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Opinion

Nobody's place in the Indian team should be taken for granted

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Roar Guru
10th September, 2021
13

A couple of weeks back, a book named Mission domination, the unfinished quest was released.

The book’s theme seems to allude to the current Indian Test team’s capability to dominate Test cricket like the West Indies team of the ’80s and the Australian team of the 2000s.

In his Twitter message, Sam Perry, a sports writer, an author, and a commentator, wondered how good this Indian Test team would be when Virat Kohli starts to score big runs.

The same question has been on the lips of many Indian fans and commentators.

How does the Indian team get to become this dominant team?

The book No Rules Rules: Netflix and the culture of reinvention gives a great template to manage high-performance organisations.

Reed Hastings quotes in this book that adequate performance in Netflix will get one a generous severance package. He mentions that high-performance organisations do not view themselves as a family, they view themselves as a team.

Unlike a family, in a team, each individual needs to pull their weight. When they don’t, they need to be respectfully replaced with a newcomer.

This does not mean a chop-and-change culture. Everyone is given sufficient time and space to perform or perish.

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Just like Netflix, the Indian cricket team is another example of a high-performance unit. The Indian team needs to be managed based on rules like the one espoused in the book.

Ajinkya Rahane

(Photo by William West/AFP via Getty Images)

In recent cricketing examples, we did see the Australian selectors adopt such a high-performance team management philosophy without giving too much space for other sentiments.

Steve Waugh, Damien Martyn, Mark Waugh, Ian Healy, and various other brilliant cricketers were not allowed to linger in the team when they started to pull in only adequate performances or when superior replacements were readily available on the bench.

When it comes to the Indian cricket team management, we have historically seen popular sentiments being given too much consideration, specifically when it comes to the position of star players.

In the past, we have seen various greats, like Sachin Tendulkar or Kapil Dev, being given extended time in the playing XI despite them turning in only adequate performances.

The selectors retained the stalwart-filled batting unit of the team whitewashed in 2011 by England for the subsequent tour to Australia. No surprise that this team was wiped 4-0 by the Aussies as well.

The latest example of this reluctance to take the right and timely decision is the persistence with players such as Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane.

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Ajinkya has been out of form in this English series, and his statistics over the past two years don’t help his case at all.

Pujara’s case is not as clear cut as Ajinkya’s, but I would still argue that he is turning in below-adequate performances for the team.

I could say that Pujara has scored 91 and 60 in the second innings of the Headingley and the Oval Tests. However, these scores hide that he has managed to make only a modest score in conditions that were suitable for batting.

If Pujara is a top-order batsman and Test specialist, his role is to fight off tough batting conditions and make hay when the conditions ease.

Cheteshwar Pujara

(Photo by Saeed KHAN / AFP via Getty Images)

However, Pujara had repeatedly failed in the first innings of the matches when the ball swung around and turned in just adequate scores in flat batting conditions.

I can argue that an ostensibly flat-pitch bully cannot fare any poorer than Pujara did in tough conditions but will score faster and bigger when the conditions are flat.

So what additional value is Pujara as a Test specialist bringing to the team?

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If I follow the Twitter messages from journalists close to the team, I can see that the team management planned to ‘rest’ Ajinkya for the Manchester Test, which has reportedly been cancelled due to COVID-19.

If they did ‘rest’ him, I would be concerned that they are still resorting to euphemisms than calling a spade a spade.

In the press conference, the batting coach, Vikram Rathour, said that he is not concerned by Ajinkya’s lack of form. That shows the continued existence of entitled stardom within the team.

This is not what high-performance team managers say. This is not the kind of message that batters waiting on the bench for their chance should hear.

Mayank Agarwal or Surya Kumar Yadav, even if one would’ve replaced Rahane in the Manchester Test, should not think that his place in the team is only a temporary one until the team brings back Rahane for the next series.

Nobody’s place in the Indian team should be taken for granted, like in a family, for this is not an Indian family, but an Indian team.

In this age where data is available in various slices, the selectors must adopt a true high-performance management philosophy and leave no room for sentimental or star-based decisions.

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