Is India’s Decline Cyclical, or Structural?

In economic circles, a major debate concerns the nature of the Great Recession. One school holds that the downturn is just another ride down the familiar cycle of boom and bust, while the other argues that it reflects instead structural issues that are unlikely to go away soon (like, say, a workforce ill-adapted for the tech age). It occurs to me that such language — if not the rigorous tools of economics — might also be useful to discuss Indian cricket’s current malaise. (By now, I think it should be fairly well-accepted that there is a problem in Indian cricket; the English did as much as they could to settle the matter last month.)

The Cyclical Case: I fear that the Indian selectors largely hold true to the business cycle model; how else to explain their obsessive loyalty to Sehwag, Gambhir and Co., after so many defeats? Their argument goes something like this: the batsmen are out of form, yes, but all they need is time to recuperate, stay in the middle, and come back. It’s that saying — “One innings away from good form” — that rules the thinking.

The Structural Case: Structuralists have been grumbling for at least a year or two now, and their argument has gathered steam after the Test losses. Their argument does not enjoy widespread acclaim in part because it is so depressing, and in part because it has stayed the same for decades. To wit:

a) India’s domestic cricket scene has suffered and fails to produce enough cricketers worthy of the international level;

b) India’s docile pitches spoil our batsmen, who are incapable abroad, and these pitches (along with an upper-class bias against activity) also deprive the country of genuinely quick bowlers to succeed Zaheer Khan;

c) The IPL, now past its infancy, has started to skew incentives — youngsters chase the quick buck and learn to slog; as a result, the Test format suffers.

What is so alarming about the structuralist argument is that it posits that post-Dravid/Laxman/Tendulkar/Ganguly, India will not be able to replace them and instead face a steady decline in quality unless the above factors are addressed. The problem, of course, is how to explain the Golden Four: if the same system produced them, why couldn’t it produce more?

9 thoughts on “Is India’s Decline Cyclical, or Structural?

  1. maithri89 says:

    I don’t think the domestic structure is hampering Indian cricket. As a Sri Lankan fan, I would love to have a competition as the Ranji Trophy. That and the fact by sheer dint of India’s enormous population, they will always be able to produce decent cricketers. And I think there are decent cricketers in the ranks, its just that they need more experience.

    • Ducking Beamers says:

      Thanks for the comment. Yes, I agree there should always be a pool of available, competent cricketers. Unfortunately, I don’t know whether this pool will address certain deficiencies — in the pace and (surprisingly) bowling departments, as well as players who have the temperament for Test cricket.

      The rosy view is that batsmen will figure themselves out — those who want the immediate riches will go for IPL and shape their games accordingly, while others who want honor and status will strive for the Test level. It will be a fascinating choice that would-be youngsters will have to make. I don’t envy this decision.

  2. Golandaaz says:

    the same system that produced the golden 4 will produce them. they will follow the example set by sachin and prefer IPL over nation. that will prevent india truly flourishing at a national level. Sachin skipping WI to play the IPL is the most significant event of 2011 and its implications are long lasting and it tells amply the priorities of even India’s greatest cricketer. I am not faulting him, just stating what he did and why IPL means India’s national fortunes will be forever compromised. Unless there is an Indian cricketer of some repute that skips the IPL to keep himself fresh for a national duty…..then i will wonder and hope that there will be change….

  3. As much as I don’t rate the IPL, I don’t think it has been around long enough to effect it so far and it seems to me to be more or less the same first class system which uncovered Sachin/Dravid/Laxman et al. I honestly think that the problems are the management of the top 20 or so cricketers, rather than the whole structure.

  4. Well I think that here the latter are right I mean the structure of Indian domestic cricket does need to be improved and that the structuralist are very right in all their concerns.As far as IPL is concerned I think it is one of the main causes of the defeat of India in longer versions of the game.

  5. Rizwan Patel says:

    I also agree with @maithri89 that India’s population, coupled with the game’s popularity, we will always produce talented cricketers. The likes of U Chand, Mandeep Singh, A Menaria and others are evidence of that.
    However, the list of talented young Indian cricketers is full of batsmen only, with a bowler here and there.
    That, for me is down to lack of role models and the media’s (and in turn the Aam Aadmi’s) obsession with batting as much as it is about the docile pitches and inhospitable environment for that breed.
    Though the rise of Umesh and Varun are exceptions to that case, and also examples to aspiring fast bowlers in the gallis and villages of the nation.

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