For the past three years, after every away series, India’s Test cricketers have been returning home disheveled, their whites badly stained. These tumbles down the ranking ladder, would make them disoriented and those following them disillusioned.
Now here in England, they are ambling along on their longest-ever road trip while wearing flannels – after a couple of warm-ups against modest county teams, the good old five-Test series unfolds this week. And once again you fear for their whites.
Fanning these apprehensions are several inadequate Test CVs, depressing scoresheets compiled on foreign soil and those howling winds of change that the game is grappling with for some time now.
To borrow a term, these young ‘long-format underachievers’ are Indian cricket’s ‘midnight children’. They got their India caps with the BCCI logo that had a never-seen before golden glow. They opened their eyes to a new world where money wasn’t merely trickling down the system, it cascaded like a torrent. But it was a complex era of reforms where Tests were losing ground and playing less got you more.
Of this bunch of 18, 16 have had their Test debuts post-IPL. These T20 wealthies have made their millions bowling four tight overs, hitting 24 runs from 6 balls or leading teams with proven match-winners from around the world. Those short evening outings for two months got them not only easy money and stability but also contentment that made them averse to the Test grind.
Several drifted away but there were others like so many in the present India Test squad who were not just satisfied by the riches. They wanted respect too. Being a one-format specialist was an insult for them, it hurt their ego.
They wanted to be acknowledged as complete players by their peers. Virat Kohli’s obsession to succeed as a Test player can only be matched by Cheteshwar Pujara’s tireless efforts to be a T20 batsman. The pain on a crest-fallen Rohit Sharma’s face after the duck at Durban or Shikhar Dhawan’s long emotional namaskar to the skies, and not his usual cocky mush-twril, after his ton at Auckland have been heart-felt emotions shown by IPL’s ‘marquee players’ while wearing whites. It showed how much success or failure in Tests meant to them.
It’s not often said but cricketers of today face a far bigger challenge of adjusting to different formats as compared to the previous generation that mastered the relatively easy toggle between Tests and that 90s monster called ODIs.
But T20 and Tests are a world apart. It’s like juggling with footballs one day and marbles the next.
A 20-day gap between the IPL final and the team’s departure to England means Indians have once again hastily put on their whites. But after seven seasons of the Tests-IPL co-existence, Indian batsmen, for one, seem to have cracked the code, slowly but surely. During the last England tour …continued »