My thoughts after today’s loss were drawn to some of the comments the famous cricket journalist and Radio commentator Dicky Rutnagar made 23years ago as he summed up India’s disastrous 1976-77 series loss at home against Tony Grieg’s MCC ( England).
He had then pointed to the poor domestic system where there was so much emphasis on first innings points that teams focused on draw than a win. Look at table topper Tamil Nadu’s performance this season in the league and you would know what Dicky meant all those years ago.
Teams must be provided the incentive to win four day games and that rewards should be less for draws (first innings points). To this day, rewards continue to be high for minor achievements (first innings lead).
It may be relevant to point out here that having already qualified for the knock out, Tamil Nadu think tank chose to bat a 2nd time in its match against Madhya Pradesh ( who had also qualified) last week and opted for batting practice on the pretext that the TN bowlers needed rest.
TN bowling unit for the match comprising of Yo Mahesh (who has possibly had his best season to date), Malolan Rangarajan, Rahil Shah and J. Kaushik (the last three in their first season of Ranji) in addition to its captain L. Balaji (who is just making a full season comeback) should have been raring to go a 2nd time to further build their confidence for the knock out matches. Instead, they wanted rest from bowling another 20overs each in the 2nd innings. And this team has been yearning to win the Ranji Trophy for the last many years!!!
On four occasions this season, Tamil Nadu stood a chance to win outright and yet they ended the league phase with just one win.
Good Fast Pitches
But more importantly, Dicky had said then that ‘Good pitches are the very essence of cricket’ (no brainer you would think!!). He suggested in 1978 that domestic Ranji and Duleep Trophy matches should be played on good, fast wickets with high points for outright wins and the very minimal for a draw. He had made a very important point then that should have just sat up begging to be immediately implemented. 2½ decades later, we still have ‘batting’ pitches across the country.
Playing on docile pitches in India and making runs by the hundreds does not augur well for a country that wants to be on top of the world in Test Cricket. You need to be tested domestically in the most difficult of conditions so you are prepared when you face tough situations internationally.
( Typical score in a TNCA first division league this year read: Team X 650/4 draws with Team Y 500/5. And the reasoning for docile pitches being that there are far too many matches for the groundsmen to have time to work on the pitch)
Clearly, India (and for that matter Australia as well) was found wanting at the MCG. An over dose of one day and T20cricket has meant that there is very minimal footwork these days - an indication of this was the number of catches behind the wicket and the ‘played-ons’ during the first test. The feet aren’t just moving forward alongside the bat!!! Once upon a time, the most heard phrase on the commentary was ‘bat and pad close together’. You rarely see that these days.
Administration of Cricket
Dicky Rutnagar was also of the view that the game needed an altruistic, imaginative and knowledgeable administration formed from a younger set of men who have just finished playing the game at the highest level and who are well versed with the modern game. AT that time, names that came to his mind included MAK Pataudi, ML Jaisimha and Hanumant Singh. Two and a half decades later, we continue to ask that same question. Administrators continue to be politicians or corporate bigwigs. The one or two occasions when there has been talk of past cricketers taking up administrative positions, it has been surrounded by controversies centering around 'Conflict of Interest'.
He spoke of reconstruction of Indian cricket after that heart breaking crushing in the five test series by a non - too fancied English side.
We may as well talk that language once again after today’s crushing defeat at the MCG. The Indian team may need a reconstruction with a long term vision built around Test Cricket and not hype T20 and One day victories.