T20 Debacle: Is it The Beginning of Yet Another End?

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The swagger that was once considered the signature of a confident man looks like misplaced arrogance. Such is the law of the nature. What goes up has to come down. Two years back, when the new look Indian cricket team went to South Africa for the T20 world cup, there were no expectations. They fumbled but still managed to get past the hurdles to claim the crown. The memories of 1983 flashed before everyone’s eyes. MSD in a brief span of three years was standing at the same citadel where no one other than Kapil Dev had stood. That was the beginning of his era that has lasted longer than anyone would have expected for an Indian team captain.

However, things are different today. In India, we excel at writing obituaries and we did not waste time in burying the Great Indian Team’s reputation after a debacle that’s surely going to take some time to forget. The once mild mannered and confident captain cool is now an epitome of haughtiness and the team that was touted to be the number 1 in the world is being written off as an over rated side with over paid stars. We can’t control the urge to analyse; we have so much of idle time to kill!

Going back to the team of 2007 and the one that won the 1983 World cup, the two teams bore an uncanny similarity. They were both underdogs and went to play without the pressure of expectations back home. There was raw talent that the cricketing World did not know about. No one expected Kapil Dev to come and hit 175 runs to demolish Zimbabwe after being 5 down for 17. Similary, no one knew that Yuvraj could go all the way and hit 6 sixes to avenge the 30-run over humiliation he suffered at the hands of the same team. Back then, there was a greater motivation to succeed because no one who knew Cricket looked beyond West Indies and maybe Australia and England t an extent.

Once upon a time, we walked like Kings!
Similarly, the team of 2009 seems to be similar to one that played the 1987 World Cup. Indians were favorites to win on the home turf in 1987. However, they succumbed timidly to the Gooch-force. In 2009, history repeated itself as England dashed all hopes of the tournament favorites. I consider it a logical argument when someone says that an off day in the office doesn’t mean that the team is bad but the manner in which all of it unfolded leaves a lot to be desired. At such a high level you expect the "favorites" to at least pull off one win in the big league. To make matters worse, they lost to two of the weakest Big 8 of World Cricket. A post mortem would yield several other reasons for the debacle but on the face of it, I believe three points turned the tide for India.

1. The Sehwag Fiasco: The tension was evident but no one exactly knew what was cooking in the dressing room when a grumpy captain started acting snooty in front of the media. Not the ones to take it lying down, the media too did not back out and a war ensued. There were shows of strength with the captain parading the team in a press conference (which reminded me of those politicians who trade ‘horses’ and then parade them before confidence votes) and declining to comment on the nature of Sehwag’s injury. The manner in which the rumors were rebuffed made them look true. Finally the curtains were drawn when Sehwag returned home. All of that left a bad taste and no doubt cast a shadow on the morale of the team.
2. The Team and its Think Tank(ed): IPL or no IPL, the team didn’t seem to have a strategy for a World Cup competition. They were harping on the gains of the IPL to see them through. Have a look at the team composition. Gambhir looked scratchy while Rohit Sharma was out on a mission to destroy the bowlers with contempt on every ball he faced. Expectedly, luck deserted him in the big games when experienced bowlers got the better of him. The less said about Yusuf Pathan the better. He is what Madahavan is to Bollywood. Successful in his own terrain but a pale shadow of himself on a bigger canvas. He can be destructive when facing lesser mortals but when it comes to good bowlers, his frailty is exposed. A 9 ball 17 is not enough buddy! Raina too seemed to have exhausted his apetite for runs at the IPL itself. He is not your ideal number three player as he likes to live dangerously. Sending him at three puts pressure on the batsmen coming after him if he gets out early. Send him right at the top or save him for the last.
Yuvraj was probably India’s best bet in this format and I find it difficult to understand the idea of “shielding” him when the wickets were falling against England. How good a strategy is it to shield your best player in a 20 over game? Shield him from what? Ishant looks like an overworked horse. He seemed like going through the paces while bowling. The firepower was no where to be seen. A lackluster IPL did not help either. Besides, there were some injuries carried forward from IPL to others as well.
..And then all that was left was a bruised ego

