Not all Internationals matter any more

And they probably haven't for a very long time.

There was a time when an international match meant something so huge that your nation's pride was on the line. At that point, every single game played had to be won, and done so with honour.

But our sport has changed.

And I was reminded of this the other day when my friend Abhishek Mukherjee tweeted this.

It's an interesting tweet because what he is drawing attention to is the cricket fanatics who were very clear in the fact before they only wanted World Cup wins. Now India has lost a bilateral game series against Australia, they are still angry.

In my series on why India haven’t had success in World Cups of late, we talked about a lot of things. But one of them was that it is tough for the Indian team to experiment or lose. And that is how you find what you are best at.

In a perfect world, a team finds an ideal system, and they ride it until the great players age out or other teams find a counter. But in truth, you work out how to do something that works, and then a month later you have to change it because of an injury, two series later you have to find a new method because the wickets don't help, and then you get to the World Cup and the pitches are uncooked or dew changes everything.

Cricket doesn't stay still. So you have to change and develop with it. Especially at a World Cup, you need to be able to problem solve, adapt, Darwin, I Ching, roll with it. Etc.

Winning right now should be less important than India holding the trophy. But only playing safe and winning a lot on the way to that tournament might not be the best thing. In fact, learning what their next level of players can provide might be the best thing. Even injuries are a blessing this far out.

If the idea is to win the big tournament, then what you need is knowledge. Who can sub in for your best players? What role guys can take on a bigger load? Which players are versatile enough to be automatic selections? Who are your good and bad matchups? All these things. What doesn't matter as much is winning now.

If you are sitting there shaking your head right now and thinking that India needs to win more, learn that winning culture. Well, they did that going into every World Cup, and they haven't picked up the trophy in a while.

Or maybe you are a fan of India - or anyone - and you are thinking to yourself, ‘I just want my team to win every match'. Yeah, I get that.

Because to go back to what I said at the start, that is how we were trained. If you are a tennis fan, you don't care about how your favourite player does at Eastbourne, wherever that is. No one worries that much about their favourite sprinters at the Goodwill games (if that is really an event). And if your baseball team is playing a doubleheader in Tampa, you're expectations are pretty low.

Many sports are like this. Even modern T20 is starting to have a bit. When working with teams, one thing I look for is letdown games in the roster. Two road games with a bad matchup. Back-to-back games with a team that relies on fast bowlers. A travel-heavy schedule with good opposition.

But international cricket was built on the idea there were no throwaway games. Every single match counted so damn much, that national pride and identity were on the line. And even younger fans who are new to our game are trained that way by fathers, aunties, grandparents and that old guy down the road who complains that no one bats properly any more.

I don't know exactly when this changed, but I remember a series before the World Cup in 2007. New Zealand and England toured Australia for a Tri-Series (remember them, Grandpa).

The Aussies were two-time ODI reigning champions and they went seven from eight in the group stages, and everyone expected them to roll through the finals. But England beat them 2-0 in the knockouts to win the whole thing. Australian fans were concerned, as it was so close to the World Cup. But Aussie coach John Buchanan talked about it entirely different manner. He talked about Australia like they were an Olympic team who was just finding their peak form at the right time.

And of course, he was right, Australia collected their third straight trophy and no one cared about England's Tri-Series win. In fact, I might be the first person to mention it in seven years.

That was 2007, the year before the first IPL, which changed everything even more. Now we have freelance players and soon we will have players whose main allegiance is to their global franchise team and not their country.

At the same time, international boards did not cut back on bilateral cricket. We have three formats, and we pump through these games like crazy even as players go off to play franchise cricket instead.

We saw England decide to make the T20 World Cup a priority during a Test series against India. Everywhere in the world, we see work experience elevens and second-choice teams.

That means each international game is no longer the most important thing to players or boards. But that still hasn't filtered down to fans correctly. We still are upset when boards send out weak teams intentionally. There is also a lack of transparency and honesty around it. If teams were better at communicating what they were doing, it would be a big help.

Here is another friend of mine Aatif Nawaz talking about how people don't even understand why players need a rest. This is only going to happen more. And if done correctly, it could work in the team’s favour. But there is still this weird cringe about what is blatantly obvious. We play too much cricket, and if your best players are on the field in all three formats all the time they won't win you the games you really want them to.

Here is another tweet from Aatif. Australia sort of pioneered rest and rotation, but they still have trouble selling it. England seem to have educated their fans on the fact that they will experiment and take series off, which is actually a benefit to them. Hell, they turned up in the West Indies and the Netherlands with only left-arm seam like it was an open casting.

And speaking of Aatif's Twitter, I want to point this one out too. Pakistan did rest its players, and they lost an embarrassing series against Afghanistan. However, Pakistan is over a year away from the next T20 World Cup.

They should have made the final in 2021, but for one partnership from Australia. They did make the final the next time, and were behind in the game but still had a shot until Shaheen Afridi injured himself. They are clearly in the best few teams in T20. Losing to Afghanistan will hurt their fans, but it doesn't actually matter.

That is different if they lost this match in a World Cup with a full team. But losing a series now to Afghanistan while working out which of their younger and second-string players can do at the higher level is probably way better than smashing a weaker team with your gun players.

India losing to Australia and Pakistan doing the same against Afghanistan hurts the fans. I get it. But it just isn't going to cost them a shot at a World Cup. That is increasingly becoming a tournament where you just need to make the final round, and then you have a great chance as long as you can problem-solve on the fly. And both these teams have a huge chance of making the semi-finals, even with middling form.

The 2017 Champions Trophy had Pakistan win a semi-final on a turgid Welsh wicket before getting into a run-fest at the Oval. It's the kind of team you want going forward. And remember they beat a very one-dimensional England side in Cardiff. That side has since become very adaptable in winning two trophies.

The key is to learn and develop. And that will often happen in losses.

You might not like this, but it may not be how you want cricket to be played. Every game matters when you are wearing your team badge. I get that because I was raised that way. But even before there was an IPL, cricket was already trending this way.

There is too much cricket, and there has been for 20 years. Cricket is different now. There is more of it, and so less of it matters.