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June - July 2005

India Sport Scene

Cricket - Has India Lost Its Way?

by Ramesh Seedhar

One of the great things about cricket is that it simulates debate. It is a sort of game where no one really knows if they are right or wrong when they assess teams or individuals. After conceding the lead in the test series against Pakistan and again losing their way against a Pakistan team in the one day internationals, naturally, pundits, critics and coaches will ask why to India? There are a multitude of factors responsible for this situation, one being that the Pakistan played as a team and that all their players contributed. Pakistan also had a better game plan. With a batting line up boasting of Virendra Shewag Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Sourav Ganguly, Yuvraj Singh and Mohammed Kaif, India should never be short of runs. In the just concluded series, apart from the Delhi chase, on a pitch not fit for one day international cricket, India did score heavily against Pakistan, so why did they fall from a 2-0 lead to concede the series? In modern day cricket, a limited side needs to have at least five front line bowlers, usually six. South Africa in the 90’st had seven. This allows for flexibility in strategy and tactics. South Africa also had an interesting problem of having three very fine left arm bowlers, bowling over the wicket making the ball end up going wide of the off stump. The modern one day player will latch into any width. India need address this situation

Another area where India will have to look seriously is their fielding. Mohammed Kaif stands out and apart from Tendulkar who is great all round cricketer, the rest look pretty pedestrian. The batting does not seem to be a problem, although the ability to score heavily is always there. However, India depend a lot on Dravid to do the donkey work in the middle, taking ones and twos. The individual roles in the team are blurred. It seems that there are no instructions and that every body pretty much play their natural game, with Rahul to bat through and Kaif to pressurise later with running between the wickets etc. If Tendulkar or Shewag were to bat right through the innings instead of blasting together then India would have a great advantage. However if they fail then it leaves only Rahul. India needs to find a good all-rounder with the capabilities of Andrew Flintoff, Shaun Pollack or Kallis. Most sides would crave for that for in order to win one day internationals it is important to have three dimensional cricketers in team and not bits and pieces player.

Ganguly appeals holds no water
India’s team captain Sourav Ganguly has been backed by the BCCI to take his case to the court of arbitration for sport (CAS) against the ICC for rejection of his ban. But the move holds no water unless ICC agrees to be a part of it. For a dispute to be submitted to arbitration to CAS, all concerned parties must agree to it in writing. Ganguly may not be able to move on the matter., since ICC has washed their hands by saying that the arbitrator Michael Bellof’s verdict is final and binding, as per the code of conduct.

"We have not yet finally decided on the subject and are looking at all options". Ganguly’s lawyer Siddarth Shanakar Ray is reported to have said. ICC has to ensure over rates but a six match ban could impact a players career. He opined that the player’s appeal should at least be given a hearing and hailed the Indian Cricket Board for standing by the player, while some fanatics burnt the ICC appointed appeals commissioner Michael Beloff effigy on fire. . The Indian players assurance also came out in support of Ganguly, terming the six match ban imposed on him as excessive.

Clearly India’s one day cricket has gone to pieces. The tag of world cup finalists has never been so ill deserved. At present players are only playing for themselves as there is so much uncertainty in the team. Pathan, Ganguly, Harbhajan, Kumble and Agarkar all look to be emerging from a revolving door. There is no fixed game plan or a team. India will have to start from scratch., be honest and ask themselves if they can afford selfish players who do not play as a team.

Currently Indian team is stagnating and will not move forward. It is such bedraggled unit that even in form batsmen are losing the plot. Virendra Shewag is now trying to play a mixed game of attack and defence, a game that is not natural to him. It will never carry him forward for he does not have the technique of a defensive batsman. In Pakistan last year as well as in the early part of this tour he was smashing hits in the cover and to the third man region. Now he is trying to play grounded shots. Consequently with the rolled down wrists, the catches are going into the hands of the fielders. The second in form batsman Rahul Dravid too has succumbed to pressure. A premier batsman should never open himself to assist in a situation where a decision on his run out is being judged by the third umpire. It implies that decision is too close for comfort. His was the most valuable wicket and he risked a perfectly avoidable situation. Yuvraj too was an unnecessary waste. It reflected the team’s state of mind. Asish Nehra after the splendid first delivery to Shahid Afridi bowled freebees down the leg side.

