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10 Years of Despair: India’s Wait for ICC Trophy Elongates, What Is Going Wrong?

In the last ten years, India have featured in nine ICC events, missing out on a silverware on every occasion.

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As soon as Mohammed Siraj’s ill-fated reverse sweep nestled in Scott Boland’s hands, two significantly contrasting sets of reactions were triggered from the same camp – that of Indian cricket. From the team’s side, there was an earnest attempt to promulgate how, and why, a solitary defeat in the World Test Championship (WTC) final doesn't take away anything away from their otherwise commendable performances over a two-year span.

Yet, the theory fell on the deaf ears of the pundits and fans. A gigantic autopsy ensued, with some asking for resignations, and others, some of them being of great eminence, even demanding ‘punishment’ of the players.

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In isolation, the reactions could scream of abject exaggeration, for India did play well to make it to both finals of the WTC so far. The broader perspective, however, highlighted that they lost both matches unceremoniously – and the despondency does not stop at that – because they have also lost seven other knockout matches over the last decade.

That, India will not play any cricket for the next one month, provides for an extended window of autopsy – perhaps, in perfect synchronisation with the team’s extended wait for an ICC trophy. Before we talk about the whys and hows, let us first have a look at whats, with an interactive from The Quint that portrays India’s performance in the last nine ICC events, since the famous 2013 ICC Champions Trophy triumph in England.

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The Despondency Decade for Indian Cricket Team

India have played 82 matches across the nine ICC tournaments, winning 54 of those games. Whilst a win percentage of 65.85 does not look underwhelming, the trophies column is proving to be a major worrying factor, with India almost inevitably faltering when the stakes are at their highest.

  • 2014 T20 World Cup – Defeat to Sri Lanka in final.

  • 2015 ODI World Cup – Loss against Australia in semi-final.

  • 2016 T20 World Cup – Crashed out in semis against West Indies.

  • 2017 Champions Trophy – An unceremonious defeat against neighbours Pakistan in the final.

  • 2019 ODI World Cup – Agonising semi-final defeat against the Kiwis.

  • 2019-21 World Test Championship – Yet another defeat against the Kiwis, who, by this time, were getting started to be branded as India’s nemesis.

  • 2021 T20 World Cup – Could not qualify for semi-finals.

  • 2022 T20 World Cup – A humbling ten-wicket defeat against England.

  • 2021-23 World Test Championship – A 209-run defeat against Australia, which ultimately led to the situation we currently find ourselves in, engulfed in a raging debate.

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What Is Going Wrong?

Every autopsy will yield varying reasons behind India’s unsatisfactory show in ICC events, and to some extent, all of those reasons will be valid and justified. The selection faux pas, the questionable intent (albeit occasionally), and the fatal strategic misapprehensions will make rounds and re-rounds, on all rounds of debates. Beyond that, a few factors need to be looked at.

Problem 1: Lack of Belief in Specialisation

It has been accepted across all sectors that the horses-for-courses approach, if implemented, will turn out to be a blunder in India. The reason and rationale behind this assumption, although, is not public knowledge.
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When England won the T20 World Cup last year, and with great distinction, Jos Buttler and Sam Curran were the leading run-scorer and highest wicket-taker respectively. The pair will not be seen in the upcoming Ashes – not because they have gotten on the wrong side of Brendon McCullum, but because the team is not a big proponent of a one-size-fits-all approach.

For more context, Joe Root – an icon in England their most reliable batting pillar in Test cricket – has not played a single T20I game since 2019.

Similarly, Australia’s three best performers in the 2021-23 World Test Championship cycle – Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne and Nathan Lyon – are highly unlikely to feature in the 2023 ICC ODI World Cup, come this October.

In the last ten years, India have featured in nine ICC events, missing out on a silverware on every occasion.

India's bid to make Suryakumar Yadav an all-format player was not a successful one.

(Photo: BCCI)

And if the notion is that format-specific players are not available in India, Suryakumar Yadav can be used as exhibit A. Recognised globally as the most flamboyant T20I batter across all teams, the 32-year-old underwent a few experimentations – both as an ODI, and a Test player. Unsurprisingly, the experiments backfired.
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Problem 2: The Immediate Need To Find Alternatives

The approach of streamlining teams is not restricted to a few personnel, but leadership as well – which further highlights India’s problems with finding replacements.

Now at 36, it seems unlikely that Rohit Sharma will be leading India in the next WTC final (of course, should India qualify first). Whilst there seems to be a replacement ready for T20Is, in the IPL-winning skipper Hardik Pandya, India’s options are scarce in red-ball cricket.

In the last ten years, India have featured in nine ICC events, missing out on a silverware on every occasion.

Now at 36, it is unlikely that Rohit Sharma will continue playing Test cricket for much longer.

(Photo: BCCI)

The over-reliance on 34-year-old Virat Kohli, 35-year-old Cheteshwar Pujara and 35-year-old Ajinkya Rahane testifies to the statement. Should India aim to get back among the best, they will need to strive for smoother transitions between generations, something the current ‘bests’ have been doing effortlessly.

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Problem 3: The IPL Conundrum

As for the IPL, links between the competition and India’s disappointments will inevitably be bridged, be it unnecessarily. The tournament cannot be holistically blamed, and if anything, it deserves credit for inculcating certain aspects that are praised in the current Indian T20 set-up.

Yet, questions on workload cannot, and should not, be avoided. According to multiple reports, there will be 94 matches in every IPL season from 2027, with each team playing a minimum of 18, and a maximum of 21 matches.
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Following his team’s defeat, Rohit Sharma claimed that he would have ideally preferred a preparation time of 20-25 days. With it being far from a possibility now itself, the proposed three-month-long plans will significantly increase the workload of players, and subsequently, reduce preparation time for international competitions.

Should the franchises be then asked to rest crucial cricketers? Despite such rumours circulating every season, we have not seen any signs of it, whilst it also looks unlikely in a highly competitive event. Subsequently, will such a schedule result in further elongation on the already prolonged list of injury-related absentees? We don’t have soothsayers and magical crystals among us, but they aren’t required to find a conclusion here.

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Questions aplenty, and some answers are already known. What we don’t know, however, is who will make the necessary changes in an environment that is usually antipathetic to all things new.

It needs to be done, though, for change is the only thing that’s constant.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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