Will the real India please stand up?

Friday, 19 August 2011

What a let down that series in England’s been. I’d been looking forward to it for a long time, however only one team has pitched up, spoiling what was potentially a thrilling contest.
Of course the blame game started in earnest after the Edgbaston Test, with India’s lack of preparation and the IPL all being held responsible for their inept displays.
I’d wondered what happened to the Indian team I saw in Durban last December. That was a side with a stomach for a fight, with good fast bowlers able to take advantage of conditions which helped them. Their catching was outstanding too but so was their general attitude to the game.
That’s not the side that’s been playing in England. India in England have looked horribly out of their depth, that bowling that lit up Kingsmead has gone missing and the batsmen have either looked scared (Suresh Raina) or technically deficient.
It can’t all be because of Gary Kirsten can it? The fact is the Indian players need a break. They barely had time to celebrate their World Cup win before being thrust into the IPL. A week after that finished a number of them – except those who weren’t injured like Virender Sehwag and Zaheer Khan – were off to the West Indies. A week after that trip finished they were in England.
Without playing in a warm-up game they were thrown into the Lord’s Test and though they played well for three and half days, they were eventually blown away on the final day.
A similar scenario played itself out in the second Test and in the third they were simply decimated in Birmingham. The big worry now is, will India still maintain its interest in Test cricket now that they have lost their No 1 ranking? Certainly outside of cities like Bangalore, Kolkata and Chennai, Test cricket has little interest – just witness the crowds at last year’s Test which South Africa won in Nagpur and even the match the Australians played in Chandigarh last November.
The IPL is a massive beast that rakes in the television cash and the BCCI, despite interest waning somewhat this year, are considering expanding it still further. Where will there be room for Test matches? And with the money in the IPL being so enormous will young Indian kids even bother with Test cricket?
The next 18 months will be vital for Indian cricket (and by extension world cricket) as the likes of Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman begin weighing retirement. There are certainly some talented young India batsmen around, but will their priorities be Test cricket or the IPL?


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