From one brother to the next. Following his younger sibling, Ian Chappell offers a more nuanced diagnosis of India’s recent failings:
There’s also the suspicion that honest appraisal is an accepted part of life in the Sri Lankan team, while the senior Indian players are untouchable and some of the younger brigade have succumbed to sloppy habits. There could be another underlying cause: the Sri Lankans are still owed some back pay, while in many cases the Indian players have become extraordinarily rich overnight via hefty IPL contracts. There has long been a theory that hungry sportsmen are the most competitive.
Whatever the reasons for the differences between the two sides, there’s no doubt Sri Lanka have an egalitarian team culture, while India’s is more conducive to developing bad habits.
I don’t know about the ‘hungry sportsmen’ hypothesis. On the one hand, if you strike it rich early in your career, you have an easier time disregarding advice and ‘good habits.’ On the other, money is a powerful incentive and draws greater (and more) talent to cricket. [And perhaps this is naive to say, but inclusion in any national cricket squad is about more than money — it’s a stamp that validates hours and days and years of practice, risk-taking and ambition. It’s proof of quality.]
But Chappell’s other argument — about India’s lack of an “egalitarian” culture — is now a firm part of the consensus. The idea is that India’s team doesn’t include 11 members striving towards a unified goal, but a collection of superstars who do what they want and have a supporting crew. To some extent, it’s unfair to say this is an Indian failing — any team with established stars will have a hard time accommodating them. But India is famous for its obsession with rank and status; recall Louis Dumont’s homo hierarchicus hypothesis. And think about the fraught politics: if Sachin Tendulkar isn’t performing or playing according to your strategy, do you want to be the person to tell him to shove off? How much room do you have for ‘honest appraisal’ when the slightest criticism could unleash riots?
Other than an aggressive selection policy that consistently rewards success and punishes failure, I don’t know how to change this. There’s some hope that after such a great generation of batsmen, those to follow will not enjoy as loyal and fervent a following as Tendulkar and Co. But I suppose this is the price we pay for superstars — they are great, awesome and talented, and at the end of the day, they get what they want for their wares.