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India's #1 Test Ranking: Losing Out To IPL's Business Value

The business case for India to hold on to their number one ranking expired on April 2nd 2011. From the moment Mahendra Singh Dhoni clubbed the six that gave India the World Cup, the business conditions changed. Being Number One in Test cricket was an i...

Gautam Gambhir: The trouble started during the IPL

The business case for India to hold on to their number one ranking expired on April 2nd 2011. From the moment Mahendra Singh Dhoni clubbed the six that gave India the World Cup, the business conditions changed. Being Number One in Test cricket was an investment with returns too meager to satisfy all stake holders.

The market decided that the best way to account for the ‘fan capital’ accumulated after India’s nerve wracking chase in the finals and indeed their entire World Cup journey, was to spend it in reviving the faltering TV rankings of the fledgling Indian Premiere League.
And for the benefit of organizations in need of cash like Reliance, India Cements, UB Group, etc India mortgaged their number one ranking by settling for reduced performance from its champion Test side on tours of the West Indies and England. That these tours were a chance to emulate Ajit Wadekar’s 1971 champion side, did not find a mention in discussions among even the most hard core of traditionalists.
There is no doubt in my mind that the team and conditions that made India the world’s best cricket team in Tests would been a much better match for the soon to be champion England side. Then again, there was no money to be made that way.
Even while the ICC Test rankings are more cryptic than Gulzar’s poetry, India knew; I hope; that every Test they fail to win from the number one position, will likely result in points docked from them. Just to maintain their points, India needed to win the West Indies series 3-0. Instead they utilized all their resources towards the IPL and Sachin Tendulkar decided to skip the series, for no real reason at all.
It is amazing how little noise was made in the media about the way India approached the West Indies tour and Sachin Tendulkar in particular. I do not believe Sachin Tendulkar has earned the right to pick and choose tours. Scoring 50 odd Test Centuries, helping India win 50 odd Test matches in 170 odd Tests in return for the money and adulation he gets, is par for the course. He hasn’t done India any favors or charity that we should feel the need to extend him privileges  far beyond what he deserves or has earned. He has skipped 2 tours to the West Indies now and if he can’t appreciate what a series win in the West Indies means to Test cricket fans, I find it extremely hard to connect with his decisions. Having grown up watching Clive Loyd’s teams humiliate Indian teams, I find Sachin passing an opportunity to finally get back at the West Indies inexcusable. Vivian Richards, Andy Roberts, Gordon Greenidge and a host of others showed no mercy to us and when it was our turn finally, Sachin Tendulkar was murmuring sweet nothings in Roger Federerr’s ears eating strawberries and cream. The image is revolting.

Tendulkar and Dhoni during the IPL

If this is the example Sachin Tendulkar has set, then who is to blame Zaheer Khan and Virendra Sehwag to arrive in England either under cooked or like a Salman Khan making an entry post interval in a Karan Johar movie.
Cricket teams don’t win if they are operated like movie production houses where the best talent is sourced from various disciplines to produce a hit movie. India can’t expect to assemble their best only for prestigious events like the World Cup and the England tour and expect to win consistently. Good sports teams evolve as a unit and learn to win only as a cohesive unit. But India have sold the narrative of ‘rotation’ and this seems to have been bought by even the most discerning of cricket fans.
Had India sent their best team to the West Indies, there is no doubt we could have swept the series and arrived at England more attuned to winning Test Matches. This would of course have meant limiting appearances at the IPL.
Coming to the ongoing tour of England and on the day of the Trent bridge Test, I have a feeling this tour is heading for a disaster. Unless rain intervenes, the scoreline is very obvious. Having seen the 2 teams at Lord’s, I can say India looks defeated already. Its going to be 4-0 but all of India will read it as
England 4: India IPL
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