The series would have drawn had not India in fourth one day, lost in the last ball by one run. In this match Ganguly, during his short stay played 10 dot balls. Pakistan was very lucky to win and this match decided the series win. Pakistan on the other hand had confidence in their combination and ability, and performed a notch higher than their ability. It showed in the way Rana played. He is not superior to India’s Nehra or Zaheer’ but he is now confident since gaining success against India’s batsmen. Sachin Tendulkar after his carefree hundred in Ahmedabad is back to his cautious ways. Sooner than later he will be open to scrutiny by the public. Pakistan batting worked so well in tandem despite two atrocious umpiring decisions. On hindsight Pakistan’s saving of the Mohali test was the defining moment of the series. Two irregular batsmen showed the rest that if they could do it in a losing cause the others too if they pulled their weight in days ahead.

This team’s confidence is completely dried up If a team from being up goes on to lose the series it means that drastic measures can no longer be avoided.

Women’s World Cup
India’s skipper Mithali Raj admitted that her team did not do justice in their first ever world cup final appearance that ended in 98 run mauling at the hands of Australia. We just played poor cricket said Raj. We had four run outs. There were lapses in field and bad bowling in the later stages. Australia played good cricket and they deserved to win.

India’s coach Sudha Shah was equally scathing. It was a very bad display Our top order batting just caved in said Shah. They just did not apply themselves properly and just put themselves under pressure unnecessarily, with the result that there were four run outs.

Viven Richards view on Indian Cricket
Cricket bible Wisden may not be too pleased with the batting maestro Sachin Tendulkar’s conservative approach at the crease. But former West Indies captain Vivien Richards, the original master blaster defended the Mumbai bombers approach. You have got to respect the fact that Sachin has matured. He has carried the Indian batting load for a long time. He has done his job and done it well. Now he is trying but cannot play the way he batted at the start of his career. He was sad that people did not talk much about the wall Rahul Dravid. Dravid is gutsy and technically a very sound player. Richards loves the way Virendra Shewag bats. He does not care who the bowler is. I would like him to be more consistent and concentrate more he said. Does he see shades of himself in batsmen like Shewag and Sahid Afridi ? No I had my own style. These guys have their own too. There was some advice for beleaguered Sarouv Ganguly too.. Ganguly has got into a rut. He has to keep his head above the water and never lose self belief because if you do not believe in yourself others would not either.

Tsunami Charity Appeal Cricket Match at Lords on 14th June 2005.
MCC’s Secretary and Chief Executive Roger Knight commenting on the news about the Tsunami Charity Appeal said that he was delighted to announce that the two best spin bowlers in the world , Shane Warne and Muttiah Murlitharan had kindly agreed to play in this very important fund raising fixture between the MCC and the International XI at Lords on Tuesday 14th June 2005.
He also added that it will feature arguably the world’s two best batsmen as well. Sachin Tendulkar and Brian Lara have not only agreed to play in this fixture, but to captain the two teams. Sachin Tendulkar will captain the MCC’s side and the International XI will be led by Brian Lara of the 22 players scheduled to appear, twelve featured in the one game played in the Melbourne Cricket ground in the immediate aftermath of the disaster. The teams include three of the world’s current top five ranked bowlers and six of the ten current top ranked batsman.

The MCC side features Chris Gayle, the opening batsman who scored a triple century in the test match in Antigua between West Indies and South Africa. Gayle will be joined by his West Indies team mate Ramnaresh Sarwan, in a side captained by the Indian legend Sachin Tendulkar. They will face an International XI skippered by their national team mate Brian Lara and the West Indies Captain Shivnarine Chanderpaul.

Other players who have agreed to play in this fixture are Stephen Fleming and C L Cairns from New Zealand; Graeme Smith, Shaun Pollock, Jacque Kallis and M Ntini from South Africa; Andy Flower from Zimbabwe. There are also four Sri Lankans,- Sanath Jayasuriya, Muttiah Muralitharan, Kumar Sangakarra and Chaminda Vaas. From Pakistan are Shoiab Akthar and Mohammed Sami. India is represented by Sachin Tendulkar, Anil Kumble, Virendra Shewag and Rahul Dravid.
Announcing the teams MCC captain Tom Graveney said " I am delighted that we have been to able to name such strong teams for this match; we are indebted to the players for agreeing to participate in what will be a very special game. I hope that as many people as possible will be able to come to Lord’s on 14th June to enjoy the unique opportunity of seeing some of the world’s leading cricketers testing their skills against their national team mates."


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