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Wednesday, March 07, 2012 at 10 : 34

Indian cricket must accept it needs improving


Statistics are known to hide a lot more than they reveal, yet when they do the talking, they can be pretty unforgiving. A look at India's report card overseas, since June 2011, tells us just that. Two whitewashes in England and Australia made the score line 0-8 in Test matches, while a whitewash in England and a below-average performance in the CB Series in Australia made it 3-7 in ODIs with two tied games.

Post the England debacle, the 'wise men' made us believe that it was the players' injuries that had marred our chances and that India's appalling performance overseas was merely an aberration. Little did we realize then, that even if injuries had played spoilsport, we still needed to work on our bench strength. After all, good teams don't mull over the personnel they are missing, for they always have able replacements ready. Did Australia miss Shane Warne in the 2003 World Cup?

A couple of months of decent show in India following the humiliation suffered in England was enough to put us back into our cocoons, all was well with the world. The tour to Australia was expected to reinforce our stature as one of the best teams in the world. England could have easily been forgotten as a one-off had the team redeemed its lost glory in Australia - wins Down Under don't come easily and hence are rated highly.

Unfortunately, cricket exposes all and is a great leveler. If there are noticeable chinks in one's armoury, they are bound to get exposed. The whitewash in Test series happened despite fielding the 'best team', and the ordinary ODI performances had nothing to do with injuries. It's imperative to wake up from the slumber, at least now.

The first step towards improvement is acceptance, for you can't change a thing till you believe that something needs to be changed. We could take a cue from Cricket Australia, who conducted an in-depth Argus Review following the Ashes loss. They appointed a committee, which had no affiliations or biases. While such an expansive review doesn't look like a real possibility, the responsibility thus lies squarely on the selectors' shoulders. They could either conveniently find a few scapegoats or invest in long-term goals. Dropping the seniors and blooding the youth has been the most predictable suggestion post the outcome. But does it really serve the purpose when the so-called 'youth' has been equally disappointing?

Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman and Sachin Tendulkar aren't going to be there forever and hence their lack of performance isn't any earth shattering news. The question that begs to be asked is have we managed to unearth any talent (barring Virat Kohli) who looks like filling these shoes? The youngsters who are likely to replace these men aren't spring chickens anymore and hence their failure overseas is an area of grave concern. This obsession with youth can only work if the youth has the technique, the temperament and, more importantly, the hunger to do well away from the comforts of home conditions and preferable formats.

The Indian selectors can use these 18 months of playing cricket in the sub-continent as an opportunity to find players who are likely to succeed overseas. Investing in such players may mean losing a few games even in the sub-continent, but that's a small price to pay to ensure success where it matters. While selecting the team for the Asia Cup, selectors had the opportunity to make such a statement with an eye on the future but, unfortunately, they picked the team to realize a short-term goal, perhaps even to appease the outraged fans.


More about Aakash Chopra

Aakash Chopra is the 245th Indian to represent India in Test Cricket. A batsman in the traditional mould, he played 10 Tests for the country in 2003-04, and has played over 120 first-class matches. He is considered one of the best close-in fielders India has produced after the legendary Eknath Solkar. Chopra made a formidable opening combination with Virender Sehwag, which was believed to be one of the reasons for India's success in Australia and Pakistan in 2003-04. A grand total of 783 runs came off Chopra's bat in Delhi's title-winning Ranji Trophy in 2007-08. Chopra currently plays for the Rajasthan Royals of the Indian Premier League and represents Rajasthan in the Ranji Trophy, after having played for Delhi for over a decade. He also amassed a massive total of 734 runs in Rajasthan’s Ranji victory in the year 2010-11. In 2009, Chopra turned author with Beyond the Blues: A First-Class Season Like No Other. The book garnered critical appreciation while Cricket Pundits like Suresh Menon claimed it to be "the best book written by an Indian test cricketer” in his review for www.cricinfo.com. Aakash continues to tell the story of Indian cricket, its frustrations and fantasies, through his popular weekly column in The Hindustan Times, www.yahoo.com, www.cricketnext.com, sports magazines and through various TV shows.