Been there, done that. This sums up India’s crushing 209 run defeat by a bespoke Australia at the World Test Championship. There is also the postscript: when it comes to Indian cricket, the more things don’t change, the more they resist change.
The Australia rout was a repeat from two years ago when India lost to New Zealand in the WTC finals. Defeats lead to introspection but not for the Indian cricket board or BCCI, the big daddy of world cricket always has a ready answer, a quick fall-back series that makes India look good. The West Indies are lined up.
Soon all will be forgotten, accountability and transparency are not part of BCCI’s strategy. India has not won an ICC tournament in 10 years - the Champions Trophy in 2013 was the last big victory - and it is fair to question if India still makes the cut as a cricketing superpower.
BCCI is indifferent, tightly packing the cricketers schedule as though its coffers could empty if a tour was missed. The injuries can keep stacking up as long as IPL is played on schedule.
Time for introspection
Captain Rohit Sharma knows no loss has been a knockout for either top players or the cricket administration, post- match he had more excuses than acceptance of India’s poor show. The team he thinks needed 20-25 days to prepare for the match and that it should be a best of three. Sharma didn’t mention his involvement with IPL till end May.
Sunil Gavaskar tore into India’s batting saying it was in shambles, but only the die-hard optimist will expect the current top order to fire for greatness on the pitch. “You bat well in India, you are the 'dadas' in India, but then, some of them falter outside," Gavaskar told Star Sports. What happens in India with friendly pitches unfortunately stays in India.
Then there is the baffling selection especially the mystifying exclusion of R Ashwin, the world’s top ranked test bowler by ICC ranking. Rahul Dravid is a hallowed member of India’s rich cricketing past, but questions need to be asked of him as a coach.
Until now his record shines better with grooming juniors and India A rather than implementing a set team. Since his elevation, the ready bench strength that India A gave the national squad has also disappeared.
Failing to make the switch
When the top and middle order is back in the pavilion in one session of a test match then it doesn’t take the missing chairman of selectors to point out that India is at crossroads. It needs to decide if it still aspires to be a test team or is content to rejoice in bits and pieces cricket. It is not just the batsmen even the bowlers are failing to make the switch to red ball cricket.
Why is India finding it tough to win an ICC trophy? Most cricketers are football fans, and they need only look at Manchester City winning a treble. Success comes without excuses or relying on a celebrity cult but with a hunger that is noticeably missing in the men in blue.
Indian cricket carries the burden of being overshadowed by its star cast, celebrity cult at the expense of form allows a bad patch of mediocrity to go on like a never-ending soap opera. Or has IPL made the cricketers complacent?
Form is temporary but so is class in cricket if the slog is all that’s left. Timeout needs to be called on big names who are in the twilight of their careers, IPL will continue to welcome them irrespective.
Rebuilding is as intrinsic to sport as winning, the golden age of Spanish football when the team won three major titles in the span of six years with the likes of Iniesta, Xavi, Casillas and more names than it could handle, also came to an end. The team is finding its feet with fresh blood again.
All is not lost
BCCI needs to stop pandering to the old and for once think of cricket for game’s sake. At 22, South Africa plucked Graeme Smith out of relative anonymity and made him the captain, he is widely considered one of the most successful captains ever.
Selectors - if there are any around - need to think out of the box and stop the musical chairs over captaincy. What is the worst that can happen to Indian cricket?
IPL remains the elephant in the room. Has the private league demolished Indian test cricket? The impact isn’t overnight, 15 seasons of misplaced hype and priority are now coming home to roost.
With the BCCI though answers don’t always come and so, we will never know why this year’s IPL was scheduled barely a month before the WTC nor has it been the first time that the league was within whispering distance from a key game or series. Instant fame and big money, the choice is easy when it is against patience and slog of test cricket.
All is not lost for Indian cricket, the broken can still be glued back - team rejig, focus on fitness, a new captain, quality over quantity, introspection and some fresh thinking. There is also something called too much cricket.
What stands between a team and an ICC trophy is BCCI.