Baffling, to say the least

By specifying how many overs a bowler who is selected for the Australia tour should be bowling in the Ranji Trophy, the BCCI has interfered in the tactics of a team and compromised the first-class game.

Who’s calling the shots? Team comes first: Bengal’s Mohammad Shami celebrates with his team-mates after the dismissal of a Kerala batsman during their Ranji Trophy match, at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata. “To restrict his bowling is palpably unfair on the Bengal Ranji Trophy team,” feels the author.   -  AP

First of all a disclaimer. This is being written from the other side of the world from India, where I had the good fortune of being invited for a cricketing awards evening. So the information that was received there may not be entirely correct and the ground reality may be a lot different than what the news portrays.

However if the news coming through that the BCCI has instructed the Cricket Association of Bengal to ensure that Mohammad Shami does not bowl more than 15 overs in an innings with a grace of maybe two or three more in the Ranji Trophy game that Bengal is playing is true, then the national championship has been diluted and Bengal’s chances of getting maximum points have been reduced substantially. Mind you the pitch could well turn out to be a spinners’ paradise and Shami may not have to bowl more than half a dozen overs in the entire game but by sending such instructions and handicapping a first-class team the BCCI has made a mockery of the national championship — the Ranji Trophy.

READ: 'Shami wanted to bowl more'

Make no mistake, the intention behind the decision is to help the Indian cricket team on its tour of Australia, but by specifying how many overs a bowler should be bowling, the national body has interfered in the tactics of a team and compromised the first-class game. What if Bengal is looking to get an outright win and full points and finds that Shami has finished the quota BCCI has given him, plus the grace overs and the last wicket of the opposition is giving stiff resistance and time is running out? Imagine Shami, who may have picked the top order in the spell allotted to him, cannot bowl anymore and the opposition escapes with a draw. And suppose at the end of the league stage Bengal cannot qualify for the knockouts because of those two points it missed out on, then it has every reason to question the BCCI as to why it was asked to restrict Shami’s overs. In fact, I am hoping that Saurav Ganguly, the CAB president, who was such a combative captain will put aside his administrator’s hat and put on the captain’s hat and make a big hue and cry about this. If the BCCI had wanted to protect Shami from the workload factor — a new term that has crept into the modern game — then it should have said that Shami should not be picked at all. But to restrict his bowling is palpably unfair on the Bengal Ranji Trophy team.

It will be interesting to find out who in the BCCI took this cricketing decision. The Cricket Advisory Committee — the brilliant idea of the late Jagmohan Dalmiya — has been discontinued for whatever reason, so it will be really illuminating to know who has called the shots here so that the Indian cricket lovers will know who is taking the cricketing decisions in the country.

India vs Australia over the years — in numbers

We are being told that the decision is in the interest of Indian cricket but here there is a need to distinguish between Indian cricket and the Indian cricket team. Indian cricket is not just the Indian cricket team but all the schools, college, junior, club, corporate and first-class cricket. The Indian team that plays international cricket comes from all those who have graduated from the above mentioned classes of the game in India and so to dilute the process of getting into the India team is not helping Indian cricket at all.

"The last two series overseas have shown that when cricketing decisions are made by those who do not have the experience of international cricket, then failure is just round the corner."

 

The other point is that Shami will be out of action for a few weeks going into a Test series with not many overs under his belt and that is only going to make it harder for him in the heat in Australia. We had already seen how Bhuvneshwar Kumar had struggled getting his rhythm simply because he hadn’t bowled much and had been kept out because of workload considerations. Aren’t the current players supposed to be super fit what with all the yo yo tests etc. that are now the main criteria for selection to the Indian team and not just five-wicket hauls or double centuries? So, why do these super fit players have to be worried about workload?

Kapil Dev bowled over after over on much more lifeless pitches than Shami and Co bowl on nowadays but he never had an injury. The first and only time he had a muscle injury he quit immediately after. Neither he nor any of the bowlers who regularly bowled 25 overs and more in a day ever complained about workload. In fact it was tough to get the ball out of their hands as they simply loved to bowl and every over presented a new challenge.

"Virat Kohli had pulled out of a county contract purportedly because of an injury though he sent a fitness challenge video to the Honourable PM and others around the same time."   -  AP

 

Some of the cricketing decisions that have recently been taken have been baffling, to say the least. The biggest puzzle was to have Virat Kohli miss playing a Test match for India so that he could play first-class cricket in England and get used to the conditions.

Kohli pulled out of the county contract purportedly because of an injury though he sent a fitness challenge video to the Honourable PM and others around the same time. He scored almost 600 runs in the series showing that someone of his class and talent did not need a county cricket stint to score in England. Despite his big scores, India did not win simply because cricket is a team game and one individual seldom wins a game.

If that decision to have him miss a Test was a stunner the one to instruct a team on tactics is another one. The last two series overseas have shown that when cricketing decisions are made by those who do not have the experience of international cricket, then failure is just round the corner. Hopefully a heavily weakened Australia will give Indian cricket fans a new year to look forward to.