Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Cricket and India

There seem to be a lot of parallels between Indian cricket, and erm, India.

Till late 80's, both the Indian team and India were largely unheralded/unknown quantities till the late 80's. Then Sam Pitroda-Rajiv Gandhi took some steps in the right direction, broadly the same time at which the Reliance world cup and later SRT happened. Both were the first signs of promise.

Then early 90's, Indian reforms took shape, the ground-work was laid for some breakthrough industries/enterprises that were to come along later. For the team, Kumble came along, Ganguly made an appearance, and Dravid-Laxman started doing their thing in the local circuits. In many ways, the real fruits of the reforms took effect only in the second half of the 90's

Second half of 90's is when we really started hearing about Infosys Wipro, started believing that India could finally compete globally and create high quality institutions. About the time, Ganguly-Dravid appeared. TCS, the old warhorse also joined the mix, ditto SRT (finally now it looked like he might not be the only good guy around). Cognizant/Laxman were the slightly late entrants. 2000-01, India felt the dotcom bust, cricket went through the match-fixing scandal. The Azhar-Satyam parallel is the only one where the timeline does not match :)

Around this time, Pokhran happened and Eden Gardens happened. These expanded the horizons of what-could-be beyond imagination.

Early 2000's,
good results all around. Adelaide, Pakistan tour, 2003 WC, etc. Good growth, good infra build up, general feel good factor. Telecom sector came and took the limelight, enter Harbhajan with a bang in his debut series. It looked like we were setting ourselves up for a higher trajectory. India needed newer biggies, the team needed newer names - Sehwag, Yuvraj, Zaheer came up. Auto sector, telecom sector broke through, realty sector also shined.

Just when things were fine, we were woken up rudely. 2007 WC debacle, 2008-meltdown. But the rebound was way better than expected. It also helped that we were seen now as relatively better. Australia declined, Pakistan, Windies disappeared, NZ finally ran out of steam, England were in transition, and it was up to India to not fluff its lines. On the global economy, US went into a big recession, Europe was struggling and there were few safe havens. India, part of the emerging market brigade acquitted itself wonderfully, or so it seemed.

The new-age, confident group made a mark in the biggest stage with a WC win and on the other hand Indian market rallied to nearly touch a new high.

But, the reality is that both triumphs were built on weak (longer-term/longer-format) fundamentals (even the metaphors start matching :) ). Just like how decoupling was always a myth, the new all-round fitter+better team was also just a myth. Both have been running low on newer inputs. The old-warhorses are still pulling the engine along. The rising tide had just lifted all boats, in both settings. Both need renewal now. Especially, with a giant recession looming, and huge retirements around the corner.

Most importantly, I think for all the improvements seen, we are now left with a feeling that some of the basics aren't much improved - governance, administration, education, fitness (corruption, bowling stocks). Funnily enough, those of us who have been following both for a while have this vague inexplicable feeling that the promising-but-not-there-yet version of the late 90's had more going for it than the premature we-have-arrived-bring-it-on version of the early 2010's. But hey, things go in cycles. And this is still better than the 80's. :)

1 comment:

  1. The metaphor has held good for another six months. India government practically not functioning and Indian team practically not turning up.