The BCCI has bizarre ways of dealing with catastrophic situations. Their response to India's dismal showing in England has been to appoint Ravi Shastri as Team Director. Earlier as well, Shastri and fellow Mumbaikar Sunil Gavaskar were brought into the picture by the Indian board to try and deal with the tough times in Indian cricket. But, they have merely been stop gap arrangements to boost the morale of the side, which has not done a lot of good to the team as a whole, and in the long term as well. This time too Shastri's appointment is a temporary balm on the wounds, as he has clearly stated that he would continue with his first love commentary even while being the Indian team's director.
First things first, no matter who is part of the support staff, things wouldn't change a bit unless the players, the batsmen in particular, make a concerted to improve their game play while performing away from home. Cheteshwar Pujara is making a genuine effort to do so, by staying back in England and playing county cricket. He has realised that his technique may be great for conditions in South Africa, but England is a completely varied challenge. If only the BCCI had realised this earlier, and had sent more players to feature in county games before the England local, things might not have been so disastrous in India cricket. Credit to Pujara for realising his flaws and staying back in spite of a gruelling five-Test series in England, during which he was tested to the hilt.
Pujara is not the only one who struggled in England. The likes of Shikhar Dhawan and Virat Kohli, and later on the tour, even Murali Vijay and Ajinkya Rahane went through a tough phase. But, of all the players, only Pujara has sought permission to stay back in spite of the fact that he is a married man. He could have easily decided to go back and relax with his family. But, he decided against doing so, which shows his commitment to the game. Pujara wouldn't be featuring in the one-dayers, but so is the case with Vijay and a few of the other players. What stopped them from doing a Pujara and staying back? Certainly, they could only have gained for future England tours by featuring in some domestic games on the county circuit.
Even for the likes of Kohli and Dhawan, they cannot ignore their poor run in the Tests even as the ODIs begin. Although it is a completely different format, the confidence of both Dhawan and Vijay would be on an all-time low. One really wonders how they would pick themselves up for the shorter formats. Remember on the 2011 tour to England, India failed to win a single international game. One of the reasons for the same was the fact that India pretty much played with an underperforming team right through, a side which did not know what victory in England meant like. There is a fair chance of a repeat this time as well, which makes us wonder -- should Dhawan and Kohli also have taken a break, and tried their hand in county matches? Maybe, maybe just.
As for Shastri, his has just been a temporary post created. There is no definition as to what a Team Director would do. How would he contribute to improve the players' technique? Also, does his appointment mean that coach Duncan Fletcher's role becomes secondary? During the John Wright era, the then coach of Team India was upset that Sunil Gavaskar had been appointed batting consultant, as he felt it undermined his position as the team's chief coach. There have been more appointments by the cricket board, that of batting coach, fielding coach, etc. But, what are they supposed to do. Improve the batting, bowling and fielding technique of the players in the nets? It won't work, it never has. In cricket, the more you play in testing conditions, the more you improve. That's the sole success mantra.
--By A Cricket Analyst