India needs a more competitive domestic circuit, writes Barry Richards
The drama surrounding Greg Chappell's resignation has reinforced one of my long-held beliefs: in the sub-continent, particularly in India and Pakistan, the coach of the cricket team needs to be a local man. A foreigner can never hope to understand the cultural and political complexities associated with the game in these two countries, and therefore will arrive with pre-conceived notions that are not necessarily wrong, but that can never work under the circumstances in which Indian and Pakistan cricket operate.
Believe me when I say that I have no intention whatsoever of disparaging the cricket set-ups of these two countries. But it seems to me significant that the only people who have succeeded in the sub-continent are Dav Whatmore, who was in charge of the Sri Lankan team when it was still in the process of establishing its credentials and who was prepared to adapt to the conditions without getting too involved in off-field matters; John Wright, the most laidback of men and one who was prepared to bide his time to obtain results; and Tom Moody, who has once again scrupulously kept himself out of off-field politics.
It has helped Moody's cause that Mahela Jayawardene and his deputy Kumar Sangakkara are two men who are determined to mould Sri Lanka into a unit rather than a group of talented individuals. Arjuna Ranatunga did a brilliant job of establishing Sri Lanka alongside the big teams, but he had a point to prove, and so his era was more about posting big totals and forming individual records that would draw the world's attention to his team. He had to help get rid of the minnows tag, and had to be flamboyant about it.
Under Mahela and Kumar, however, youngsters in the squad have been told that what matters most is the team's performance and the story is no longer about individuals. The intense focus on fielding and running between the wickets highlights the intent to rival teams such as Australia and South Africa, but without fuss, and clinically. Off the field, Moody gives the lads plenty of self-belief so that they think they can win whatever the circumstances.
India and Pakistan, by contrast, are hamstrung by off-field politics that eat into the team ethics. Unlike Sri Lanka, they have not been able to relegate such matters to the back of their minds. In India, the problem is compounded by the apparent `star system' in which a player makes so much money simply by being a star in India that he probably does not have the hunger to prove himself internationally.
A more competitive domestic circuit would perhaps solve this problem somewhat by making a place in the National side tougher to earn and keep, which is something that the newly formed Indian Cricket League addresses. I do not know the eventual fate of Subhas Chandra's initiative, but if he is to do a Kerry Packer, he needs to be seen to be doing it for the right reasons. The BCCI will hit him with the commercialism angle, and his line needs to be that domestic cricket has been totally neglected in the quest for money, so it needs strengthening for India to produce more world stars.
As a Packer player myself, I feel Chandra needs to first go out and sign up the players, offering them significantly more money than the already large amounts that they earn. He can't get away with a pittance like the $(Aus) 25,000 annually that Packer offered us. Does he know what venues he can host games at? Packer approached the SCG and offered to put up the floodlights so we could play night cricket, which would not affect the day games at the venue. Can Subhas Chandra do something similar? He has to overcome plenty of odds, as Packer had to do, but the latter was proved right in the end. Who knows, we may be seeing the beginning of a tighter domestic competition in India, which would not be a bad thing at all.