Indian Cricket – Great Expectations

Today was a sad day for one billion people. It wasn't because of any natural disaster or terrorist crisis. It was because of something much less dramatic – a cricket game.

Cricket is a sport played in many commonwealth countries including India, Australia, Pakistan, New Zealand and many others. For Americans who aren't familiar with cricket, it's vaguely similar to baseball. Anyone who says "it's just like baseball" is exaggerating – it's much more interesting albeit a much lengthier game. The only thing they really have in common is that they're both bat and ball games. While cricket isn't the most popular game in western society, it is the heart and the soul of nearly 1 billion people in India. As an Indian dignitary once said to me at a dinner party, cricket is one of the two things that unites a diverse country like India (Indian movies being the second).

Today, India lost her final match in Round 1 to Sri Lanka. Barring a miracle, India is eliminated from the second round of the cricket world cup. The cricket world cup, similar to the football world cup, happens every 4 years and is the most prestigious cricket tournament. Hardcore football (AKA soccer) fans will understand what elimination feels like. But it is impossible to understand –how- devastating this loss is to nearly 20% of the world's population unless you've lived in India. Cricket, even though it was a game cultivated by the British, is a game that is played in every state, city, village and alley in India. It's a game that gives the Indian population prestige, something to look forward to and talk about, and most importantly, something that brings hope. That hope, that sense of Indian pride, melted away today.

Every Indian assumed (you know what they say about people who assume J) that India would cruise to the second round. We were supposed to easily win against Bangladesh and Bermuda and fair a decent chance of winning against Sri Lanka. Unfortunately, our World Cup 2007 debut resulted in a disaster with a devastating loss to Bangladesh. Today, we sealed our fate with a disgraceful loss to Sri Lanka. Not because Sri Lanka is a bad team (they are very good), but because the game wasn't even close. Our fielding and, especially our batting, were awful.

Our early exit from the World Cup really highlights the tremendous gap between the Indian cricket team's competency and the Indian citizens' expectations from the team. If you just looked at the numbers and took a strong objective look, India's a mediocre cricket team that has its streaks just like every other mediocre team. But every Indian, including me, hopes that we'll show the world how good we really are; that we will win the World Cup. This morning, at Microsoft, Indian developers, managers, directors and senior leaders took a few hours off and watched the game. I'm confident that hundreds of other millions of Indians watched the game, praying and making ridiculous promises to a higher being just for one victory. I guess God wasn't impressed and wanted more. J

Let bygones be bygones. India's practically out of the World Cup. Let's figure out what the problem is here: why does India, a country of one billion people, have such a mediocre team? It's either a result of tremendous corruption or lack of recruiting competence in the recruiting process or, bluntly speaking, sheer Indian natural athletic incompetence. I refuse to believe the latter, so I'm guessing it's more likely the former. We simply haven't found the best cricket players in India.

So what's stopping India from firing all its cricket players and recruiting new ones? Two words: emotional attachment. The Indian population, as intelligent as it is, is extremely fickle. They love their team one month; they hate their team another month. And it's because of this bipolar love and hate relationship that nobody challenges the cricket leadership in India that's responsible for recruiting and assembling the final team. I have complete confidence that there is an extremely incompetent and likely corrupt leadership team that isn't picking up the best talent that India has to offer. While that's a terrible shame, it's an even greater shame for the Indian public to remain complacent and not demand more. Expecting more is one thing; demanding for more is another. Emotions aside, the Indian cricket board needs to treat recruiting like a business. We have to win and become an A-class team.

I suspect Indian cricket creates a billion dollar industry if you include advertizing, ticket sales, tourism, et cetera. There is tremendous business value being created because of the Indian people's very un-business like emotional attachment with an idea, a hope, with great expectations.

