Does BCCI’s current rotation policy risk procreating legends down the line?

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Does BCCI’s current rotation policy risk procreating legends down the line?

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Subhayan Dutta

11/06/2017

BCCI has been successful in bringing specialist teams for different formats of late, which has seen India excelling in all the rankings. However, the continuous squad rotation will be detrimental for aspiring players, who eye greatness by outplaying their predecessors’ records in national colours.

The Indian Test side that will take on Sri Lanka starting from November 16 will see at least six changes. The likes of Rohit Sharma, Yuzvendra Chahal, and Jasprit Bumrah, who have been immensely effective in the limited-over formats against Australia and New Zealand, will have to give way to the likes of Murali Vijay, Ravichandran Ashwin, Umesh Yadav, and Mohammad Shami. The BCCI has been trying out its rotation policy for quite some time now, which means India have different sets of teams for different formats of the game, and it has panned out wonderfully for the team as well. The process not only gives enough scope for players to recuperate from the long overseas tour but also allows them to sharpen their edge with county and domestic cricket till the next call-up.

However, while the team has been benefitting heavily from it, which is evident as India are soaring high in Test (currently No.1), ODIs (currently No. 2) and T20Is (currently No. 5), the biggest sufferers here have been the players. Squad rotation can be a huge hindrance for young players, who aspire to replicate feats of their idols and predecessors by outscoring and outplaying their records in national colours.

Will we be ever able to know if Ravichandran Ashwin, or Ravindra Jadeja, or Kuldeep Yadav or Yuzvendra Chahal, were better bowlers than Anil Kumble or could they have ever bettered the legendary spinner’s records in Indian colours? No, because they hardly expect to play 400 plus games for the country. And more importantly, their names would go down in the history merely as contributors and not legends.

Cricket fans, mainly Indians, have always been criminally indifferent towards records and numbers when it came to idolize or take inspiration from. Hardly anyone would dream of perfecting Sachin Tendulkar’s straight drive when they become a cricketer, but they all want to score 100 centuries. Players like Umesh Yadav and Mohammad Shami, who have revealed that they took to the game of cricket only after watching Australia’s Glenn McGrath weaving his magic on the tack, would hardly play 350 matches in their entire career now, leave alone scalping 900 wickets for the country.

One of the more unfortunate things about this development would be the impartiality shown towards bowlers in the rotation over batsmen. Players like Virat Kohli, Shikhar Dhawan, Ajinkya Rahane and more gets the nod for almost all the formats, while the bowlers are shown the bench frequently. The likes of Jasprit Bumrah, Chahal or even Bhuvneshwar Kumar have been the latest victims of the rotation policy, who are young and performing and would still manage around 40 games a year at best if they stay fit and in form for contention. While in batting, apart from Murali Vijay and Cheteshwar Pujara in Tests the selectors haven’t been very forthcoming about changing the look, the bowlers feel restricted in their attempt to increase their tally.

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Bumrah would be a great example of it. The fast bowler has been Virat Kohli’s go-to bowler in ODIs and T20Is now, getting his first 50 wickets in just 28 ODIs, second only to Ajit Agarkar, with an average of 22 and a strike rate of 28. In T20Is, he has taken 38 wickets from 28 games with an economy rate of 6.82. Be it his slinger, slower balls or swinging deliveries, Bumrah has come across as a thinking cricketer and getting excluded from the Test series against Sri Lanka made many pundits lift their eyebrows. The Gujarat bowler looks a promising player and could surpass many Indian greats if given the chance. On the South African pitches, he could create havoc only if the selectors think about him differently.

However, no matter how wrong it may seem by its looks, a solution to offer seems impossible at the moment. It is difficult to put the blame on the board for it. With the enormous money that the BCCI makes from the huge attendance and TV Rights in each game in India, it is only normal that they would try and get in more matches in the future. Hence, the congested schedule, which demands the selectors to come up with a competitive squad for every series, one after another.

It has its advantages too. India play way more games in a year than their last generation did, which is a big reason why Virat Kohli reaching 32 centuries at a much younger age than Tendulkar is hardly surprising anymore. It is also paving the way for the selectors to get the perfect combinations for the upcoming 2019 World Cup, as it gets to tinker with new players every now and then.

However, the frequent changes in the squad also call for ruthless competition at every level, which not only forces a player to prepare according to the needs of the national team from the very start but also lessens their chances of staying a regular in the side. What it will essentially do is, it will stop players from rising above a certain stature, reducing them to just a fading name in the history of Indian cricket. Ironically, in India, statistical legacy matters much more than anything else.

No matter how much a player plays for his team contributing in a collective manner, which is precisely the key to India’s successful bowling at the moment, it has always been the personal glory that has attracted and inspired the millennials. It is not the Indian team, but the likes of Kapil Dev, Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, and MS Dhoni that inspires millions of kids to pick up their kit bag and go to practices every morning. Every cricketing generation has had their legends, who have paved the way for their next generation to take up the game, and something tells us that the phenomenon might discontinue some decades down the line.

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