I made a discovery today that lead me to realise that the current series between Australia and India may be pivotal in the course of modern cricket. And this has nothing to do with Australia’s return to the winners’ circle. I was concerned to know how one of my Indian friends enjoyed the match on the week end. Jayendra answered that he didn’t followed cricket anymore and that he had switched to baseball.
I suddenly realised that the bad results achieved by the Indian cricket team in Test cricket in the past eight months may have an impact on the BCCI. The current outrage being expressed by the Indian public will make BCCI see that Test cricket does matter. BCCI cannot turn their back on Test cricket and focus all their attention on T20 and ODI cricket without paying a price.
BCCI has invested enormous amounts of money in T20 cricket but they cannot ignore Test cricket or they will lose their fan base. A losing Test team spells disaster for IPL. I don’t want to single India out in giving unbalanced attention to T20 cricket. Cricket Australia has done exactly the same thing this summer – I am appalled that while a marquee four Test series is being played, not a single ball of any other form of first class cricket is playing in Australia.
BCCI needs to arrest the slide while it can. History shows us that when the West Indies started losing, their fan base, especially the youth – the players and support base or tomorrow – turned to basketball. This movement has remained permanent. While founding cricket nations like Australia and England experience ebbs and flows, ups and downs in performance, the effort and interest remains fairly constant. However, cultural and socio-economic changes combined with a loss of superiority, determines that there will be no return for West Indian cricket. And now the Indians have turned to baseball.
I predict that BCCI will try the usual tactics to make good. Firstly, they will try to have a new rule passed where sides starting with “I” will play 13 batsmen (that is, they will be permitted 12 dismissals). While this will also help Ireland’s next World Cup campaign, it will be a lifeline to Indian Test cricket. And you wait and see – by this time next week, BCCI power brokers will have been at work on the ICC and MS Dhoni will have mysteriously had his over rate charges dropped.
Failing those measures, India will need to fall back on traditional values. That is what I want to see. They will return to playing lots and lots of domestic first class cricket. They will plan and execute Test playing schedules that respect the game of Test cricket itself and the esteemed members of the Test playing community. And they will turn things around. Goodness knows they have the manpower available. Perhaps then Jay will come back to cricket. I hope so.