The Indian team – Through the prism of an industry

Rain in the Capital

Forget about the fact that the ‘disgraced’ (rather, ‘allegedly disgraced’) BCCI chief N Srinavasan shall, in all possibility, be back in business very soon.

Forget the fact that, just a month or two ago, MS Dhoni was under fire for indulging in alleged collusion activities with a certain sports management firm.

Forget everything that does not unnecessarily glorify Indian cricket, and concentrate on the fact that India has won a series again – starting with the Australian whitewash earlier this year, this series victory is the fourth on the trot for the ‘once-downtrodden’ India. Zimbabwe was no match for the Indians, anyway. But, again, let us forget that fact – for it does not augment India’s shine and glory in any way.

So, we are on a winning spree, the team is oozing with truckloads of confidence, the youngsters have responded well to the call of duty and, to our great fortune, even the bench-warmers seem to be competing hard to get into the playing XI on a consistent basis and, of course, the drill with a second-rate side had worked wonderfully well.

All that and much more mundanely await us when we care to take just a glimpse of any of the ‘official’ news pits of BCCI. The tenet underlying such statements remains the same – glorify Indian cricket, whenever possible.

There is a very elementary principle on which most of the high-flying entrepreneurial ventures operate nowadays; the organisations, irrespective of big or small, split their repository of resources into two halves – bottleneck resources and non-bottleneck resources.

The former category includes those that are forever ‘behind the schedule’ and the latter includes the ones that are more or less in tune with what is demanded of them. If we allow ourselves to look closely at our fond cricket team, we shall note that it too operates on the same lines as any business enterprise. Hence, it is not exempt from the resource bifurcation rule, as mentioned above.

Let us now observe how this outlandish correlation helps uncover a few disturbing elements in Indian cricket. Then, we shall see what tours like the recently concluded one to Zimbabwe actually do to address those issues.

Bottleneck resources  As defined earlier, these are resources that tend to ‘inhibit’ the progress of any outfit driven by the zeal to achieve certain goals. In the Indian team, this variety includes two species for now – the ‘opening slot’ and the pacers. One end of the opening combination appears to be on a firm footing by now (Shikhar Dhawan), but the other end is still as shaky as it was a year ago.

It is true that after being presented with the opener’s bat and a sponsor’s sticker to adorn it, Rohit Sharma has indeed managed to climb out of the well of despondency and uninhibited stretch of deplorable failures; but, it is also equally true that he has not done enough to call himself ‘the opener’ that India ‘needs’.

In order to avoid being too pontifical of this situation, the best that I can say about Rohit’s stint as an opener is ‘mediocre’. Add to that the free run that he had got in the middle order for the past five years of his life, and his records looks even more shaky.

And, if this is the standard that is to be accepted without any complaints, then what was wrong with Gautam Gambhir? A fishy question, it seems, but the answer is excruciatingly difficult to unearth from an unbiased point of view.

Now, coming to the pacers. The sudden key to unrestricted access to easy victories seems to have given our team management enough leeway to break free of orthodoxy and experiment, to their hearts’ content, with the speed department. So, we see new faces galore in the team for a certain series, officially deemed ‘inconsequential’ to the team’s record sheet.

The likes of Mohammed Shami, Jaydev Unadkat and Vinay Kumar make it to the playing XI with great pomp and honour, bowl their hearts out and come out of the African continent with their heads held high. But what after that? Most of them go back to the dungeon of domestic cricket and the usual incumbents take their places in the team.

Thus, Ishant Sharma shall now come back after a ‘much-deserved rest’ and others like Bhuvi and Umesh Yadav shall follow suit without anyone asking a single question on when next shall those Unadkats and Shamis get to bask in the Indian blue again. Probably when there is an unexpected injury to one of the regulars!

Over the years, a dismal one-way traffic has been established in the heart of Indian cricket the ‘bench pacers’ come and fill the boots of the regulars for some time and then retire into obscurity, and the regulars gambol along with the team for some time and then get knocked off their strides due to some incomprehensible reason. On either side of the story, the bowlers get dumped into a bin from where there is no return.

Neither the regulars, nor the part-timers get to stay in the limelight for genuine reasons for a considerable period of time. The Zimbabwe tour just manifests a particular section of this traffic movement- the part-timers have ‘done their job’ and shall be called upon to do so, again, when suitable circumstances arrive (which are so often found to be as inconsequential as their just-concluded assignment).

Non-Bottleneck resources  These are generally free from trouble- they deliver according to the market demand and are not known to slow things down in an industry. The spinners and the major part of the batting department, obeys the laws on the non-bottlenecks; the middle order has been fairly consistent, churning out gallons of runs, and the spinners have found life even in the dead and buried tracks of the world.

Not much needs to be talked about them- and it has always been so for the Indian team, a ‘batting heavy’ and ‘spin-friendly’ one.

The Indian team, or the ‘juggernaut’ as it is being presently referred to as, shall now go back to the comfort of the homeland and then set out to conquer the distant lands once again when the bugles are sounded by BCCI. The rules governing the team’s performance, however, shall remain the same – bottlenecks shall continue to inhibit growth, and the non-bottlenecks shall be tamely obedient to orders and demands.

What remains to be seen though is whether the BCCI, which has so far done woefully little to redress the problems with the bottlenecks, can jerk itself out of the slumber and do the needful to prevent the wheels of the fancy juggernaut from turning rusty in the coming years.

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