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Thursday, April 25, 2024

CLOSE IN: Indian Cricket is ticking the right boxes ( Ajit Weekly News Column)

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CLOSE IN:  Indian Cricket is ticking the right boxes ( Ajit Weekly News Column)

India managed to win the Test series against England. They now stand tall having protected the famous “Final Frontier”, a bastion that 17 attempts by teams have failed to conquer. The last time India were defeated was in March 2012 against England side led by Alistair Cook

Ben Stokes, the present England captain along with Brendan McCullum, the coach by his side, studied, planned and analyzed a combination and approach that could bring them victory. They had one aim and that was to emulate England’s success over a decade ago.

India, were bamboozled and castled in the very 1st Test match. However, the knowledge of the home conditions and their superior bowling attack was what got them to win.

The 5th and final Test match will be played on the 7th of March’24 in the picture postcard setting of the mountain ranges of Dharamshala in Himachal Pradesh. Conditions there would have suited England to the tee. However, with the series decided, the only significant outcome of this match is the points that will accrue to qualify for the final of the World Test Championship’25.

Looking back, England did have India on the hop, especially when they had a first innings lead in the 4th Test match in Ranchi. Their batting collapsed in the 2nd innings and England, known for their present aggressive nature, seemed to be like rabbits caught in the headlights. The way to bat on the surface was showcased to them by the young Dhruv Jurel and the tenacious Kuldeep Yadav. Their partnership was instrumental in India narrowing the 1st innings deficit and one that put the Indian side into a positive state of mind. However, the England side failed to learn from them.

The great Tennis player, Martina Navratilova, correctly said that “every game in life is actually played on a 6-inch ground-the space between your two ears”. England succumbed mentally, whereas, India rose to capture it.

The most daunting thought in the minds of every Indian cricket enthusiast was “ what will happen to Indian cricket when their stalwarts call it a day”. Ajit Agarkar and his band of selectors should be given kudos for solving this issue. An Indian win without Virat Kohli, Md. Shami, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, Ishaan Kishan, Hardik Pandya and the absence, in few of the matches, of KL.l Rahul, Jasprit Bumrah, Ravindra Jadeja and Shreyas Iyer was simply remarkable.

When one talks of transformation, the most challenging aspect of it is implementation. Fortunately for Indian cricket, due to injuries and other reasons, Yashasvi Jaiswal, Dhruv Jurel, Sarfaraz Khan, Akash Deep along with Shubman Gill and Kuldeep Yadav were able to establish themselves into the Indian Test side. The wonderful fall-out of their success would be the opening of doors for other domestic cricketers performing magnificently well at home. The success of the newcomers to Test cricket should give the present and future selectors the confidence to experiment further.

There is a positive buzz that has emerged as regards Test match cricket. The old, fuddy duddy way of playing it has transformed into a far more risky and aggressive approach. The limited overs cricket has brought about shots and strokes that have made Test captains scratch their heads to set a field. Batting has a 360 degrees concept to it now. For one to be able to scoop over the keeper, to a ball pitched on a good length in line with the wicket, would have been an impossible task to fathom earlier.

This takes one back to one of India’s greatest batsmen, Ranjit Sinhji, who played for England when India was still not a Test playing nation. During his days, one hit the cricket ball in front of the wicket. The Indian subtle wrist was what Ranji utilised and invented the only shot ever by an Indian, “The leg Glance”. The cricket world of yesteryears were awestruck as to how Ranjit could play it so consistently and with such ease and accuracy. The novel shots that are making Test cricket a feast to enjoy presently, are just the ingredients, like the leg glance, to revive the conventional and regal form of the game.

The BCCI is finally ticking the right boxes to establish the importance of red ball cricket. The most powerful cricket body in the world has taken the first step. They have insisted that all Indian players need to play the Ranji Trophy tournament, if they are not involved in playing for the country. Two of India’s International cricketers faced the wrath, as they disobeyed it. Both Shreyas Iyer and Ishaan Kishan were not given a BCCI contract recently. This should be a good example to many others who seem to be focusing more on their IPL contracts rather than their Ranji Trophy State side. Indian domestic cricket is the source and pillar of Indian cricket and needs all cricketers to bless it.

Furthermore, the BCCI is increasing the match fees given to players for Test matches. One gathers 25 lakhs per match is on the cards, however, the most wonderful initiative taken is by increasing the Ranji trophy fees for domestic cricketers by 3 times. At present it is 40K a day. This is truly a progressive gesture for over 500 cricketers playing domestic cricket, most of whom are not a part of the lucrative IPL.

This is just the right way to save the true and conventional form of the game of cricket, “ Red Ball cricket”.

One was further pleased to see the number of school kids present at the stadiums where the Test matches were being held. The love and nuances of the game for most cricket lovers and cricketers has come about through watching the sport as kids. This is precisely how cricket has grown and been popularized over the years.

Well done BCCI, you have definitely ticked the right boxes!

(Yajurvindra Singh is a former India cricketer. The views expressed are personal)

–Ajit Weekly News

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