Indian supporters who have been barracking for their country in the five-match one-day series against Australia assume that their team wants to win.
In that they are sadly mistaken.
The series was effectively over yesterday with Australia’s third straight win; the remaining games in Canberra and Sydney are now meaningless. For India, this is all part of a financial arrangement between the cricket boards of the two countries, and the players are not really interested. Their one interest is money.
The five one-day matches and the three Twenty20 games will bring in more money for the Australian board than the six Tests of the summer, three between Australia and New Zealand and three between Australia and the West Indies. And that is what matters.
After the advent of the Indian Premier League Twenty20 tournament in 2008, Indian players, no matter whether they are in the national teams or not, have been playing solely for themselves. Their only concern is to keep themselves fit enough and perform so that they can earn another contract with one of the teams in the IPL and continue earning stupendous sums of money.
Though India is said to be a poor country, the IPL has no shortage of funds because the black money in India – and for every legit rupee there are 100 in the black economy — is being brought out by businessmen to fund the tournament. Else, there is no way such huge sums would be available to pay players and to stage the spectacle. The government is happy to stay quiet because more and more black money is becoming legal tender.
You can see the lack of motivation in the manner the Indian team plays. In both games one and two, India could easily have scored more than the 309 and 308 they did, after winning the toss in both cases and batting. But they fiddled around, and ended up at least 20 or 30 runs short of a competitive total.
Their tactics are old world; while the rest of the world shows a sense of urgency from the word go, India likes to dawdle, play beautiful cricket shots that go to a fielder nine times out of 10, and make a big rush at the end to try and boost the total.
A total of 300 was some years ago psychologically important in one-day cricket; it theoretically meant that one’s opponent would have to score at a run a ball in order to win. But after Twenty20 came into vogue, the rate of scoring has grown by leaps and bounds. These days, anything short of 350 will not bother even the weakest of teams.
Australia always hurries up at the start because the fielding restrictions are more and the team that is batting is at an advantage. Players use their heads a lot more than the Indians do.
Nobody would call Steve Smith’s batting an aesthetically pleasing spectacle but the man knows how to beat the field even with awkward strokes. He gets on with the job and scores fast. Rarely does he fail. On the other hand, Virat Kohli would delight the purist with his style. But he takes many more strokes to get the same score as Smith.
For Smith, the fact that he is the captain means something.
His Indian counterpart, M.S. Dhoni, stands like a cow behind the wickets and, even at a stage of his cricket career when he should be wiser, often makes the most elementary tactical mistakes. Dhoni retired from Tests last year but is still sticking around for the money that is available to those who are part of the national one-day and Twenty20 teams.
But then he is not alone. Every Indian player is driven by that one motive.
In the third game, the Indian opening batsman Shikhar Dhawan consumed 91 balls — nearly a third of the total overs available to the team — to make 68. It was looking a bit embarrassing for him after two bad failures in the first two games. So he stuck around and scored; the team’s interests would have been better served had he gone for the runs and even got out.
But Dhawan’s sole interest is to keep his place in the team.
Expect more of the same in games four and five and three T20 matches that follow.