Friday, September 22, 2006

What next for Team India?

During the Australian innings of the just concluded 6th DLF Cup match between Australia and India, which was a virtual semifinal to seal a spot for the Sunday’s final against West Indies, while watching the game live on TV I noticed a group of Indian fans in Kinrara Academy Oval, Kuala Lumpur, who were waving a placard which said “FIGHTBACK OR FLIGHTBACK”.

Unfortunately the Indian team members who were fielding at that time may not have noticed it or did not give enough importance to it. On the contrary , I reckon, the Aussies may have took it as a motivating factor and applied the same to themselves and fought back amicably from a precarious 117 for 6 and recovered to make a defendable 213. Later on they went on to defeat India by 18 runs.

At 185 for 6 it seemed as if India was inching towards the victory target with just 29 more runs needed for taking on the West Indies in the final. But as happened in every match of this tournament a batting collapse of 4 wickets for 10 runs saw Australia clinch a victory from the jaws of defeat. If it was Mitchell Johnson with 4 for 11 who decimated India in their previous group match against Asutralia, this time Brett Lee with figures of 5 for 38 helped Australia defend a low total of 213.

If this tournament was considered as a podium for getting into the top gear and preparing the team for the forthcoming Champions Trophy and subsequent World Cup in Caribbean islands during next summer, both West Indies and Australia have reasons to celebrate. Good that the teams for the championship trophy were decided long back or else India would have been competing in preliminaries to qualify for the Group Stage. Two of the teams that will be competing in the preliminaries Sri Lanka and West Indies may even end up in the finals if they continue to perform as they did during the major part of this year. Sri Lanka thrashed England by 5-0 and West Indies won by 4-1 against India in their respective ODI series this summer. I would seriously doubt the chances of the PAPER TIGERS to get to the semi final stage in either of next two big ODI tournaments.

Though Dinesh Mongia played a fighting knock of 63* in addition to his excellent bowling spell while restricting the Australian total to 213, like his senior players he did not have a clue and was not mindful of the seriousness of the situation. He may have totally forgotten the fact that when you are batting with the tail-enders you should be shielding them from the likes of Glen McGrath and Brett Lee by taking a single of the last ball. Seventeen months of absence from International cricket did not help him remember the principles of rotating the strike. When you are all set at the crease and with victory just five or six boundaries away your first priority is to hit a boundary or two and then take single of the last ball to take as much batting strike as possible. When you cannot finish the task all of your hard work is wasted.

What about the top order batting? 35 for 5 in their rain ruined 2nd match, 78 for 6 in the 3rd and 50 for 4 today. Even minnows of cricket like Kenya, Bangladesh & Zimbabwe would consider such scores as disgrace. It’s a pathetic display of batting by India’s so called batting geniuses like Tendulkar, Dravid, Sehwag and talented batsmen like Yuvraj Singh, Mohd Kaif & Dhoni. There can be no two arguments about it.

India was expected to win the matches on their batting strength and as it turned out the only match that India won was because of their bowling that too in a match the outcome of which did not make any difference to the opponents, in this case West Indies, who were more interested in giving batting practice to the whole team rather than winning.

Sewhag’s scores in the tournament were 9, 8, 1 & 10, Dravid 26, 6, 0 & 7. Dhoni 2, 18 &23, Yuvraj two ducks in two innings he played. Tendulkar 12 & 4 against Australia in the matches that mattered most, though he hit a century and a fifty against West Indies and was chief architect of Indian victory, he could not have done it without Harbhajan’s invaluable 37 and great bowling which helped India bowl out West Indies 146.

The so called Indian think tank along with BCCI needs to get back to the drawing board again and do some soul search or else soon tournaments of this nature or for that matter any ODI tournament that involves India through which BCCI is swelling their kitty through TV rights and other promotions will cease to earn the big bucks for them and there is every chance even the Indian Cricket God would not be able to help them as witnessed by the fact that his amazing comeback innings of 141* failed to satiate the increasing hunger of Indian fans to see their TEAM INDIA win a major tournament, if not at least defeat the Australians. I am sure many Indian cricket fans would have traded watching Sachin’s 141* against West Indies to that of seeing India in DLF Cup finals..

Only positive we take from DLF Cup tournament is not to expect a great deal of achievements by Team India in forthcoming ODI matches or tournaments. If at all a century and a win here and there, celebrate it, but do not expect things changing overnight unless there is a big overhaul of the team and its approach to ODI games.

I can only wish my predictions go wrong.

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