We cricketers are incredibly fortunate that our sport is embraced by so many people in the country. While this means that top players will always be under scrutiny on and off the field, it also indicates that the game is constantly being discussed. The popularity of the sport puts pressure on media outlets, both print and electronic, to always have something about the game or the Indian players in their mediums. Even when there are no India games being played, there must be something about Indian cricket or the players in the day’s newspapers or TV. This often leads to speculative information with the mention of a reliable source to protect the publication or channel in case the information turns out to be incorrect.
The point is not about the authenticity of the news, but rather the necessity of having something about the game and Indian players almost every day. To fulfill this, even individuals who have never played cricket before are quoted for their opinion on the game. Due to our foreign complex and the need for overseas validation, even players who are unknown in their home country or convicted and banned for fixing are extensively quoted about Indian cricket and players.
Now that the ODI World Cup is only a month away and curiosity surrounds the composition of the Indian squad, this practice of seeking anyone’s view will become more prevalent. While it would be understandable if this were happening globally, with each country’s team selection being discussed and debated by everyone, it is unique to India. Individuals from all over the world are asked about what the Indian squad should be, who should open the batting, who should bat in which position, or who should be the spinners in the playing eleven. It’s reasonable to debate these topics with fellow Indians, as it matters to them too. However, involving foreigners in the discussion raises questions. Why should a foreigner be interested in having the best Indian team that could potentially beat their own country’s team? Wouldn’t there be bias towards their own country? We should learn from our experience in 2019, when foreign commentators in the IPL influenced the selection of a player. Ironically, these experts are not even asked in their countries about their country’s squad, yet they offer opinions on what the Indian team should be and who should do what.
It is understood that there must be media coverage of Indian cricket, but aren’t there plenty of former Indian cricketers, especially those who have played in World Cups both in India and abroad, who can provide insight? Or is the old suspicion of bias towards state players still prevalent? We need to stop questioning the integrity of our former players.
The BCCI has shown its belief in the impartiality of former players by appointing two selectors from Mumbai instead of following a zonal approach. Hopefully, this will be the way forward. Indian cricket has grown too big for any selection controversies to persist. Make no mistake, all former cricketers want both the present and future Indian teams to achieve success, as there is no greater feeling than hearing the national anthem and seeing the Indian team flag rise when they are on the podium.
Good luck, India. Go out and conquer not just Asia, but the world as well.