A couple of months ago, there was an air of promise that things on the Indian landscape would change. The captain, relatively successful at the franchisee level in comparison to his outstanding successes at the international level, revealed that he had intentions to make sure the Indian Premier League would not take precedence over the ICC Cricket World Cup. Is he now backtracking as his words now appear to suggest?
The tour of England was unexpectedly underwhelming. Under pressure, Virat Kohli, the Indian captain, and Ravi Shastri, the Indian coach, found themselves facing a barrage of criticism after the team returned empty handed where they were expected to change the course of history. The think tank was as much under pressure to come up with answers as to finding proactive solutions for the better preparation of teams in the future.
The tour of Australia proved to be face saving in that India finally lived up to the promise they took with them to South Africa almost an entire year back. However, even in the midst of euphoria, there was another reason to cheer. Nothing inspires position action like success. It seemed the Indian skipper was finally taking cognizance of the need to strike balance between formats and tournaments and coming from a versatile player such as himself, it was expected to speak volumes as he hit a resounding note about setting priorities and team goals, Test cricket being one of them.
The Indian skipper mentioned that the Indian cricketers slated to make the squad for the ICC Cricket World Cup would be monitored and their workload managed and limited in the course of the Twenty20 commercial extravaganza staged every summer by the BCCI, namely, the IPL. Even as other cricket boards around the world have already set deadlines and dates of when their players would have to leave their respective IPL franchisees and return home for conditioning camps and training in light of the ICC Cricket World Cup that begins just days after the conclusion of the IPL, there is yet to be an official word on how the BCCI plans to approach the issue of a packed IPL season and the preparation of the Indian cricket squad for the England assignment.
More recently, passionate and energetic were the two words the Indian captain used to describe why Australia were able to hand India their first home series defeat in one day internationals since 2015 just after their debacle down under. Although India did return from down under, having successfully mounted a challenge and overcome it, the skipper himself must question why the team, which should have been on a high and in rhythm, fell short of those two key qualities he himself mentioned.
It should have perhaps set a little bit of a flutter enough to call for some decisive statements, if not action, towards approaching the IPL which is now only days away. However, in what seemed like a u-turn, the skipper put the onus back on the individual cricketers stating that they were each responsible for gearing themselves for the ICC Cricket World Cup and managing their workload in the course of the carnival and caravan that is the hectic IPL season.
Given the skipper’s proactive statements earlier, it was expected that there would be more innovative decision making that would restrict IPL exposure time for the World Cup candidates and also, have a more appropriate conditioning and training time for the team given that India will, despite their topsy-turvy results, arrive as one of the favourites to lift the cup. Given India’s past history at multi team events following the IPL, one would have thought a more cautious, deliberate approach would have been outlined. But for the moment, a dangerous status quo prevails.