I don’t know what I should do - bask in the glory of India’s win over South Africa or lament on the futility of this series?
After the World Cup debacle, India did need a series win against a tough side in order to get that belief back. It is good that the series victory came about in alien conditions against, arguably, the No.2 side in ODI cricket, albeit without Shaun Pollock. Graeme Smith not playing either was a boon, really, as he doesn’t have a great record against India. But still, India’s win was commendable, though the timing of this series does beg the question: Was it necessary?
India now take on England in what will be a tough tour. England are a very good side, especially on home turf, and particularly in Tests. Instead of needlessly playing against Bangladesh, Ireland, South Africa and Pakistan, India should have played the English counties in a few three-day warm up games. As it is, they will play only two before the Test series starts.
They should have played at least three, so that all 15 squad members would have had the chance of playing at least two full games. The current scheduling, by including Ireland and Scotland, really put India in a situation where they were struggling to put 11 fit players on the field. If this does not serve as a wake-up call to the BCCI, I don’t know what will.
Then there is this needless ODI against Pakistan, celebrating 60 years of independence. Now, this is not a celebration. This is a needless match that was planned in advance so that the BCCI, under the presidency of Sharad Pawar, could show value to those who bought the neutral venue rights for a hefty fee. There is no sense of patriotism attached to this match, and it is poetic justice that the match looks like being rained off.
Coming back to the England tour, there is yet another mystifying thing in the schedule. India play only three Tests at the home of cricket, but also an excruciating seven ODIs. This is extremely unfair. Test cricket is real cricket, and that is what the focus should be on. I am not saying that we do not need ODIs. Play a best of five, by all means. But a three-Test series means that any side losing the first Test have their backs to the wall. To win the series, they would have to win both remaining matches. Playing four Tests would have been fine, and five would have been just right. This would have been possible had the needless ODIs not been scheduled for Ireland and Scotland.
Some might argue that this series has been a shot in the arm for India. I disagree. India played and beat West Indies and Sri Lanka before the World Cup. Did that help? Even more pertinent, we are playing England at home and not South Africa. England are going to be a different side altogether, and precious little is going to come out of the South Africa series as we are playing Test cricket first. The ODI series follows later. This ODI series win is going to have no bearing in the test series against the hosts. All the ODI series in Ireland has done is ensured we do not get to see more Tests.
Again, well played Team India. The real fans always are with you, win or lose. But the BCCI are still suffering from a mental illness. This illness makes sure that the people scheduling tours look at money only, and do not give two hoots about the players, the viewers and, sadly, no thought to the fact that it’s a sport. The Afro-Asia Cup, Bangladesh series, Ireland and Scotland tours were cash cows. They are over. At least we can look forward to some real cricket now.