Has BCCI Lost Its Thinking Cap(ability)?

From one bio bubble to another, the journey of the Indian cricketers from India to the United Arab Emirates for the Indian Premier League and now Australia for a full-fledged tour has been a tough one.

Going by the experiences of many players, coaches, commentators and even photographers who were in the UAE for the IPL, staying in the bio bubble was not easy. The restrictions were huge and because of the Covid-19 threat, everyone had to follow the protocols.

That the IPL went off well in the heat and humidity of the three desert venues in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah for over 50 days has been well chronicled. In the end, even as Rohit Sharma led Mumbai Indians crowned themselves champions for the fifth time, many questions have cropped up.

In an age where social media throws light on more aspects than even the traditional media, a few things are certain. The first is how the Indian cricket board (BCCI) led by Sourav Ganguly and Jay Shah is quite opaque when it comes to transparency in several matters.

From the selection of teams first announced for the T20s, ODIs and then the four Tests, there were changes. It suggested that there have been a few issues which have not been dealt with in the most professional way.

The issue pertaining to the fitness of star batsman and ebullient Rohit Sharma is laughable. He got injured midway through the IPL. Then came the announcement Rohit was not fit for the Australia tour and he had been dropped totally.

It caused ripples as Rohit was soon seen at the nets in Dubai and also played the IPL final. This showed the BCCI was impotent and could not tell the high profile Mumbai Indians franchisee that they should not risk Rohit. For the record, the franchise owners are high profile.

Today, Rohit has been included in the Test squad even though there is still a big question mark over his fitness. Yes, he can bat and hit sixes in the IPL. But the series in Australia will be very different. The Aussies have had a very good domestic season and picked the players in form.

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Going by media reports emanating from Down Under, the Indians have resumed training in the bio bubble. As regards Rohit Sharma, his fitness is not 100 per cent. First, coach Ravi Shastri said in a TV interview that Rohit’s injury is such, it can flare up again. For those not familiar with medical jargon, his Grade 2 hamstring tear has not healed and even during the IPL his fielding was an apology.

More recently, in an interview to a weekly magazine in India (The Week), Sourav Ganguly has said Rohit is only 70 per cent fit. It means, he could have aggravated the injury further during the IPL and the BCCI was a mute spectator to it.

It is well known, the IPL is cricket plus commerce. However, despite knowing players are injured, if the BCCI is unable to crack the whip and tell the franchise teams not to risk players, then there is something wrong.

Agreed, the IPL had great TV viewership figures and brought the fans a lot of cheer as watching Corona virus news and other banal stiff had become boring. Yet, for the IPL to wreck Indian players before an important tour seems to have been ignored.

This is not the first time the IPL has caused injuries to players. Even last year, before the ICC World Cup in England, the IPL was held. Many players had picked up injuries, though, at that time, Rohit Sharma was in blazing form.

Today, apart from Rohit, speedster Ishant Sharma is on the rehab list and even spinner Varun Chakravarthy is out because of an injury. The BCCI, headed by a former India captain needs to understand the importance of work load management and dealing with injuries.

It is easy to say injuries are part and parcel of any sport or athlete’s career. However, if it comes to other cricket playing nations, in the club versus country debate, playing for the nation is surely the top priority.

Perhaps, in a sport like professional football, the clubs have so much control over the super stars that the players have to give 100 per cent to the clubs. There have been instances where before the FIFA World Cup, top players have picked up injuries. It happened last year as well during the FIFA World Cup. However, footballers know they cannot hide injuries and their shelf life is much less than compared to cricketers.

The build-up for the India vs Australia series has begun. The Aussie media has been harping on how they love to have a go at Kohli and sledging will be an integral part of it. Of course, there are many who admire Virat Kohli for his batting artistry.

So, what are India’s chances Down Under?

Frankly speaking, this is going to be a very hard tour. The IPL players may be good for the T20s and ODIs but the Aussies are in a hungry mood. During the last tour to Australia, India did well, when MS Dhoni was part of the shorter format teams. This time, not having played ODIs for long, not having played domestic cricket at all, the Indians will be under immense pressure, physically and mentally.

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Last but not the least, why on earth does the BCCI want to treat Kohli so specially where he will play only one Test and return on paternity leave. It is understandable he wants to be with wife Anushka Sharma when the new one arrives in January 2021.

Ideally, Kohli should not be given so much space and freedom. The Test captaincy reins can be handed over to seasoned Ajinkya Rahane, a proven batsman with leadership skills, for all four matches.

Perhaps, the time has also come for India to look at captaincy being shared as flogging Virat Kohli all the time is not necessary. Indian cricket has made the same mistake before, when MS Dhoni handled captaincy in all the formats.

When cricket teams like Australia and England have split captaincy, India, too, needs to learn. The process of grooming the next leader in Indian cricket is not something which has to be done to spite Kohli.

There has to be clear thinking, which has been advocated by former stars like Gautam Gambhir as well. Kohli is the jewel of Indian cricket but he cannot be there forever. His control over Indian cricket and partnership with Shastri are very thick.

Perhaps, in the larger interest of Indian cricket, the BCCI bosses need to put on their thinking caps. Rightaway. Give it a thought Mr Ganguly.

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