Indian cricket must move into an era of accountability, writes Barry Richards
Who really is to blame for India's present state? It would be easy to target the coach, the players, the preparation, the captain perhaps there is a little truth in all of the above, but the real culprits are those who have been in positions of power for many years.
The frustration all of us feel outside India is immense, but it is nothing compared to what former Indian players feel. Where is the long-term plan the accountability and responsibility that comes with the board handouts?
Let's get right into this! Where is a five or 10-year plan to tell the people of India (or me, for that matter) where their cricket will be then? Ask the same question in Australia and you will receive a blueprint that's easy to read and easy to follow. A plan.
India lurches from one series to the next with the odd wins over Bangladesh, Zimbabwe or an under-strength West Indies to enhance results and keep people happy it only flatters to deceive. We, outsiders that is, want India to be the powerhouse of cricket ON and off the field, but the present structure requires a major overhaul.
There is no doubt about the money India is certainly the powerhouse here but is that enough to ensure a long-term future if people lose interest because the team is not doing well? They will lose interest eventually, as other sports start to realise the potential that is India.
Other countries have to be more inventive as the competition for corporate dollars is intense. Australia has Aussie Rules, South Africa has rugby and soccer and England has soccer. They have to plan and so should India, to ensure that they are prepared when the middle class expands and other sports start to look at India to expand their markets.
The race has begun and Indian cricket must move into an era of accountability with a mission statement of becoming the world's best team by 2012.
How? For a start, 30 first class teams is way over the top. You need to peg that down to a maximum of 10 to ensure maximum strength. Academies staffed with suitable and qualified people who have the interests of the game at heart and are not looking for kudos are also essential. Facilities at domestic level must also improve.
Every now and then, the eyes of the world are on India (during the recent Champions Trophy, for instance) and India shows what it can do, but when the glam events are over, where is the off-field support for the domestic competition, your breeding ground?
Players often arrive on the international scene ill-prepared for the pressure, and given India's strong family culture, a player's failure reflects on his family and communities in his area as much as it does on him. Witness the recent stoning of Mohammed Kaif's house how does he cope? What is his mindset for the next game?
Greg Chappell has tried his best, though the job that he saw as an enormous challenge that would help change the face of world cricket must seem to have its drawbacks now. He has spoken of garnering support for long-term proposals but even he is showing a few worry lines and must feel under threat. Sacking him will not solve the problem. To really fix it, you need a 10-year strategic plan that all stakeholders are committed to and will pursue relentlessly. Anything less will result in more problems of the kind we are witnessing now. And world cricket just can't afford it.