My relationship with Indian cricket is a very deep one. During the cricket season, my mood is generally dependent on how the Indian team is doing. After India's loss to Pakistan in the final of the Champions Trophy, I was in despair. I could not believe what had happened to my team. This wasn't because I subscribe to the toxic brand of hypernationalism seen these days that declares that losing to Pakistan is unacceptable. It was because the team I support was the number two team in the world, and it lost to the number eight team in the world.
Granted, Pakistan played like the best team in the world on Sunday but, the Indian team, on paper, is still a better one and, given its brilliant record in ICC events, especially against Pakistan, it should've prevailed. India has been the most successful team in all ICC events starting from the 2011 World Cup. They've reached the semi-finals in six of the seven ICC tournaments since then, and won four of them. They've also won two out of the four finals they've played.
With the kind of cricketing talent India possesses, along with the revenue that cricket brings in, we should have a team that is leagues ahead of the rest of the world...
When I look at the Indian team's record in recent years, it is extremely impressive. And yet, when I look at what India is, and what cricket means in India, I can't help but think that the team always underperforms. India is bigger, both in terms of population and cricketing revenue, than the rest of the cricketing world combined. With the kind of cricketing talent India possesses, along with the revenue that cricket brings in, we should have a team that is leagues ahead of the rest of the world in every format of the game, much like the West Indian team of the 70s and 80s and the Australian team of the 90s and 2000s.
And yet, any time India plays Australia in ODI cricket, we're the underdogs, even though they have a population roughly equal to that of Mumbai or Delhi. When India played them in a World Cup knockout game on their soil, they never looked like losing, and beat us by a hundred runs. When the situation was reversed in the 2011 World Cup, they put up a very good fight, and even looked like they would win at one point. India loses more often than not while playing South Africa, even though cricket isn't even the most popular sport there. When they toured India last, they won the ODI and T20I series. I can't remember the last time India did that when they went to South Africa. On India's last tour of New Zealand, we couldn't win a single game. New Zealand's population is comparable to Surat's, a tier II city, and their most popular sport is rugby, not cricket. But when they came here last year, they fought tooth and nail in the ODI series, and only lost 3-2, despite having a very poor record in India.
[T]he BCCI does not have the team's best interests at heart, and is more focused on filling its pockets.
These are developed nations, so it can be argued that they have a much more well-organised cricketing structure, less politics in the sport's administration, and a culture that encourages sports. But what about other developing nations, where cricket isn't remotely as lucrative as it is in India? To this day, India has a negative head-to-head record against Pakistan in Tests and ODIs and against West Indies in all formats. These are two teams in which players struggle to make a living through international cricket alone. Pakistan's population is 15% of India's and the combined population of the West Indian nations is a fraction of even that.
In terms of power, BCCI is on top of the cricketing world by far, despite a severe depletion in influence in recent years. But this simply hasn't translated into the same level of success for the Indian team, primarily because the BCCI does not have the team's best interests at heart, and is more focused on filling its pockets. The Indian team is almost used as a way to get other, weaker cricketing boards to do BCCI's bidding, by way of meaningless bilateral ties.
Change is coming to the BCCI only at a glacial pace, which isn't good enough if India wants to be a cricketing superpower.
India just began its fourth tour of West Indies since the 2011 World Cup. It hasn't even toured its fellow "Big Three" countries this often in the same time period. Since 2011, India has played more than a quarter of all its bilateral and trilateral matches against West Indies and Sri Lanka, two teams that are significantly lower on the ranking table than India. These series make very little cricketing sense, but are good ways for the BCCI to incur favours from these boards.
While the Indian team has given us great joy on many occasions, the fact remains that it has constantly underperformed when you consider the resources, both monetary and human, it has at its disposal. The players and the team's staff shouldn't receive the blame for this, but we need to take a look at how Indian cricket is administered in the future. Change is coming to the BCCI only at a glacial pace, which isn't good enough if India wants to be a cricketing superpower.