If you thought that I forgot our captain cool, you are wrong. I saved the last for him. The last five years have been like a fairytale for Dhoni. Like Midas, everything Dhoni touched turned to Gold. His rise from a small town boy to a youth icon was all in a short span of time. Everything that he did was talked about. Be it his hair style, his knack of taking radical decisions like sending in a greenhorn Joginder Sharma to bowl the last crucial over in a World Cup final or his link ups with beautiful women. He regaled in all that and no one minded it. Things began to change when people got bored of the status quo. There was a hue and cry over Dhoni skipping a State honor program and then not replying to the SMSes sent by The ‘humility personified’ Big B who went around in the town talking about the disrespect meted out to him. All of it could still have been in control but MSD lost his batting form too. Since he could not let his bat do the talking, he spoke himself and got entangled in a war off the cricketing ground.
It is difficult for a person to maintain his sanity when everyone around him is losing theirs. The inevitable happened and everything he did from thereon was scrutinized. It didn’t help when his gamble of sending Jadeja ahead of Yuvraj didn’t work out and neither did he do any good for himself when he almost served a victory to Bangladesh with his own batting (scored 11 off 23 balls coming at number three!).
The times are bad and not the man himself. How I wish I could ask MSD to pick up one of Ruskin Bond’s poem titled ‘If’. Plus shaking off that extra baggage of stardom and ultraconfidence bordering on overconfidence would surely help. When the same Indian team that lost to England took to the field against South Africa, I could sense that it was a message from MSD to show that team selection was not at fault against England. South Africa didn’t let the message assume significance. I hope he takes time out to rethink all that.

Yeah, you need to do some thinking mates!

3. The S(h)ort Ball Menace: The other teams had sorted the flat pitch Indian bullies before coming to England. They tested them with pacey short pitched stuff and the Indians were left incapacitated. The juggernauts that thunder on placid pitches squeaked and walked back to the dug out with tails between their legs. This tactics of the opponents caught them completely unawares. The silver lining is that these guys are talented enough to figure a way out of their shortcoming. The question is - do they have the time to do it?

Blaming the IPL for the slump is a bit too stretched on this occasion. None of these players sight an overpacked cricketing calendar when it comes to playing at the IPL because of the money involved. Since no one scrutinizes their performances in IPL so they never turn down this easy money which is guaranteed despite failing. Gautam Gambhir looked out of touch throughout the IPL season and so did Yuvraj but no one questioned that. Only when they faltered at the big scene talks about excessive cricket started doing the rounds. All major Sri Lankan players too participated in the IPL and all of them carried their form from IPL to the T20 World cup. When you have one team going undefeated in a tournament and owing its success to the IPL, you need to question your coach when he says that IPL spoilt the team’s chances. India has a good pool of players to pick from. Why is it then that the same players keep playing? Why didn’t these ‘overworked’ players opt for rest in some games of the IPL?

Much of what is posted in analysis is crap and the small bit that makes sense is like “dropping water on a duck’s back”. So, my dear Indian fans, stop burning effigies and shouting slogans. These bad days are like the troughs of a sinusoidal curve. The next crest lies someway ahead. Let us enjoy the low together because they say that it gets lonely at the top!

PS: And if you guys didn’t know, the Indian Women’s Cricket team made it to the Women's T20 World Cup semi finals!


Anonymous said...

Thanks to your blog I came to know that India is out of T20 WC. I didn't know T20 WC is of such an importance! Just 2 week back there was IPL. Sure Indians are so waste.


Sensible Garbage said...

@Adi: A waste..hmm..sad tht u were forced into being one ;) If you discount the emotions of a lot of folks, there were still million of dollars at stake in this tournament..does that make it important?

Anonymous said...

Of course what mattered was the million of dollars.
We must not forget the in a game there could be only two results either win or loss. And in the end it is just a game. But stupid Indians always need a reason to create nonsense.

(Unfortunately Indian)

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