So what do I think India needs to do? If it hasn't been clear, it's to take accountability and provide complete visibility into the recruitment process for players and other influentials into the team building process. The people making these decisions need to demonstrate that they have exhausted every possible potential player and done everything they can to get the best players in India. They should consider having a massive public drive for selecting new cricket players like an "Indian Cricket Idol". Details aside, it would reinvigorate Indian cricket, get rid of mediocre, overpaid players and hopefully attract great hidden talent. Most importantly, the Indian public will have the opportunity to be involved in the selection of the Indian cricket team's players; they will be empowered to shape their own destiny. And when India loses, it will be bad luck - not because we have a mediocre team. Their great expectations for their team will be well-founded based on solid ability and not just blind devotion.

By the way, in case it isn't obvious, I love my Indian cricket team. I just think that India can do better and deserves better. But until that happens, I'll continue supporting the Indian team... hoping...praying.... and making promises. I am Indian after all. 🙂

Comments (15)
  1. ahmed says:

    Kind of amazing to think that both Pakistan and India are out of the world cup. Being South African I guess I can understand the feeling as we went out failing to score that 1 run due to someone not understanding the rules. It really was sad to see Tendulkargoing for a duck in probably his last world cup game

  2. Yogesh says:

    I don’t agree that India needs new players to replace this current team. The current team is the best any Indian would dream of. Never before had so many great players played in a singl team.

    I would not say that either of the senior players were past their best. Savrav, Sachin & Rahul all have at least 4 years cricket left in them. Even Kumble has become a better bowler in the last 18 months or so.

    My understanding of the situation is: this is an ‘Indian’ cricket team. As an Indian, I’m extremely hurt to say we ‘Indians’ just don’t have the balls to play to win. Cricket is just another example. Take any sport where you have to show some competitive spirit and you will never see any instance of an Indian doing well, consistently. We have all seen Sachin, Savrav, Rahul, Yuvi, Viru and Dhoni show their skills a number of times. When it comes to their collective skills under pressure, I don’t think they have the guts to fight. The word fight is very critical. We have never had the spirit to fight. That is only evident in Bollywood movies like Lagaan. Well, I can go on and on.

    We are just not professional enough in the way we conduct ourselves on the field. We just don’t play cricket as professionals like the SAfricans, Aussies, or Kiwis.

    Time and again, I promise never to back India in big games or tournaments. But can’t help it.    I will now go for Aussies as I always do and as an Aussie citizen I’m doing my duty too.

    Aussie, Aussie, Aussie – Oieee, Oieee, Oieee

  3. Anand says:

    Do not consume Pepsi or any items displayed in cricket ads for a week to show your resolve to bring changes so that it will be heard in BCCI.

  4. Today’s hot news…

    Serious fight between Pakistani players and Indian players, for the window seats in the airoplane…

  5. Iftekhar says:

    Good luck to Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. For India and Pakistan, the writing on the wall is very clear, Your day is over.

  6. ArpanS says:

    I think Yogesh’s points are interesting, but I’d like to challenge them. It’s easy to say that we have talented players, but that’s a very subjective view that cannot be quantified. Other teams that have a similar record like ours can very well say the same thing. At the end of the day, results count and results are highly correlated with the talent of the team. The talent of a team is, with very good coaching and training, a function of the talent of the individuals. To say we have talented people who simply don’t perform is an oxymoron resulting from an understandable bias. You love the team and its players. So do I. But let’s face it – if they can’t win consistently, they aren’t good. To be great, and to be talented, you have to be consistent and you have to perform.

    I do agree w/ your comment about other sports. I think our poor performance in other sports is very much related to the investment we make as a country in other fields. Other sports, also, require a greater investment on the individual front – playing tennis, for example, requires a court and a racket; playing basketball, requires a natural height (we are not typically that tool). Kabadi, that can be played with little to no investment, we’re apparently good at. Football, no idea why we’re awful… then again, there is no sport in India that gets more attention, more love and more respect than Cricket. And quite frankly, the money in Cricket is VERY good… so there’s tremendous incentive for great players to pursue it as a career vs. a sport like football or any other sport for that matter.

