Do not look at short term gains

Duncan Fletcher.-PTI

Duncan Fletcher cannot be faulted for the failures in England and Australia but he definitely needs to shape the future of Indian cricket. He did remarkably well to take England to the pinnacle and it is only fair to expect him to repeat the feat.

Team India is set to start the new season with a one-day series in Sri Lanka and will hope to kick off on a winning note. The rest after the IPL would have served the players well to recharge their batteries and also helped them to get rid of the cobwebs in their minds after some very ordinary results in Australia and the Asia Cup.

The best approach would be to look ahead and see if they can regain lost ground both in Tests and the one-dayers. However, the ascent to the top will require a collective effort from various quarters viz, the team management, selectors and the administrators.

The team management will need to look at ways and means to curtail the transition period and planning will be the key factor. There is a good mix of different formats scheduled in the next couple of seasons and with a majority of Tests slated to be played at home, it becomes imperative not to just look at short term gains at the expense of the larger picture.

By this I mean that Team India should not resort to playing on turners at home to win matches in Tests and also that Test cricket still has its own importance. The home advantage has to be used by all means but it will be worthwhile to remember that the Indian team under Ganguly played on good firm pitches against the best of teams and fared well. Of course, there were the odd occasions wherein desperation drove the home team to play on underprepared tracks but one cannot lose sight of the fact that the confidence of even the top batsmen gets better when they get to bat on firm and hard tracks.

The likes of Dravid, Ganguly and Laxman grew in stature as a result of performing against good sides at home which helped them to excel abroad as well. It is of paramount importance for the batsmen to be in good form as India has always done well when runs were put up on the board.

In fact, it will not be amiss to say that batsmen were primarily responsible for Team India getting to No.1 slot in Test cricket. With the retirement of Dravid and perhaps a couple more to follow in the next year or so, the young crop of batsmen need to be eased into international cricket on good pitches. Not that I am suggesting that everything should be loaded in favour of the batsmen but playing on turning tracks can be detrimental to the confidence of batsmen as well. Besides, one cannot forget the fact that Harbhajan Singh picked up in excess of 30 wickets against Australia on tracks which were not spinner friendly. His successor, Ashwin, also prefers pitches that have bounce as against slow, low turning tracks.

Moreover, the Indians have not yet got a settled spin attack in place which can be a cause for concern. The success against West Indies last winter notwithstanding, banking on spinners can misfire as the main batsmen in the visiting sides have gained enough exposure to Indian tracks as a result of IPL.

The reigning World Champions know what it takes to succeed in the shorter formats but the team management would do well to plan the revival of Team India in Test cricket given that there might be a new look team in a year or so.

Duncan Fletcher cannot be faulted for the failures in England and Australia but he definitely needs to shape the future of Indian cricket. He did remarkably well to take England to the pinnacle and it is only fair to expect him to repeat the feat. This is where the administration has a big role to play as neither the coach nor the others in the system can succeed in their mission if they are not supported adequately.

The success of any team regardless of the level that it plays in depends on collective effort and while there is no guarantee that Fletcher will keep his job longer than a year, the onus is on him to provide the route map during his tenure. Whether his plans will be implemented is a different matter altogether but it will be a big disappointment if he turns back the clock by preferring turners at home.

The Indian skipper was quoted as saying that he would prefer turners at home and one can only hope that it was said more out of anguish that he went through in Australia. The temptation to build up healthy numbers against his name will be strong enough but his contribution will be worth tenfold if he can leave behind a well set young team that can do well abroad in the years to come.

Sourav Ganguly did his bit during his time and for one who has won World Cups in both the formats it will just be a case of putting mind over matter.

If there is one problem that never ceases in international sport, it is the demands and expectations of the public and the fraternity as well. I am sure that Dhoni will agree with this observation in the blink of an eye.