pitch for the first Test as ‘kryptonite’ and opined, “If all the pitches are like that, I’m done in the Ashes series. That pitch was like kryptonite for me. There was not much swing, no reverse swing, no seam movement, bounce, or no. I’ve tried over the years to hone my skills to bowl in any condition, but everything I tried made no difference. I felt like I was fighting an uphill battle.”

His longtime opening bowling partner Stuart Broad also backed Anderson in one of his columns and was critical of the pitch for the opening Test, saying there was no movement for the England great, who failed to make an impact at Edgbaston. Similarly, Australian players, too, are openly vocal about their board. Current players being allowed to write columns in magazines, newspapers, and digital media is something the England and Wales Cricket Board [ECB] must be commended for. It shows they are open to criticism and willing to take backlash in their stride.

Can we expect the same in India? The answer is not too hard to find out. When was the last time an active cricketer openly spoke out about something wrong in Indian cricket? As per the current stars, everything in Indian cricket is ‘all good’ irrespective of how poor the results are. Active players, particularly contracted ones, are obviously not allowed to express their ‘frank’ opinion on controversial matters related to Indian cricket and are often seen ‘toeing the line’, whether at press conferences or even in their social media posts. The day a player can speak his mind freely and express his thoughts without worrying about the backlash will be a huge one in the context of the evolution of Indian cricket.

Where are the press conferences?

Press conferences communicate with the media and the fans regarding key aspects of the game. But when it comes to team selection, the same seems to have been thrown out of the window as far as Indian cricket is concerned. When was a selector last present at a press conference and answered questions forthrightly? It has happened probably once or twice in the last couple of years.

Massive decisions like the shift of captaincy have been communicated via press releases. Remember how Rohit Sharma replacing Virat Kohli as ODI captain was just a footnote in the squad press release for the South Africa tour? No specific reason was given, and it all led to a massive hullabaloo in Indian cricket. Speculations of all not being well in Indian cricket arose, and the same continues to this day. Due to a lack of communication from the BCCI, a number of reports are filed on the basis of sources, which feature some shocking claims.

The same lack of coherence has been evident in how the team for the West Indies tour was also announced. No one knows whether senior batter Cheteshwar Pujara has been dropped or rested. Further, the suspense over Sarfaraz Khan’s continued non-selection is playing out like a Bollywood potboiler. Claims of indiscipline, lack of fitness and counter-allegations have been flying thick and fast. No one knows the actual situation, and the confusion is only growing with each passing day.

The case of Ajinkya Rahane being reappointed as Test vice-captain after one good match in the World Test Championship (WTC) final against Australia at The Oval is equally baffling, particularly because one cannot quite fathom the logic behind the decision. The question marks are endless, and there are no answers in sight due to the clear lack of transparency. Indian cricket deserves better. Period.