Readers' responses to The naked and the dead - Part 2:
It was a very good article but I fail to understand why you missed bad umpiring I am sure the bad decisions played a very crucial role in the final outcome of the series.
I have been watching world cricket for the past 25 years.I am a purist to be precise. I have been following the careers of all the great players in the world including , obviously , those of tendulkar & dravid . I always believed that tendulkar is a very good batsman and that too a one-day intl. batsman. He bats well in the tests too but , in every sense , not a match winner. My opinion has been vindicated again in the third test in south africa. He is wrongly projected as a great batsman and compared to his contemporary Brian lara . The words 'great' and 'genius' are misused so often now-a-days that they lost their real meaning . Tendulkar is not even the best batsman india has produced yet , leave alone comparing him with his contempopraries or for that matter any other batsman of other eras . He has a gavaskar and a dravid who are better players than him in india itself . I am sure he realises that his larger than life status in indian cricket is false .
And he should stop taking his place in the team for granted . I think it is time for him to say good bye to cricket and start playing with his kids at home. I STRONGLY BELEIVE THAT IF HE WERE IN AUSTRALIAN TEAM , HE WOULD HAVE BEEN KICKED OUT OF THEIR TEAM LONG TIME AGO AND FORGOTTEN. For dravid , it is his poor form which deceived him. As for others , they do not even deserve to be talked about. It is sheer waste of time.
Our team needs complete over-hauling . I HOPE BCCI REALISES THAT . THE SOONER THE BETTER.
NANDURI NARASIMHA RAO
I read your assessment of the SA tour and agree with most of it. Very well written, btw. Regarding Tendulkar's comatose behavior in India's 2nd innings at Durban, I think he was injured. Harsha Bhogle has hinted in his latest column about how Tendulkar has been a slave to his body for sometime now. And then once the team returned home, Tendulkar sat out the Ranji match due to a hamstring injury. So it all adds up.
If the injury theory proves false, then Tendulkar should spend a considerable amount of time with that Caribbean sports psychologist that Greg C raves about. As Sambit Bal puts it, it was embarrassing to watch him bat that day.
And thanks for all your efforts to bring cricket to us, despite your busy schedule.
Prem, your analysis of the India team's performance in South Africa only include the players. I agree that the South African tour was a failure. But I think the accountability should not just start & end with players. A teams accountability always start with its leaders
If the team failed an assignment shouldn't we start by asking the question, was a right team selected to successfully accomplish the Goal?
If the answer is no, then the team was bound to fail.
If the answer is yes, the look down the hierarchy
Did the team get right direction? Was each member's role defined to accomplish the task?
Was the opposition team's & our team's weakness and strength analyzed to define a strategy to approach the task on hand? How were the initial failures dealt? Was team kept motivated to complete the task?
If the Coach/Captain were found short on these, then the team's chances of failure are high.
But if Coach/Captain lead from front, then you go and dissect each members performance and then hold them accountable.
The erudition exuded in the analysis is exactly what we expected after the set up with the silver linings part of the analysis. You have done everything possible to analyze the situation threadbare, however stopping short of passing final judgments on several players except may be for the exclusion of Virender Sehwag. Which may be binding for a reporter of your stature, but readers like us get to flaunt the freedom of wishful thinking to go further and eloquent our insouciance.
As you rightly said, I am sure a majority of cricket fans will agree with what course should lie ahead for Viru. He needs to go back to some lower lever of cricket and get his touch and hunger back. Let us hope he is able to comeback with the uncanny, unparalleled ability to take the attack to the opposition camp and win matches single handedly as he has done a few times before. If not, that opens up a position to blood a Dinesh kaarthik or some other youngster who had impressed during this tour.
Now the spot light should be on the two of the brightest stars in Indian cricket, Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid and anyone will have to weigh their words a thousand times before suggesting anything about getting better contributions from these two stalwarts.
Sachin's case seems to be straight forward though, as you mentioned, he looks very much weighed down by his own expectations Every time he comes to bat he looks like he is bearing the pain of Atlas holding the weight of earth on his shoulders. It is interesting to note that in matches immediately following his injury breaks, he had come out blazing, giving us glimpses of the old Sachin, who was a nightmare for bowlers. May be there in lies his solution too. What he needs may be a break, from what is haunting which could be a partial burnout from playing the hectic schedule of international cricket starting from the tender years of his life.
