Team Debacle

At the start of the cricket world cup, it was mentioned in this column that there will be immense pressure on the teams and players and that this may not be a good thing for their preparation leading up to the matches. No one would have predicted the demolition of two big teams from the sub-continent at the hands of the so called minnows of world cricket. The early exit of Pakistan and India is therefore quite shocking and has robbed the tournament of much of the shine. Both Pakistan and India were felled not by superior teams but by the pressure and huge expectations from their cricket crazy countries. When we talk of pressure, it also relates to the mental state of the players involved and how they are able to maintain calm and remain focus on the game at hand. And when the mind is disturbed, no amount of talent or past records can help you play to your best of abilities. Clearly, India did not play to their potential. They had one of the best team on paper but yet failed because they crumbled under pressure. The Srilanka game is a fine example of this debacle where the batsmen did not apply themselves to the situation. 

There is also much truth in the criticism that Indian cricketers are today playing only for the love of money and fame. Cricketers are treated as demigods in India by their fans. Precisely for this, once the cricketers reach a certain level of public acceptance or star quality, they are taken on the spiraling journey of commercial exploitation by the over zealous marketing companies. And because there is so much money to be earned by signing up for brands and products, cricketers themselves succumb to such things. Most members of the present Indian team have become ‘brand players’ rather than cricket players and thus the twin pressure—people’s expectation weighing down on them and also having to walk the tight rope between facing the opposition on the field and facing the camera for their next shot. It goes to show the degeneration cricket as a sport in India.

The state of Indian cricket is today in a sorry situation and the blame cannot go only to the Coach or the Captain. It is a collective failure of the entire system which runs the show including the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI). The early exit from the world cup, though humiliating, is a good opportunity for serious introspection on the state of Indian cricket. A lesson has to be learned from teams like Australia, South Africa and New Zealand where the player’s first duty is cricket and not going after mercenary gains. It is surprising that although Indian players are well paid by the cricket board, they are allowed to partake in such distractions with impunity. The BCCI needs to bring in a code of conduct to rein in such activities to a respectable level so that the future of the game in India is not reduced to such low levels of commercial exploitation.