Defeat enables necessary changes in India’s T20 culture

Defeat enables necessary changes in India’s T20 culture

The World T20 has been as much about cricket as it is about gestures done and not done.

Sport cannot exist in a vacuum, divorced from what happens in the world around it. Gestures performed on the field of play are heavily focused on unrealized gestures. If the Indian cricket team knelt in support of Black Lives Matter, a noble gesture, they were simultaneously telling us about lives that don’t matter at home.

The World T20 has been as much about cricket as it is about gestures done and not done. In India, we should remind ourselves of DLM (Dalit Lives Matter) and MLM (Muslim Lives Matter), but the players hide behind the cliché: sport and politics should not mix. But they do, whether we like it or not. Decades ago, George Orwell declared that all art is political. Perhaps all sport is also political. Cricket is often diplomacy (or war) by other means.

Black lives do matter in India, where West Indian cricketers have often complained of racist abuse by spectators and colleagues. The lives of Dalits, the lives of Muslims, the lives of women, the lives of tribes, the lives of farmers also matter.

If our players had knelt (or made some other gesture) in support of DLM or MLM, greater heroes would have emerged than if they had won the tournament. Perhaps I am being unfair here, falling into the trap of expecting a small group of athletes and Bollywood stars to draw attention to national issues when their primary focus is on their professions. And while those best placed to do so rarely do so.

But then consider the impact of Virat Kohli’s statement in support of Mohammed Shami, a Muslim who is shamelessly controlled by those who feel more “Indian” that way. Here’s a young man, a national icon who says what the act is and reminds the disgruntled, the insecure, the Islamophobes (many of whom look up to him as a cricketer) that his team will not allow such behavior to affect them. .

“Our brotherhood, our friendship within the team, nothing can be broken,” he said, a line that every Indian sick and tired of the disgusting trolling of public figures, especially if they are Muslim, should take in the larger context of the nation itself. We are by your side is a powerful sentiment and a comfort to those who, whatever their religion, have been falsely accused, imprisoned and treated inhumanely.

Kohli has plunged headlong into a national conversation, and that’s admirable. It doesn’t matter when he said it, but the message is clear. He wasn’t making excuses for the loss, he was defending a teammate. That’s what captains do.

Unsurprisingly, Kohli himself has now attracted trolls for taking such a stance. His wife has not been spared either, the mixture of inconsistencies and irrelevance barely conceals the evil of the attacks.

And you can expect worse from your fans-turned-trolls. The World T20 was not his best tournament; it was a tired and collapsed Indian team that led and not all the Dhonis and not all the Shastris were able to put it back together. Too much cricket, too many days in bubbles, bad strategy, bad planning all contributed to the poor performance of India. They managed to take just two wickets in the first two games and reached just six sixes.

“Sometimes bubble fatigue, mental fatigue creeps in when you’re doing the same thing over and over again,” Jasprit Bumrah said after the New Zealand game, and one can sympathize.

But this loss could be the best thing that could have happened to India in T20 cricket. It could lead to a culture change. It means that the new captain and new coach will have a free hand to change the essentially conservative nature of India’s approach. The T20 is a young men’s game, requiring a young captain who is not a leader who prioritizes safety and who does not take risks, but takes risks.

It would be a mistake to hand over the captaincy to Rohit Sharma, who is older and belongs to the Kohli school. KL Rahul is in her mid-30s. In many ways, the ideal choice would be Rishabh Pant.

He’s young (he just turned 24), he evolved as a player when T20 was already a thriving sport and not something you had to adapt to, and he’s the most dangerous hitter on the team. Teams tend to be built around the image of the captain (as a player and as a person), and what India needs is a t-shirt-like T20 team.

This also means a change in staff, as selectors shed conservatism and choose players from T20 tournaments regardless of their performances, be it first class or test cricket. T20 calls specialists and they must recognize this.

Kohli is only 33 years old. He has built a tight-knit team that any young captain will be happy to inherit.

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