  7. Ravi says:

    I am not too critical about India’s loss. We all have our bad days. But I think Cricket has become too much of an obsession in India. It is high time that Indian government has to do some evangelizing and investment with regard to other sports and games. It is pathetic in this global economy to not have an olympic winner from a country with 1 billion people. The only sports personalities the Indian people can talk of are these 11 guys! I think the media should take it upon itself to dumb this sport down a bit in India so as to bring to focus other sports like Football, Tennis, Field Hockey (which used to be India’s domain) and most of all Atheletics. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy cricket a lot, but we need to have a perspective in this day and age. Just my $2…  

  8. krishna says:

    I agree with what ever you said…I also wasted a whole day at work watching our boys fall on the field to sri lankans. but when australia can win again and again..with same players, why dont we??

    Its because of people like you,like me and like all the billion cricket crazy guys..who pray even if our team loses consistently!!Only solution to this is stop the business angle of the game.remove the money inflow…restrict it!! one player is paid or allowed on to ad campaigns only if he performs!

  9. Rahul says:

    The title should be changed to "False Expectations" and those indians who gave india any chance of winning WC are incorrigible optimists.Even on paper Indians were a weak team.Too much shuffling in batting order and bad planning has led to this disaster.No one is playing to win.It seems everyone is trying to save their place in the team.Since Sehwag has performed,now media,people and the so called pundits of the game are at their wits end to find a scapegoat :).It had become a national pastime to criticize Sehwag.Funniest being when Mr. Kiran More remarked " sehwag had triggered a collapse against B’desh".

    We indians should accept the fact that the current team is not good enough as a "team" to win WC.But if still people want to be in a complete state of denial and keep repeating their favourite phrase "india is strong on paper(though i even disagree on this and cricket matches are not played on paper)",they will be disappointed again and again.

  10. Craig says:

    I am not exactly sure how cricket is organised in India, but using Australia as an example of a system that is working would be a good starting point. The Aussies have strong and well organised junior level competition and talent identification. They then have cricket academies for young players to get access to the best coaches. They then have strong, well organised and professional national and regional competition for the next generation players to hone their skills. I think will 1 Billion people India should dominate, but I think it is the system letting them down.

  11. Yogesh says:


    Whilst, I do appreciate your views on the talent of a team, I have a slightly different view. The Indian team is certainly made of highly talented individuals. The coaching and training does not seem to augument the collective talent of the team. The players, though talented, don’t form a talented team to perform on big occasions. Take the example of Real Madrid: Many big stars yet, they never perform as well to expectations.

    Anyway, I do not think BCCI will want to make big changes and recruit new talent. We have the new talents of Kaif, Raina, Mongia over the last year and there does not seem much promise. Truly rebuilding new talented team will take more than 4 years which BCCI will not risk. Even BCCI want stars or else how would they draw schedule with almost 21 games against Australia in the 8 months after June 07. They need the stars to sell that kind of iternary or the money will start to dry up and BCCI will no longer stay the richest sports body in India.

    As I write this, the final nail in the coffin has sealed India’s WC2007 campaign. Bangladesh has entered the Super Eight beating Bermuda by 8 wickets.

    To the BCCI and Indian media: Don’t go looking for scapegoats. They all deserve the blame. Like Greg Chappell said: ‘the entire team should take responsibility’.  

  12. ArpanS says:

    Yogesh and Rahul – good points and agree w/ you. I also have another view point that’s based on a couple of non-fiction books i’ve read over the last couple months. I think some of the issues may also result from our passive innate nature as a people… religion, history, culture, et cetera. That may explain our inability to play under pressure and lack of leadership. But I won’t bother elaborating since that’s entirely based on speculation and conjecture. I would have to do a ton more research before I make a generalization about 1 billion people… 🙂 About to start another non-fiction book called "The Argumentative Indian" — perhaps that will shed even greater light on Indian personality and behavior.

