Thursday, July 26, 2007


India v England: Were They Really That Bad?

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"An escape from jail. Saved by the heavens. England robbed of victory. Indian galacticos choke again." These headlines were the flavour of the day. Predictions of doom and gloom for the remainder of the series abounded and once again Team India found itself backed into a corner. One could reason that all the articles and predictions bear an element of legitimacy, in their own right.

However, we all know that good news stories don't sell newspapers and bring eyeballs to TV screens. Thus, it would be fair to conclude that there are many vested interests at play in the publication of all this dribble.

The Attack

The real story to come out of this test is that the Indian bowling attack is the strongest link in the chain. This is something that is oft forgotten when those who apportion blame, come to do what they do best. After a dreadful start to the first session of the first day, the bowlers came back with aplomb and did everything that could be expected of them for the remainder of the match.

It should not be forgotten that least vaunted of the lot, RP Singh, showed them all how it should be done. It would be remiss of me not mention that he was ably supported by the other three, especially Sreesanth who bowled well, for little reward.

A Fear of Failure?

The batsman (recipients of much scorn in the last few days), if anything, showed the waste that is generated from not converting starts. That, for mine, is the negative. Whether it is the fear of failure that has caused this or whether it is the messing of the team management with a batsman's head that is the root cause, is a moot point.

From where I sit, the affliction of conservatism that envelopes Indian batsmen in the twilight of their careers has as much to do with being Indian as it does with what is asked of them by the team management.

Compare Sachin Tendulkar with Sanath Jayasuriya. The latter has remained at the top of the order for the last gazillion years, irrespective of whether his own form or that of team's. The former has been asked to cover for the inadequacies of those around him, as if trying to get the best out of his own abilities isn't tough enough. As such, he has been shunted up and down the order and asked to perform roles that should have been fulfilled by others. I am in no doubt that Sachin Tendulkar's 'strange' mindset over last few years has been caused by this, more so than any other reason.

The case of VVS Laxman and Sourav Ganguly, IMHO, has more to do with the increased satisfaction that many Indian men of their age derive from merely surviving. This attitude is extremely dangerous and disruptive to team morale. Sourav Ganguly, especially, falls into this category for it is quite evident that the confidence that was once associated with his game has been lost, probably forever (if he goes on to make a match winning century in the next match, I will be happy to be admonished for this comment).


The Takeout

The takout for me is that all we have spoken of previously, need not matter. As I eluded to earlier, each and every batsman got a start, Mahendra Singh Dhoni even played himself into some form - that too in difficult conditions (even Kevin Pietersen thought so). It was especially heartening to watch Dinesh Karthik, VVS Laxman and MS Dhoni playing attacking cricket during the last innings, when many previous Indian teams would have shut up shop in order to avoid defeat and got themselves into a right royal tangle.

Any batsman will tell you that converting a start is a helluva lot easier than getting out of a rut. Leaving statistics aside (because we all know how well they tell the real story) and except for Sourav Ganguly in the second innings, none of the batsman looked to be really struggling.

I would be very surprised if we didn't see a more pleasing batting effort from the whole line up, not just the galacticos, in the next two Test matches. The bowlers, I'm sure, will continue to deliver the goods without ever receiving the accolades they deserve.

There, I've made my call. Are you game enough to make yours?

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