England's cricket batsman Kevin Pietersen averaged 11 runs in the recent test series against Pakistan, but still wanted to play in this year's IPL (Indian Premier League). His coach, Andy Flower, believes that the IPL stunts Test batting, and has hinted that Pietersen's IPL bug might cost him his Test career.
After last year's Ashes humiliation, Michael Clarke of Australia quit Twenty20 to focus on test cricket. In his last 11 tests, he has scored five centuries. Ricky Ponting gave up T20 even earlier, in 2009. His Test career has revived stunningly.
Since 26/11, the IPL has shunned Pakistani players. In the second Test against England in Abu Dhabi, Azhar Ali and Asad Shafiq scraped together an 88-run partnership to earn a series victory.
For Sri Lanka's last Test series in England, top batsmen Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene landed in the UK days before the first Test, right after IPL duty. Sri Lanka tumbled for 82 runs, and squandered the series.
In 2007, Mahendra Singh Dhoni scored 76 to secure a nail-biting Test draw against England. India went on to win the series, their last overseas win against a serious team. There was no IPL then.
Michael Vaughan of England tweeted recently that pre-IPL, India, showed plenty of pluck in Tests. Where has it gone now, he wondered? Or former India captain Bishan Singh Bedi, who lamented that once the IPL arrives in April, every Test defeat would be forgotten.
Bedi's plainspokenness makes him persona non grata with the BCCI (Board of Control for Cricket in India). But those on the latter's hook indignantly deny any corrosive influence of the IPL. With Rahul Dravid getting bowled repeatedly in Australia, Sunil Gavaskar observed that his bat was coming down much too fast, a characteristic of the short game, he said. But when asked if the IPL was hurting India in Tests, Gavaskar, who is contracted with the BCCI for TV commentary, said no.
Is Bedi dervish-like in divining the BCCI's priorities? On January 6, just when India had been thrashed in the second Test in Sydney, the BCCI released this year's IPL schedule. The Test series was still in the balance, but the BCCI could not wait a week or two to signal the IPL's importance.
Consider Michael Clarke. With Brian Lara's world record score of 400 runs his for the taking in Sydney, not only did he abjure personal glory, he even refused to cross Don Bradman's highest Test score of 334, an Australian Holy Grail.
By putting country first, Clarke, with one stroke, eviscerated his bling-bling image. His team got the message. What of the Indians? With their own board mocking Test cricket, they went down like ninepins.
After two consecutive overseas hidings, India's legends are being made the scapegoats. Of the so-called Big 3, Dravid was the most-prolific scorer in Test cricket in 2011, with 1,145 runs. For a month's poor performance, he is being scalped.
In his last three overseas series, fought in the tough terrains of South Africa, England, and Australia, Tendulkar averages over 44. Well below his lofty standards, but a performance few international batsmen would spurn. In 2011, VVS Laxman made 773 runs, at an average of over 40.
Trust the maverick Bedi to call a spade a spade. Spare the seniors the witch-hunt, he implores, and dump the BCCI chaudhries (overlords) for accomplished cricketers. Traditionally the domain of businessmen and politicos, the BCCI retains power firmly in grasp, while shrewdly doling out sops to favoured cricketers.
Many a defeated Mughal prince preferred a quick death than be administered the pousta, an opium drink that made one go mad ever so slowly. Why then let Test cricket linger? The BCCI would do it a big favour by abandoning it altogether.
Only a month ago, Ricky Ponting was seeking inspiration from India's big three. Now they must turn to him. Boycott the IPL, and exit Test cricket on their own terms.
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