Indian Cricket Team in a Familiar Territory

Rajat JainSenior Analyst IOctober 1, 2009

As a child, my dad had warned me not to follow cricket because that would mean becoming a fan of Indian cricket team. And he had said from his over 20 years of experience that I will not have a good time.

At that age, when kids think that parents can do nothing right for you, I did not listen to him and continued investing my time, energy, emotions…and even prayers in the game, forming my "expert" opinion on ways of improving our cricket like scores of million country mates and getting disheartened more often than not.

Now it does not come as a surprise, even though equally heartbreaking, when Indian team was knocked out of yet another tournament in the very first round.

In the last two years, Dhoni's men have suffered the same fate in three of the four biggest tournaments and a pattern is emerging here in this decade—especially in the limited overs cricket.

India flourished under Sourav Ganguly for a couple of years, chasing one of the highest targets at the holiest stadium, and then reaching the finals of the World Cup. Ganguly's decline began shortly after that—as a batsman as well as a captain—and it was the heart of the Tiger of Bengal that made him to keep trying and eventually make a fairytale exit.

His successor, Rahul Dravid, achieved initial laurels with the team, creating a world record of winning 14 consecutive matches while chasing, and eight consecutive victories. His tale ended in tears in the World Cup 2007 after suffering a shocking defeat against Bangladesh and being knocked out of the first round. He later lost his position in the shorter version of the game although continues to play in tests.

The player leading the national team has been under immense pressure and has resulted in initial glory and further decline—both for the player and the team—until a new person took over.

It looks like a similar fate is beckoning for the Captain Cool of India who looked like making gold on every thing he touched during the initial part of his captaincy—including his indomitable luck with the coin.

Even though the Men in Blue achieved the no. 1 ranking temporarily, the problems have been evident in the past year. As Sambit Bal rightly pointed out, Indians success has been more a result of feeble competition rather than its spectacular run, at least in the last one year.

Our bowlers are suffering from the same situation. Be it Irfan Pathan, who was hailed as the next Wasim Akram or RP Singh, everybody has floundered after showing initial promise.

Even Zaheer Khan almost got his career ruined before he decided to show commitment towards the game, and the less talked about Munaf Patel, the better. A guy who used spit fire at 140 kmph is now struggling to reach 130 at pace. Ashish Nehra spends more time healing his injuries than threatening a batsman.

The latest insult to injury is Ishant Sharma, whose year can be at best mentioned as abysmal. A bowler whom the Indians were finally bidding their hopes on is leaking runs at over six an over for the last year. And this is the player on whom a whopping $900,000 were bid during the first version of IPL.

Is the overflow of money in the game resulting in the downfall of the players by calming down the fire in their bellies and lowering the threshold for their commitment levels?

Lets leave it to some other day and look at what went wrong in this tournament.

First, the absence of three players definitely hurt here—Virender Sehwag, Yuvraj Singh and Zaheer Khan. Although, it would be premature to label us as three players short. Ashish Nehra did a superb job as a lead bowler, but it was the support cast which let us down.

Harbhajan Singh is not turning out to be the senior bowler in India. Content with bowling a flat defensive line without giving the ball some flight, he has been a big reason behind throwing away the initial advantage given by our faster bowlers.

It happened against Pakistan, and later against Australia. We need to find an able middle order spinner or medium pacer who can be aggressive and give us the needed breakthroughs.

The team definitely suffers from the downfall of the younger Pathan who provided the perfect third bowler in middle overs while giving enough options with the bat.

On the batting side, the selectors have had an short sight by giving more than enough weight to the performance in T20 as a yardstick in the ODIs. Logic defies why the substance of Badrinath is being ignored for the flamboyance of Virat Kohli and Yousuf Pathan.

Pathan is clearly inept to survive more than 30 balls while Kohli—even though played a good innings against a second rate West Indies attack—is not ready to face the international competition.

Finally, our captain, who has oozed positive energy since taking over the side should not forget the reason behind his success.

"To our bad luck, the game against Australia was washed out. We could have easily won that game, " Dhoni confesses after winning against West Indies.

Does the captain really thinks he could have easily won against Australia? What is up with the Captain Cool giving lame excuses?