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On the victory against England, there is applause not only for Team India but also for BCCI…

4 min read

The five-Test series being played against England has not been completed yet, but Team India has already won the series with a lead of 3-1. This victory is not only of Team India but also of BCCI, and the hero of the victory is not only the captain Rohit Sharma but also the chief selector of Team India, Ajit Agarkar. Rohit can be thanked for his calm nature and creating a stress-free environment in the team, while Agarkar can be thanked for his enthusiastic team selection.

India have an amazing home record of being undefeated in 17 series in ten years, but the England series is special from the player performance perspective and the way the BCCI has supported Test cricket. Like before, Indian wickets were not difficult but challenging for the foreign players. Skill was required to score runs on the pitch, and bowlers were left without wickets due to poor wickets.

Both the teams scored more than 300 runs many times. Pope, Duckett, Root scored centuries for England and if others failed, it was not because of bad wickets but because of bad batting. For India, Jaiswal, Rohit Sharma, Gill, Jadeja scored centuries and it was not the fault if others missed wickets.

By building good Test match tracks, the BCCI quelled the criticism that our ‘home’ wins were due to ‘constructed’ wickets giving an unfair advantage to the spinners. This criticism is over now – in the sense that Bumrah, Siraj and Akash Deep made important contributions to Team India’s victory.

The BCCI made a strong statement about supporting Test cricket, hosting a five-match competition first (unlike SA where we played 2 games) and then laying the tracks that would produce quality cricket. All the tests were interesting; Quality cricket with equal opportunities for batsmen and bowlers.

Apart from wickets, BCCI has other reasons to be happy… Concerned over the players’ tendency to give priority to IPL over Ranji and Tests, BCCI warned the players of facing ‘serious consequences’. The message was that do not mess up, anyone doing so could lose the central contract or be banned from the IPL, besides not being considered for selection for Team India.

The BCCI took swift action to curb the disturbing trend where players (even domestic, non-contracted ones) were openly disrespecting Ranji. Captain Rohit Sharma reiterated that warning when he talked about supporting ‘hungry’ players for the Test.

BCCI is a winner in the sense that if the England series is seen as an annual health check, the results show that Indian cricket is in good shape. What is particularly gratifying is that the IPL and white-ball cricket is developing players who can successfully transition to the longer format.

That the IPL can produce quality red-ball players is a big win for the BCCI because that is the path they have chosen. Dhruv Jurel surprised everyone with his remarkable maturity (and patience), but he is not the only one to demonstrate the benefits of white-ball cricket. UP’s Sameer Rizvi did not hit any arrow in Ranji, but this ₹8.4 crore IPL player playing for CSK scored a triple century in the Under-23 tournament. This shows that while formats may differ, players learn the skills needed to succeed at the top level. Till now there was a perception that IPL stars could only conquer small mountains, but would not be able to go beyond the base camp of Everest. Now that perception has changed.

The England series has also demolished the theory that Test cricket is a tough test in which only experienced players can succeed. To everyone’s surprise, India won with half their team missing, while Kohli, Shami, Pant did not play in the entire series. Whereas Jadeja and Bumrah were not available for all the matches.

The advancement of new players is a big victory for Indian cricket. More bench strength provides options for selectors and sends a message that no matter how old you are, the game is bigger. No one is indispensable, and for every retiring king there is a ‘hungry’ young man waiting for his chance.

The BCCI selectors were at the top of their game in the England series. Ajit Agarkar and his colleagues are heroes as they chose youth while avoiding the temptation to go back to Pujara when Kohli and Rahul were unavailable. The selectors rewarded Ranji player Sarfaraz and gave Patidar a longer chance, picked Akashdeep on the basis of India A games and saw the fire in young Jurel as an IPL player. Along with this, do not forget the tough lesson given to Ishan Kishan and Shreyas Iyer.

BCCI can look at Indian cricket from the right perspective and feel a sense of immense satisfaction. It runs the largest cricket structure in the world – from Under 14 to Ranji/Duleep/Iranian age group cricket. More cricket is played in India than all other countries combined. The system is developing quality players, the conveyor belt of cricket is bringing exciting talent to the fore and the WPL is a game-changing moment for women’s cricket.

Cricket’s fan base is growing, the line-up of sponsors is growing and the IPL is a huge commercial success. So, whatever the criteria, there is BCCI Man of the Match (MOTM).