Rarely is the expedient way the best way

All is well with the world; normal transmission has resumed; India is back in India and winning again.

The England batsmen have been made to struggle in Ahmedabad and the inconvenience of India’s recent string of losses overseas has expertly been swept under the carpet like an embarrassing mess.

I expected India to win in India, but I did hope that the response to the poor touring record would have been more creative than to deny England practice against spin bowling in the lead-up match and then confront them with spin on a dust bowl.

I would be surprised if this was M.S. Dhoni’s idea. The Dhoni I knew would have taken a more global, long-term view which envisioned India strong at home and very competitive away.

Expediency is not a word that comes to mind when thinking of Dhoni, who is a warrior. He stood out as someone who was prepared to back himself against anything that anyone could throw at him.

However, I know how relentless the Indian media can be. The pressure, undoubtedly, was on India to get quick results and put the nightmare of the tours of England and Australia behind.

Alas, rarely is the expedient way the best way. To paraphrase the Chinese Taoist philosopher Lao Tzu, “Expediency is the mere shadow of right and truth: it is the beginning of disorder.”

The inescapable truth is that India should be the best team in the world; at home and abroad. In fact, with its human and capital resources, India should have the five best teams in the world.

There is nothing to constrain them other than their imagination of how good they can be. But, as long as they harbour feelings of inadequacy, they will lag behind. There needs to be a burning ambition to be number one; and, to stay there.

I would ignore the flakier sections of the media and the demand for instant success. Have a vision, plan to succeed and invite all to get on board and support the positive intent.

If some failure is encountered along the way, so be it, but for heaven’s sake don’t demean yourself or the game, by pandering to the lowest common denominator. It won’t take long for success to follow, given the talent at India’s disposal. Be bold and get on with it.

The expediency of a short-term win may appease those who do not have the heart for a fight, but it will come at the expense of the future. Groundsmen need to be instructed to prepare the best cricket pitches possible at all venues and levels of the game without interference from anyone.

Variety needed

A variety of hard, fast and bouncy pitches with some that spin due to local soil and weather conditions are required. This will produce the cross-section of batsmen and bowlers needed to win at home and away.

Bowlers with pace will come through; spinners who spin the ball and obtain bounce will succeed and batsmen who are able to play all types of bowling equally well will excel.

The biggest change required is that groundsmen have to be educated on how to employ grass in the preparation of good pitches. Grass does not have to mean a lot of sideways movement, but it is essential if one is to produce pitches with pace and bounce. I have seen pitches in India that have these characteristics and the cricket that was played on these was superior to that played on low, slow, lifeless decks.

Mohali is the best example of the true bouncy style of pitch.

Daljit Singh at the Punjab Cricket Association knows that grass is necessary to get bounce and “carry”. He is the ideal person to educate and supervise the preparation of the best pitches possible in each region to promote the type of condition and player that is required.

The BCCI should be congratulated on recognising him and should empower him to implement this bold plan.

If the decision is taken to do this, I believe that India will leave the rest of the cricket world behind, in its wake.

Don’t listen to those who want you to believe that wickets in Australia, England and South Africa are doctored to suit the home team. They are what they are, due to local soil and weather conditions.

Brisbane, Perth, Johannesburg, Durban, Lord’s and The Oval have invariably offered bounce. The Adelaide and Cape Town pitches are usually batsman-friendly and Sydney offers something to everyone.

India has a natural advantage because it could have the best diversity of pitch types due to the varied soils and local environments.

Rather than believing that preparing rank turners at home is the way of the future, critics should realise that having a range of pitch types around the country is the best way to gain an advantage on all competitors. This would fit future generations for all eventualities as they would fear no one, no matter where the series is played.

The sooner all concerned buy this idea, the sooner it will be that India takes its rightful place as the true leader of our great game.

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