Thursday, December 29, 2011

Cricket Lessons from 1978

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.


Anonymous said...

Brilliant! Completely agree..

Infact to my class, ratnakar shetty had come for a guest lecture and I asked the same thing. Regarding first innings lead, we can rather follow english method of alloting points for 120 overs..

Also the A tours.. For example, ashwin and yadav, the first time they are going to australia representing India.. Rather this should have been their second or third tour the previous being with A team or emerging team.. They jus can't go to a boxing day test up front!

Also, suppose we have an injury now.. Replacement has to fly from India and be ready.. Rather the emerging team should already be in Australia playing games.. So they ll be fit and also be familiar with conditions..

Anonymous said...

Absolutely true. Nothing much has happened in the past so many years and it is a sad reflection.

Anonymous said...

Very true and apt..
Ranji trophy games have become more of a routine with teams just grinding for a first innings lead.

IPL and other such crap events have only thrown up mediocre players but have made players wealthy. Hence interest levels in domestic cricket ie ranji trophy etc have gone down…

dinesh said...

Prabhu - Nicely written.

The need for fast pitches has been documented for ages and is brought to the forefront every time India gets bowled out overseas for a sub par score. Some questions that I have wondered about but never found good answers to..

1. How difficult is to make "fast bouncy wickets" in India?

2. What's needed to maintain them? I mean, if you make a fast wicket, does it stay fast?

3. What's the motivation for using batting friendly wickets for Ranji games? (I'd say very little - you are not encouraging budding fast bowlers. And you are not giving the batters a chance to face quality fast bowling)

Anonymous said...

Hi Prabhu

heard about your blogspot and serched in Google and found it ...
I am amazed about the amount of knowldge you have and your brilliant sence of quoting examples.
Keep up the good work.