London: The cricket officials in India have been urged by the new editor of the Wisden Cricketers' Almanack to abandon the "self-interest of the few" and concentrate instead upon improving their team's Test results.
India is cricket's financial powerhouse, with the passionate following for the sport in the world's second most populous nation making its broadcast and commercial rights the most valuable in the game. As a result, India is able to attract leading players from around the world to the lucrative but domestic Twenty20 Indian Premier League (IPL) tournament. However, five-day Test cricket is still regarded by the officials and players as the ultimate form of the sport, yet in 2011 India were whitewashed in a series in England before suffering a similar fate in 2012 in Australia.
But 2011 also saw India lift the one-day World Cup for the first time in 28 years after they triumphed on home soil to beat Sri Lanka in a final in Mumbai. In the 2012 Wisden, the almanack's new editor, Lawrence Booth, an English cricket journalist – writes, "India have ended up with a special gift: the clout to shape an entire sport. Some national boards would struggle to survive without an Indian visit."
"But too often their game appears driven by the self-interest of the few – officials unable to admit that injuries collected in or aggravated by the IPL damaged their side's chances in England; capable of suggesting disregard for the innings defeat at Sydney in January 2012 by responding with the breathless news of the schedule for IPL 5; and happy to whitewash the whitewashes with constant reference to the World Cup."
Booth added the rest of cricket's leading nations were not paragons of virtue either but that the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) were in a unique position. "Other countries run the game along [the] self-serving lines too; cricket's boardrooms are not awash with altruism. But none wields the BCCI's power, nor shares their responsibility."
"The disintegration of India's feted batting line-up has coincided with the rise of a Twenty20-based nationalism, the growth of private marketeers and high-level conflicts of interest. It is a perfect storm. And the global game sits unsteadily in the eye. India, your sport needs you."
Booth, turning his fire on officials elsewhere in the world, also said any Test series not involving Bangladesh and Zimbabwe, the five-day game's two weakest nations, must be for a minimum of three matches.
"At international level, the administrators' insistence on Test cricket's primacy has been stated so often as to have lost any meaning," he wrote. "The proof of the pudding came in a canape - the two-Test series in November between South Africa and Australia, when a pair of classics left the players craving [for] a decider."
Once a review primarily of English cricket alone, Wisden, published annually and continuously since 1864, is now widely regarded as world cricket's leading reference work and known as the sport's 'bible'.