By Veturi Srivatsa
Why is India reluctant to embrace a new cricketing idea straightaway when all others are gladly willing to go along with it.
First they were apprehensive about the Umpires’ Decision Review System (DRS), then they opposed the Twenty20 Internationals to start with and now they are hesitant to play pink ball cricket under the Adelaide lights on their upcoming tour of Australia.
Though the Indian board said no to the day-night Test, the Australians are still hopeful that the visitors would have a change of heart just like the South Africans changed their mind just before the tour in 2016.
What could be the reasons for India’s unwillingness? Just like in the case of the DRS the players are not keen on playing under the lights, though the board secretary insists the day is not far when India are seen in a Test under lights. India and Bangladesh are the only teams that have not played a Test under lights.
In private the officials admit that the Indian team management is not keen on playing the Adelaide Test under lights in a series which they see they have their best chance of winning for the first time down under. They would rather like to play under lights at home even if the conditions may not be ideal. Another deterrent is the fact that Australia have won all the four Tests at Adelaide.
The last two seasons the Duleep Trophy was played with pink ball but the players were not exactly happy with the results. They had problems with the swing and problems in sighting the ball with black seam. The major issue was the lack of enthusiasm among the spinners. Add to that the flat tracks and the dew factor.
India first rejected the DRS, arguing that the method is not fool-proof till they suffered at the hands of the officiating men after arguing that the method is not foolproof.
Eventually they had to fall in line in the home series against England in 2016, but on a trial basis, saying that it would like to assess how perfect the system is after so many years. India, however, had no qualms in accepting it in the tournaments conducted by the International Cricket Council (ICC) like the World Cups.
It is not to say that the Indians were cussed in not accepting the DRS just because some players were unhappy when the whole world had accepted it for what its worth to reduce rising tensions over contentious decisions. Their concerns were genuine, but what baffled the cricketing community was their reluctance to accept that the system could be improved as they go along.
The idea of on-field umpires in a Test going to the third umpire for a review watching the replays on TV started in November 1992, while player reviews was first used in a Test match in 2008. It was first used in an ODI in January 2011, and in a Twenty20 International in October 2017.
One of the first things Virat Kohli did is to say yes for DRS after taking over as captain from Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who under pressure of his senior colleagues, kept stonewalling its introduction after a bitter experience when it was introduced in Sri Lanka in 2008. It was done after then chief coach Anil Kumble, a qualified computer engineer himself, was satisfied with the changes effected in the system, including the contentious Hot Spot considered unreliable by the Indians when it was first introduced.
The Board (read players) said the new system addressed most of its concerns to a great extent, the significant change being the introduction of more accurate ultra-motion cameras calculating the predictive path which allows the ball tracking. Even now the players continue to question some DRS decisions, particularly the feather edges, but by and large it works out evenly.
India also opposed Twenty20 cricket and here Pakistan also did not like the idea of an international tournament when CEOs of 10 Test-playing boards voted for it and waited for the ICC Board’s clearance. India’s objection was that it “would dilute the importance of international cricket.”
India objected to World Twenty20 when its board under Sharad Pawar was preparing for the Indian Premier League.
Ironically, India beat Pakistan in the inaugural Twenty20 tournament and in the subsequent years, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and India also hosted the event.
Once the IPL became a thundering success with almost all the top international cricketers joining in, other boards also started their own leagues with more or less the same international starcast minus the Indians.
Now there’s a successful women’s league in Australia and once India gets into the act as it promises to the double headers with men’s and women’s matches together on the same card the league will be that much more exciting.
(Veturi Srivatsa is a senior journalist and the views expressed are personal. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)