Indian cricket resembles Chelsea FC
After Jose Mourinho was fired in September 2007, Chelsea FC have had eight different managers in five years. That is a huge figure of imbalance whichever way you look at it. Stamford Bridge is a comic stage for football, with its army of influential senior players and a revolving door for managers. To the neutrals (read critics), it is run by a mad Russian billionaire who only cares about the number of trophies in his cabinet. The Blues' fans, though, believe that is a good thing essentially, for they don't really have any other option.
Indian cricket fans too don't really have an option at the moment, but to watch a staggering mess unfold in front of their eyes. Despite its revenge billing, the team is trailing 2-1 in a four-Test series against England. The selectors wielded the axe and brought new names in, ones that don't do much to negate the evident desperation. A must-win match looms at Nagpur but that has been pushed into the background. Former selector Mohinder Amarnath has reared a storm over MS Dhoni's captaincy, and the latter himself has done much harm with rumours abounding of his complaints against Gautam Gambhir.
Soap operas showcase less drama in one week.
The root cause of this chaos is the Indian team's lack of performance. Make that lack of fighting spirit, lack of attitude to portray themselves as a unit, lack of accountability, so on and so forth. The list is endless at the moment and what makes it worse is the small matter of players walking into press conferences, denying that anything is wrong with them. Maybe they should look at statistics from the past year or so, for sometimes they do tell a tale.
Yes, the selectors have wielded the axe in a bid to get the right result in the fourth Test at Nagpur. Maybe it will work, maybe it won't. But the truth is that a drawn series should not hinder the BCCI from taking the right steps in order to make sure that this transition process gone awry is routed back to its correct path. The problem herein is intent.
There are two ways to look at Mohinder Amarnath outing the BCCI president's intervention in selection matters. One, he has done the game a great service and perhaps there will now be enough pressure mounted through media channels to get the job done properly. Questions will be asked if the selections, going forward, have been made on merit, or is there some prejudice behind them.
And two, Amarnath has just jumped on the criticism bandwagon, like other selectors on the same panel. There is nothing wrong with it, you might say, he has struck when the iron is hot. But this is Indian cricket and its many shenanigans we are talking about. When is the iron not hot?
If Amarnath really was brave and heroic, he would have taken a stand as soon as he was axed from the selection committee in September. Or prior to that, when the BCCI was doling out its one-time IPL cash benefits to ex-cricketers. His cause is ultimately a good one, though the timing is highly dodgy. He has chosen to come out when no questions will be asked as to why the selectors kow-towed to the demands of administrators.
However, what this has done is place the spotlight on Dhoni and his skipper's hat. At the end of the Australian tour, if the selectors had gone ahead and named either Gambhir or Virender Sehwag (depending on what report you choose to believe!) captain, it would have been the wrong decision. Both of them were short on runs, form and confidence, not necessarily in that order. Now too, they are not sailing through, just managing to stay afloat instead on the basis of an odd innings played against England.
Even so, if India does go down in this Test series, by 2-1 or 3-1, then Dhoni should be sacked as Indian Test skipper. There might not be too many captaincy alternatives even now, but things are getting desperate and this is when you take desperate measures. Pick a team for the Australia series (when the time comes) and then name a captain from among them. Change in leadership, whoever that might be, will bring in some fresh ideas. If not, nothing much will change and at least the fans will have something new to complain about.
The underlying point though is this. The Gambhir complaint (if the rumours are true), the fact that India have been on a one-way downhill slide since the 2011 World Cup and the now-reported matter of the BCCI president's intervention in his captaincy, have made Dhoni's position as skipper untenable, despite the possibility of India winning at Nagpur and levelling the series 2-2.
What Indian cricket needs is a Roman Abramovich to come forth and wipe the slate clean. He needs to sack the team management, set forth a process to identify a capable new coach and captain, giving them a free rope to re-build the team. He needs to send out a message to the erring seniors, to either fall in line or be culled by the selectors.
Sadly enough, on past and current evidence, N Srinivasan is not that man.