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CLOSE-IN: An Indian jamboree

CLOSE-IN: An Indian jamboree

The word “jamboree” seems to be an ideal way to describe Indian Cricket at present. The cricket schedules and commitments have created confusion and chaos, not only among the cricketers but more so among the millions of fans following Indian cricket.

One has lost one's bearing as to who is the Indian captain, who is playing where and in which of the Indian teams. 

India seems to have captains coming out of the woodwork. The senior most and officially the man at the helm is Rohit Sharma. However, with the Indian teams being sent to Ireland, the Asia Cup and the Asian Games we have had and appointed in the last two years of international cricket, Hardik Pandya, Jasprit Bhumra, Ruturaj Gaekwad, K.L. Rahul, Rishab Pant and Shikar Dhawan as captains. 

Similarly, one is at sea identifying players as to which team a specific player is playing in. I can imagine the plight of a young Indian player, who may be happy to get into one of the sides, however, he must be confused as to whether his performance will merit a selection into the Indian Senior side. 

The sword that seems to hang over a youngster's head, is the return of the trusted older players from rest or injuries. These days the latter is more relevant than the rest part of it. 

India needs to ensure that only one Indian team is in operation at all times. Yes, players can be rested, however, it has to be only a single side that represents the country in an international fixture. The reason is that one is representing one’s country and not a club or a state side. There is India’s pride at stake and diffusing it is definitely not acceptable. 

Furthermore, an Indian cap needs to be earned and dishing it out in such a frivolous way, does not augment well for the sport. Between the three upcoming tournaments and a series against Australia before the World Cup’23, one may see well over 10 new debutants, some of whom would never have ever deserved it.

The India ‘A’ tours are a wonderful way in which to assess players and give them a platform to showcase their talent. Presently, a good season in the Indian Premier League (IPL) has become the benchmark for a player to get recognized and catapulted into the reckoning for an Indian cap. A few of them have barely played first-class domestic cricket but have been successful in the IPL, where they have very little to lose but plenty to gain without immense pressure or fame to live up to.

This brings me to a wonderful article written by Michael Gervais. He has researched the experience and performance anxiety of professional and amateur sportsmen. He calls it “FOPO”. The ‘Fear of people’s Opinion”. This is relevant to Indian cricket as it seems to target both the younger and the experienced ones. 

The Indian cricket stars have a name and reputation to live up to, which one has seen, seems to affect their performance on the world stage when most needed. 

The fear of failure is what brings about anxiety which makes them more cautious, watchful and tentative. Whereas, a youngster, who may have done brilliantly to achieve his place in the side, did it without the pressure and responsibility that the established cricketer faces. 

FOPO is an anticipatory mechanism that involves psychological, physiological and physical activation to avoid rejection as Michael Gervais puts it. He said that when challenged, one protects one’s ego and surrenders one's viewpoint. Unfortunately, with the gigantic fan following an Indian cricketer faces he needs to learn how to deal with it.

This is where Rahul Dravid along with the selectors need to play their part. Brendon McCullum along with Ben Stokes has done this quite remarkably. The English side seems a completely transformed unit that looks to play without fear and inhibitions. One can see that each of their players seems to have gone past it and is not concerned about what the critics and people think. They have decided to play and approach the game according to their plan. 

The Indian cricket team needs to get over the FOPO syndrome. They need to play with pride as one unit and on their terms. The Indian team is brimming with talented players, they just need to believe in themselves. 

The jamboree that exits needs to be put to rest, and very soon. After all, it’s a golden opportunity for India, at home, to win the World Cup 2023. They need to change their approach quickly and radically.

(Yajurvindra Singh is a former India cricketer. The views expressed are personal)


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