  13. Raghu says:

    Last I followed cricket was when Sunil Gavaskar, lala amarthnath and all the greats played and used to listen to commentary on the radio because they did not have broadcast on tv. I started watching again this year after the hype and my expectations were higher than what was destined. Anyway I agree with some of the above comments and I think there should be more than one team and if possible one team from each state and when when it  comes to international events pick the best of the best.

    Just like NBA and NFL we can have NCL (Natinal cricket league). I think we can we on our way to win the cup back.

  14. Yogesh says:


    Mate, don’t get upset. I’m not sure what is the argument here. Just read what the great Sir Viv Richards had to say about India and and their defeat.

    For those who are lazy to click that link or in case Cricinfo misplace the link, here are the key words from Sir Viv’s article: Lack of self belief, supremely talented, confidence, promise.

    I won’t try to convince anyone anymore.

    Take care.


  15. pradeepkumar.selvaraj says:

    50 Reasons why Team India failed in 2007 Worldcup Cricket

    1)  Didn’t play as a team

    2)  Lack of Morale

    3)  Lack of Winning habbit

    4)  Lack of Fire in the belly as a sportsman.

    5)  Lack of Mental Strength

    6)  Lack of Physical Strength

    7)  No unity amoung the team members

    8)  No enthusiam in the squad

    9)  Many old legs in the team

    10) Conservative approach rather than natural play.

    11) Lack of confidence.

    12) Lack of great ideas from the captain

    13) Many ex-captains in the team

    14) Captain didn’t bring unity in the team.

    15) Captain is not strong in decision making on the spot.

    13) Weak in fielding

    14) No proper planning/decision making before the game

    15) No detail study about the opposition (team/players) before the game

    16) Experienced players didn’t contrubute well.

    17) Players play for individual statistics.

    18) No youngsters in the team to attack the opposition without fear (like Bangladesh).

    19) Experienced players play conservative cricket.

    20) No attacking bowlers (who can take wickets at will, like Bond NZ, Mallinga SL).

    21) No balance between batsman and bowlers (less attacking bowlers to defend small totals).

    22) No good bowling squad to take all the 10 wickets (No attacking fast bowlers).

    23) Bowlers bowl to restrict runs not intended to take wickets.

    24) Not many real all-rounders, who can do well in bowling and who can do some good batting. (eg: Kapil Dev, Jack kallies SA).

    26) Coach didn’t mingle with the team.

    27) Coach didn’t contribute well on providing ideas to captain.

    28) Coach left decision making to the captain and not willing to take responsibility on team failure.

    29) Coach is very reserved and not easy for the players to get along.

    30) Player spend more time doing commercials rather than developing their skills further.

    31) Selection committee didn’t select talented palyers instead selected players with past records (not in form).

    32) Selection process in based on influential region (bombay get more weight) rather than finding players from all over the country.

    33) Players are not paid based on the performance.

    34) Players have no resposibility for any failure/defeat.

    35) Over-confidence of the team when playing against minnow countries.

    35) Lack of dicipline and consistency amoung players/team.

    36) No shouting/screaming/hugging in the team to feel the enjoyment from the sport and get motivation to do well.

    37) Loose and irresponsible approach of players in shot selection.

    38) No real/alternative game plan when the team is in critical situation.

    39) Individual player always satisfy with normal performance rather than extra-ordinary performance.

    40) Batsman never think to finish off the game on his own batting (to stay till end of the game).

    41) Tumbling when the preasure is high.

    42) No fighting spirit.

    43) Not able to play well on the bouncing overseas pitches.

    44) No clever wicket-taking spinner in the team.

    45) Players didn’t think as a sportsman intead think as a professional.

    46) Lot of importance to the cricketer in the country creates more preasure to the player.

    47) Senior players didn’t guide the junior players well (lack of knowledge sharing).

    48) No competitive cricket played in local matches.

    49) No world-class standards set in the local matches.

    50) Players are selected to the Indian team on infulence instead of his real talents.

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