One day cricket has been squeezed out of its urgency. There is no mad adrenaline rush nor excitement left. Run chases have lost all charm. Asking rates of even twelve and upwards do not cause sweat. Sixes have become as common-place as spot-fixing scandals. Fours are more frequent than the doubles. Quick running and run outs no longer titillate. Players jumping over and across the boundaries to keep balls inside the park where their pals might catch them are seen as routine. No one wants to dig-in his heels and battle it out. If easy runs are forthcoming, they are gleefully harvested, but battling against adversity has gone out of fashion. Powerplays retain the power to befuddle, free hits make a mockery of serious cricket. One day cricket now flows like T20 in slow-mo. Thrill has been normalized to an extent that is impossible to feel goosebumps in ODIs anymore.
Amid all this loss of fizz, most painfully unbearable to watch is the BCCI XI going through the motions in white ball cricket. The Indian team treats bilateral series as practice for ICC tournaments, and loses fixtures with egregious impunity. Senior players opt for rests on their whims and fancies, young guns are picked and dropped without rhyme or reason and all these weird decisions are explained away as ‘workload management’ and ‘team-building’. In the ICC tournaments, the aim is barely to book a semi-final berth, and then hope to get lucky. Luck last smiled upon us in 2013 when India won the Champions Trophy. Since then, silverware has consistently eluded us, and rightfully so, given our poor approach to the format.
Rohit Sharma might get us big runs, but the ennui of a prostitute’s boredom surrounds him. His method is predictable, whereby he sets himself slowly for a gargantuan innings, only to explode towards the end. But his weakness against expressly quick and slightly moving ball is far too predictable at the international level, and costs dearly in crunch games. KL Rahul wants to model his batting on Rohit’s. Becoming a sheet anchor is good for business. You minimize the risks, and accumulate easy, big runs. But India can ill-afford two sheet anchors, and Rahul doesn’t have it in him to go berserk towards the end. Dhawan’s approach seems more positive and selfless, besides he also provides the left-right combination at the top. That should push Rahul down the order, possibly at number four, where Shreyas Iyer has proved to be a veritable failure.
One would hope that by now Mr. Iyer would have gotten a hang of his role in the line-up, but that is perhaps expecting too much of this IPL fat cat. Pant has proved to be a more eager leaner, and might still have brain fades on odd days, but on the even ones, when he delivers, he does so with thumping authority. It helps that Pant comes across as having jolly good time in the arena, while Iyer looks as-off-as-Munaf most of the times. Focus on IPL, buddy! Maybe you are a franchise cricket material only where Big money speaks!
Joy has been sucked out of Virat Kohli’s cricketing life. He used to be a busybody till he wanted to show the world its place as juxtaposed against his own supposed greatness. Even his studied querulousness and fake aggression in front of the cameras comprised good theatre. But he was labelled as ‘Too Big to Fail’ far too soon, and since then has made it a point to fail miserably at key moments, usually in lame fashion.
Shami is not effective on flat decks, Siraj is not selected because apparently swing, seam and pace do not count for much in ODIs! Bhuvi has lost his pluck and edge, Ashwin seems out of depth with a white ball in hand. Kuldeep is lost in obscurity after initial promise. Chahal’s bag of tricks is empty. Perhaps, all of them miss Dhoni’s advice a lot, so they should join CSK and ply their trade there. We do not seem to put enough runs on board, our chasing has become pathetic, bowling lacks penetration, powerplays do not yield enough wickets and we lack hard-hitting options that might inflate the total.
Hell, I miss Ravi Shastri. With his stupid bravado and bloated face, he had more verve than Rahul Dravid, who looks burdened by Himalayan expectations and has become a prisoner of his no-nonsense image. One of the favourite pastimes of fans and spectators was to guess how many mugs was Shaz down, as overs kept being bowled! But Shaz used to ‘back’ his players fully, and encouraged them to ‘go out in the middle’ and ‘play their natural game’, whereas Dravid seems to be lacking any consistent plan for the likes of Venkatesh Iyer, Ashwin or Prasiddh Krishna. Our drops are as baffling as our selections, not just from the squad, but also the playing eleven.
That said, not everything is lost. Dhawan and Pant look eager to perform. Sir Jadeja might provide some balance on his return. Bumrah still finds blokeholes, Lord Shardul gets merry-hitting assholes. Thank heaven, both the Pandya brothers are out of contention. Krunal looked like he came for gratis with Hardik, who is as inconsistent as the Caribbean players he crassly imitates. Thakur is a much better bet, bat and lad, and even Deepak Chahar is a good option.
We have to concede that Indian team has becomes unbearable to watch in limited overs, not unlike the Pommies in the pre-2015 years. Their sole concern used to be Ashes, our boys are bedazzled with cash and riches. If it was India that made One Day Cricket such a huge draw from the 1990s, would it not be apt that we find the format’s graveyard somewhere in our country as well? Or maybe cremate it, and sell the ashes to England and Australia, from where might rise the phoenix again!
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