Number 1, and after

For a change, a nicely nuanced post on India’s becoming number one on the ICC Test table — from Harsha Bhogle, so that is not too surprising.

Besides asking why journalists in other countries seem to have such a problem with India’s new position, he makes a pertinent point:

And so while India must celebrate, it must be with a sense of history. This lot of players has put the ribbon on the box, but the cake was baked by many; they have scored a goal but you usually cannot do so unless someone has passed the ball to you. And that is why the only aspect of this moment that disturbs me is the cash award to this team. I am not a huge fan of cash awards to professional players – they are presumably paid to win anyway – but the announcement of this particular one ignores the fact that various others set it up over the last five years.

In particular, India have been served by three very fine captains before the hugely impressive current incumbent. Very few good teams win with inadequate leaders anyway. Under Sourav Ganguly, India realised that winning overseas was an option, and India have much for which to thank a player the world found very convenient to misunderstand. Rahul Dravid was the perfect captain to follow, with his strong commitment to the team and to the cause. It is easily forgotten that under him India won in the West Indies for the first time in 35 years and in England for the first time in 21. And Anil Kumble was the leader at a decisive moment in Indian cricket: in Australia in 2008, where the Test win in Perth must rank on par with the win at Kolkata in 2001 for significance.

Harsha has a point — too often, in celebrating the moment, we tend to forget that it is merely the culmination of a succession of moments that have produced agony and ecstasy in unequal measure; moments that we have lived through and promptly forgotten, without realizing where it was all leading us.

Harsha’s take-away:

But as with all success, India must celebrate the moment and move on. Australia and South Africa are fine teams and Sri Lanka have just the man to drive their transition. As business leaders will tell you, it is more difficult to stay on top than to get there. India need to groom batting replacements, and there are only two on the horizon: the scarcely tested Murali Vijay and the untested Cheteshwar Pujara. Harbhajan Singh desperately needs competition to take him to another level, but more important, India will have to find a way to ensure that players of serious ability, like Rohit Sharma, Sreesanth, Ishant and RP Singh, don’t lose their way. And it will call for people with vision at the top. They exist but they are in a bit of a melee at the moment with others of various hues and political colour.

PS: Stepping away from the blog for a bit. Thoughts about the second T20, if any occur, on Sunday.

The good news/bad news post

The BCCI is working on getting the UCBSA to agree to drop two one day internationals and play Tests instead. The bad news, of a kind, is that if it happens it will be merely a two-Test series. Ah well — the thought of cutting back on ODIs in favor of Tests is worth applauding. And we get to watch Tests against opposition stiffer than Bangladesh and Zimbabwe, in the year coming up. Yay. [The cynical side of me — a very large side, when it comes to the BCCI — says this is a reflection of the BCCI’s realization that now India is number one in the ICC rankings table, it can effectively monetize a match-up between the ‘champions’ and the ‘challengers’. But hush.]

The everything for everybody list

The usual Friday rush with India Abroad — helps that there are no major cricketing themes to serve as distraction. Have a review of an interesting cricket book to do, but will get to that over the weekend.

Here’s something to occupy your time while I go make pages: The Time annual list, which is as comprehensive as it gets.

When time permits, will do the usual random riffs on Twitter. Have a good weekend, you guys.