Where do we go from here?

India, Dec. 10 -- Radical, short-term solutions are for the frenzied, hysterical mob, which is governed more by anger than reasoned response to a disaster that has struck at the very foundations of Indian Test cricket. From the demands to sack Sachin Tendulkar, to getting rid of the entire team, a purge is the solution sought by most, which they believe would put India on the road to recovery.

The bane of Indian cricket for the past many years has been that there are too many shrill voices that arrogate to themselves the authority to decide on what is wrong and right. Among these opinion makers are many who are admired and loved for their exploits and achievements on the cricket field, and their voices are heard and taken seriously. Unfortunately, most of these voices are nothing more than the voices of their masters --the cricket establishment in the country.

Greedy officials

The slide down the road to perdition is in more ways than one linked to the greed of the Board which gives primacy to earning mega revenues than to creating a meaningful structure that would have built on the outstanding achievements of our Test team, the pinnacle of which was when it attained the number one rank in the world.

The year 2011 saw India winning the limited-overs world cricket championship. It also marked the beginning of the end of what was a great Test team. The white-wash in England was followed by an encore in Australia and yet the opinion makers did not see the writing on the wall. Among the many excuses touted by the defenders of the Indian cricket administration was that in world cricket today, it is impossible for any team to beat another country outside their home.

Forgotten past

It was this home advantage, we were told, is the strength of the India team and the England humiliation would be avenged by us at home. When Ahmedabad happened, we all thought that payback time had begun as predicted. We had conveniently erased from our memory the tough time even bottom-ranked teams like the West Indies and New Zealand gave us in our own conditions post 2010.

In the era of IPL and T20, the retirement of our Fab Four -- Sourav, Kumble, Dravid and Laxman -- depleted India's Test strength completely. The woes of the team were further compounded by a Sachin Tendulkar, who is a pale shadow of his great self.

The brave new world of Indian cricket was now being founded on mediocre, limited skills encouraged by the T20 brand. Yet, the blame was being put on everything else but not on IPL being made the centre piece of Indian cricket.

The disturbing fact that injured players preferred to play in the IPL post the World Cup victory and skipped the Test series in the West Indies and England were not seen as examples of Test cricket being sacrificed at the altar of the IPL riches on offer.

Lure of money

Some of the most respected former cricketers had also become overnight converts to this brand of cricket. If the lure of money had changed the outlook and priorities of the present and future crop of players, it had also affected the opinions of the commentators, most of them on the payrolls of the Board. No one was complaining, only complimenting each other.

The diabolical result of this cocktail has been in the wrong diagnosis of a disease that has all but destroyed Test cricket in India.

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It is nobody's case that the players who are not performing or are past their expiry date, need not go, but to believe that it would solve the problem is like amputating the paralysed arm and believing that the body is still intact.

If Test cricket has to survive in India, the surgery has to begin right at the top in forcing the Board to correct its priorities. Money can buy you luxuries, favourable opinion of those who matter in the public eye but it can't be a substitute for the skills required to play Tests.

Published by HT Syndication with permission from Hindustan Times.

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