What a striking similarity between Team India and Team Anna…both the captains – Dhoni and Anna and their team dominated the year 2011 but have met almost similar fate…one at the fag end of the passing year itself and the other very early in the new year. Dhoni and company hit their whacking graveyard at WACA and Team Anna at MMRDA – conveniently conceived as home turf, much like Ramlila and Jantar Mantar. Have both the teams reached crossroads or is it the end of the road? Did they fall to hit-wickets or just ran themselves out hardly prepared for enemy bouncers? Did they become the victim of their own talents, superegos and casual way of taking everybody and everything for granted – too soon, too fast.
It took 28 years for Team India to emulate Kapil Dev’s boys. On the other hand the wait for the anti-corruption crusaders was much longer. Anna was annointed as JP after 37 years. Nobody thought they will evaporate as soon as they did, giving ‘ek sau bees crore log’ a heartbreak after sudden bout of hope. In fact, the glory of cricket hurrah – World Cup was eclipsed by anti-corruption champions and countrywide cricket celebration lasted just a few hours or at the best only a few days.
Where did they go wrong? Team India’s hardly hidden secrets tumbled out, precursor was whitewash in England and it reached its natural climax Down Under. Each and every Indian (120 crores) knew that the helmeted, padded and all guarded Team India can hardly play overseas (exceptions given) bouncers, leave bowling them. Team India has lost seven consecutive ‘Tests’ offshore, six of them just under four days. But the recent string of defeats is scary for the very existence and future of Indian cricket. In 1983, there was no 20-20 and 50-50 but these formats were not the mainline cricket. But thanks to domestic explosion of 20-20 design and ambitions, post 2007 world crown, Indians lost the capability and calibre of withstanding five-day Tests - aided, abetted and consciously 'murdered' by the BCCI. Perhaps they forgot that even in 1983, Windies black washed Kapil Dev’s boys, that too on home turf.
Coming back to Team Anna, triumphant experiment at Hisar one day proved costly. Instead of sustaining the ‘test’ of their anti-corruption ‘revolution’, they started sounding ‘partial’ and ‘political’. The ‘core’ or the inner core turned fatal so much so that it became difficult to distinguish ‘Anna’ and ‘Dhoni’ of the team. If 13 days at Ramlila can be compared to historic ’71 win in West Indies, 3 outings at Jantar Mantar were their one-day triumphs; but MMRDA proved to be their suicidal 20-20 outing thanks to big 'googly' of Mumbai Indians.
The reasons for the debacle or nemesis of the team ‘D’ and ‘A’ are not very difficult to find. Kapil Dev, Ian Botham, or Imran Khan are rare – you cannot expect anyone and everybody to be all rounders – you need a dead ‘domestic’ pitch to be one. Team India was expected or took upon itself to dominate each form of cricket without having the required ‘batteries’, ‘skill’ and even the ‘age’ with them. Similarly, ‘apolitical’ Anna or his team in ‘Lagaan’ style adventure took on everything at one go in the hope that they can vanquish and conquer as per their wish-whims. It’s a coincidence that they hit their own wickets just few kilometres from the venue of Team India’s 2011 triumph. How long can you go on winning a war by just occasionaly padding septuagenarian ‘Anna’, ‘wall’ Dravid or ‘very very special’ Laxman.
But, are the two teams treacherous or failures? Certainly not, but with a caveat. Both the teams actually are a victim of system, processes and misdirected priorities. If BCCI is solely responsible for ruining cricket nurseries, talents and formats - all for immediate and huge greed for money, then Team Anna was always on the hit list of ‘team political’ and inner contradictions. The caveat is both the teams ‘A’ and ‘D’ also caged themselves and collapsed from within – huge egos, misplaced priorities, outdated skills, repetitive oratory and lofty ambitions – some hidden, some blown out of proportion.
What are the lessons to be learnt immediately? First, for Team India and their ultimate boss, the BCCI - do not parade or fit in 20-20 players in Test outfit, focus on specialized talents for each format, have some WACA turfs at home, stop rotational, revolving-door entry; do not force unilateral schedules on overworked ‘slave’ cricketers and build ‘Warners' - you have and you need many and also decisively decide your priorities – Tests, 50-50s or 20-20s, and how much.
Coming back to Anna and his team - first of all have a ‘secular’ approach to anti-corruption movement. Secondly, move beyond Jan Lokpal – make it sustainable Pan India umbrella like anti-corruption campaign. Thirdly, do not be in hurry; fourthly, speak less and in one voice; and lastly, do not sound and act as immediate enemy of ‘team political’.
All is not lost yet provided the basics are attended to and put to urgent and real ‘in time’ course correction.
But as of now, it is perhaps time to wait to announce ‘Bharat Ratna’ - if it is in pipeline on the eve of Republic Day… will it be for de jure national game legend Major Dhyanchand or legend in lifetime itself of de facto national game, Sachin Tendulkar. If at all it has been decided for Tendulkar, the hold it for now and wait for the right time... We all know for sure that Anna is not in the race, at least for now.
Two teams have lost and the ‘team political’ is the ultimate winner. Enjoy Mr. Pawar. Team India may have lost but cricket has won and you are the ICC president...