There were 12 teams at the World Twenty20. Eleven of them reached the West Indies in advance. They attempted to acclimatise to the time zone, the pitches, the light – the Caribbean morning glare so different from floodlit Indian nights. They played two warm-up games, tested combinations, and did whatever it is that teams do to gee themselves up before a big event. Do guess the missing side.
The Indians were unavailable for this most elementary of pre-tournament disciplines because their entire team, as opposed to a few players, was in the IPL. It is one thing for Australia or England to absorb Cameron White or Kevin Pietersen into their set-ups, which work on in their absence, quite another for India, which cannot run at all.
There was nothing unforeseen about this situation. Gary Kirsten, a good and sensible coach, raised these issues after the debacle of the last World Twenty20. He was told to shut up. Nor were the World Twenty20 dates a surprise. They were announced last July. The Indian board, learning from the last time, ought to have done everything in its power to free its cricketers a fortnight ahead. Four days they granted. It takes 24 hours to reach the West Indies.
Sunil Gavaskar and Ravi Shastri claim that their remit on the IPL governing council is over cricketing matters, and yet they ratified a schedule like this. Shameless. No less hypocritical are the reactions of the commentators who are besides themselves when India fits in just the one first-class game on a tour to Australia.
A must-read column by Rahul Bhattacharya.
Those who must read it include the likes of Sunil Gavaskar, who was quick to rubbish MS Dhoni’s use of the IPL schedule as an ‘excuse’ for India’s poor performance at the world level but forgot to mention that he is a paid apologist for the BCCI and the IPL; Virender Sehwag, who put his shoulder out during the IPL but maintained that the private league was great preparation for the World Cup; and even the likes of Yusuf Pathan, who failed to figure out that hitting DLF Maximums over considerably shortened boundaries and playing the best innings Shane Warne has ever seen in his life wouldn’t be of much use when it came to the world stage.
On similar lines, also read this column:
Coach Gary Kirsten’s dressing down of the team on their last day in St Lucia did not pertain to a new issue with the team. “While everybody is talking about lack of fitness now, I brought to the team management’s notice the fitness problem – not only with bowlers, but the team as a whole – last year,” says Venkatesh Prasad, India’s former bowling coach who was sacked last October, no reasons given. “It wasn’t taken in the right spirit.” Kirsten’s complaints last year weren’t taken in the right spirit either, and he was subsequently gagged.
Something similar, only much more damning, can be said of some of the batsmen’s troubles against short-pitched bowling.
“Everyone is now talking about how this started about 10 months ago,” says a current India player. “Four or five years earlier, when they first came into international cricket, even then they needed to work on the short ball. You need to practise it in the nets, facing bouncers and getting good people to bowl at you. But they don’t like facing bouncers and are upset about it.”