Conduct beyond the pale

BY all accounts, the physical conditioning camp for the probables to the Indian team is going quite well and the camp for honing cricketing skills should start soon after that.

SUNIL GAVASKAR

BY all accounts, the physical conditioning camp for the probables to the Indian team is going quite well and the camp for honing cricketing skills should start soon after that. Most of the players have had a long break from the game and a well-deserved one too, especially after the hectic schedule they have had for more than two years. They have another hectic season ahead of them and so they need to be not only physically fit but also cricket-wise, for they are going to be up against the champions in both the versions of the game.

The three member Australian team -- from left -- Operations Manager of the Australian Cricket Board, Michael Brown, former Test off-spinner Tim May and Steve Bernard, Manager, inspecting the Nehru Stadium ground in Guwahati. - Pic. PTI-

The Indians get to play the champions twice, once at home and then in the lion's den, so to speak. The Australians have already sent an advance party to look at the venues and other logistics which is so much a part of their preparations for a tour, especially of the sub-continent, which has a tendency to spring the unexpected. Such a reconnaissance mission only tells you about the mental aspect of why the Aussies are such a formidable outfit. But what is a bit disconcerting is to hear about the changes suggested by the recce team to some venues, especially Guwahati. To ask a venue to change its dressing-rooms and have bigger sightscreens is beyond the pale as far as the recce team is concerned, and if any suggestions are to be made, they should be made to the BCCI, who if they so wish can pass it on to the concerned state association to do the needful.

How would the Australians feel if an advance Indian team like the one they sent, were to say that the dressing room at Melbourne should be shifted from its current location to right above the sight screens so that the players can see the game better or if the South Australian Cricket Association also were to be told the same thing or any other Test and limited overs international venue were to be told to make changes, the Australian cricket authorities will no doubt tell that team to go to hell. So if the Aussies insist on those changes and make unreasonable demands then the BCCI also should tell them where to go, but in much more polite terms conveying the message. Why the Indians hardly ever get the kind of food at the lunches that they are used to at home and inspite of advance requests they are hardly ever given the food they are used to.

Of course, the BCCI has not sent an advance team to Australia though a team was sent to England last year, which was more of a tit-for-tat than really to try and see if there was anything that the BCCI needed to do to ensure a smoother tour.

Also, such an advance team would mainly be to give two Board members a free trip and get them to vote in your favour. What the Indian team for the oncoming tour of Australia needs to see is the timings of their flights, especially between the ODIs, for most times the flights are very early in the morning after a day-night game the previous night, and that leaves the players with little rest and a bit more tired when they reach the next venue. This can tell on their performances. It also makes sense to stay close to the ground so that the travel time is less and allows the players a bit more time to get ready to go to the ground.

It is always better to arrive at the ground nice and relaxed rather than in a rushed state of mind. It is also important to have a hotel that is able to provide vegetarian food for the Indian squad has invariably some veggies in it and they are the ones who are struggling to get proper food.

In many parts of the world, eggs and seafood are thought to be vegetarian while it is not so for the Indians, so sometimes the food is not the right type for them. So it's not just making arrangements at the grounds that's crucial but also ensuring that there are good Asian restaurants around for the Indian taste. A hungry army is a weak one, so the Indian campaign should not suffer on that count.

Travelling in England also can be tiring, for invariably the team leaves after the game is over and in some instances, have to drive for hours to reach the next venue and though the buses in which the teams travel are now very comfortable and have many facilities like separate TV sets in the front as well as back sections of the bus and also with mobile phones, it can still be exhausting. Often, by the time the team arrives at the next venue, the restaurants are closed and so the team has to subsist on room service and some salads and sandwiches, which hardly fill the stomach of a tired bunch of cricketers. So there are difficulties in every country a player tours, but that's the beauty of playing overseas where conditions and cultures are so different from the one at home. To be able to overcome those and do well is most satisfying and that's why an overseas win is always sweeter than a victory at home.

India has a good chance of doing that in Australia, if not in the Tests, then in the limited-overs format, but they have to be assisted by the BCCI, which has to ensure that their travel and hotel arrangements give the players every opportunity to be rested and fresh for every game that they play. While there is time, the BCCI officials have to sit down with the travel people and find out the time of travel and the hotels for the team right now as well as the availability of good Indian and Asian restaurants near the hotel they will be staying at. Winning is possible only when all the arms of the organisation move in a synchronised manner and so for the Indian team to do well on the field, its important that the BCCI does its job off it by providing them with the best of facilities to relax and be mentally tough to take on the toughest team in world cricket today.

Every Indian will be wanting the team to do well and while these expectations are understandable the team must be able to go into the game in that frame of mind where there are no external issues distracting them. Therefore the BCCI must ensure that all off-field concerns of the team are taken care of so that they can perform at their best on the field. This is what team work is about right from the administration to those playing on the field.