The absence of overwhelming rejoicing over India’s series win should be a matter for introspection, not condemnation. The reservations in endorsing the win as an outstanding achievement should not be seen as an expression of anti-India sentiment.
We live in polarised times when even sport has the potential to divide people over differing opinions, and that is not healthy. When Rahul Dravid opposed the kind of designer wickets in the Ranji Trophy and said they are not good for India’s cricket health, no one found what he had to say problematic.
The “akharas” or sandpits that are being made in domestic cricket for home advantage have resulted in matches getting over in no time. Batsmen are losing their moorings and bowlers are getting an exaggerated sense of their abilities.
Dravid, now the coach of India A and under-19 teams, has achieved enough to know what he is talking about. Dravid must have realised that his statement would become contentious, in the context of the ongoing debate about the wickets, and went on to explain that he is not talking about international cricket. That, he says, is different and one plays to win those contests.
The Dravid argument rests on the premise that unprepared wickets do more harm than good and in the long run are detrimental to the health of sport. Shouldn’t what is not good at domestic level also be not good at the international level? The nuanced difference is that at the domestic level you are preparing players to represent the country. And if winning is the sole aim of playing international cricket, then no method, fair or foul, are unfair as long as you achieve your goal. Since India has achieved that goal in thrashing the world’s best team, why crib about it.
Team director Ravi Shastri has gone one step further, and made a combustive statement in “to hell with five-day cricket” which could become a national motto as long as India keep winning. Problem will arise when India start tasting defeat again. If today the snake pit in Nagpur destroyed South Africa, the same could very well have bitten India as badly. Playing on such surfaces is a gamble.
What has India gained from the series? Apart from the reassertion that Ashwin is a potential great or Jadeja’s pin-point accuracy is an asset, nothing much. On the negative side, this series has left a trail of batsmen who must be wondering what they did to deserve this treatment. For an India batsman to fail repeatedly at home, as he often does outside, is a recipe for disaster in the long run. The oft-repeated platitude that as long as the team wins failures don’t matter may apply to an individual, but when an entire batting line-up keeps failing at home, what does it say about the nature of the track? And where does it leave our fast bowlers? In the graveyard, I guess. Since they do it, why can’t we, is the argument of a person lacking terribly in self-confidence. There are more things to sport than mere winning, that too at any cost.