The selectors need to ensure that the team has an eager, hungry Sachin, waiting to take on the bowlers when world cup is around the corner. And a hiatus from action may be his best prescription, to find love for the game which made him the legend that he is. And then he may be able to enjoy being on the batting crease and let off the tension of crushing expectations and play cricket like what it is, a game to entertain the masses rather than look like a lonesome soldier on a battlefield.
Dravid has most of the components required to make a successful captain on the field. He is intelligent, deeply analytical, and has the game to lead from the front. However he seems to come up short on a very important aspect of being in the position that he is in. He seems to lack a killer instinct, the ability to stuff that last nail in the coffin with the nonchalance of a seasoned assassin. He sometimes hesitates to take the game by its horns and look the enemy in its eye. His tendency to follow the partner, rather than guide and motivate them to dominate and win, is not going to help India win matches on away or home tours. However right now is too late to look for another captain, because one, It is too close to world cup to get players comfortable playing for a new captain, and two, there doesn't seem to be anyone groomed to mantle the throne.
And to add to that this time several holes seemed to have crept in while planning strategies during the second test and things looked compounded in the third. Especially when the lower order of SA batting kept bringing them back into the match. This is where the coach takes a big part of the blame too. One can always hide behind clichés like coaches are only as good as the players, but more than the execution, the planning itself looked faulty at times. Greg chapel might be one of the best cricketing minds around, but we may be finally forced to look for some one who can understand the Indian psyche better and still have the professionalism to help them motivate and succeed on alien conditions.
The name Ravi Shastri comes immediately to mind. To me he was one of the few Indian cricketers who exploited his potential to the max to produce results for his own good and for the good of the team. And he also seems to have a good rapport with the current team members. But like the captain, it is time to hold off on making changes now until at least the world cup is over.
There is a very confusing ambivalence in the treatment Irfan pathan endured during the tour. He looked to be the best batsman on view, technically able to cope with the pace and bounce and always getting behind the ball. He never looked like the tail ender who got away with some lucky shots. In fact he always gave the feeling that he could stay at the wicket and his scoring shots were always technically correct cricket shots. He in fact have already proved himself as a capable test opener too. He resembled very much like Shastri who grabbed a permanent position in the team with a fighting test century in Pakistan while he was primarily selected as a bowler. Pathan could have followed the same path and worked on his bowling by using specific situations that could have been used to get his confidence back.
And to think that he was sent back when Munaf patel was limping around with the Indian team trying to hide an injury adds insult to it. That clearly is a breakdown in the apparatus the board had set up to ensure the fitness levels of players selected for the tour are at the premium levels. While the player has to take some blame for faking his fitness, the physio and selectors are to share the responsibility for not ever letting that happen again.
There are always two important factors that lead to optimal performance and maximizing performance with respect to potential for a team. One, the players need to be committed to always delivering their best by keeping themselves in the best mental and physical condition, and two, the support groups, including the BCCI, selectors and in a way the captain has to ensure that the best conditions are accorded for the players to be able to do that.
It is obvious that some of the senior players have a lot of work to do on their part to operate at their best professional level, but the tour provided several glimpses of breakdown in the support mechanism. And that should be inexcusable.
I am disappointed at your conclusion ...
Where is the generation next.... we all know what happened in the one day team ... we all clearly know that the bench strength in india sucks.... really, its hard to believe that replacing this old horses will solve our problems... the problem is we lack killer instinct, we are a scared lot.
we do not have that agressive qualities that other teams show. Its nice to see a sreesanth and zaheer khan to put up a show. Anil Kumble is also there. Its jus that he did not perform in the last test when it was needed for him to step up.
Tendulkar is past the prime. We saw a ganguly comeback and fight although he has all the falibilities of a very good batsman.
Rahul Dravid at most can stay at the wicket and provide stability.. to win matches we need agression, will power, killer instinct. we lack that. Until we instill that in our younger generation, we will not succeed, be it cricket, be it any sport.
Also read: 'Sachin has lost his fighting abilities'
Thanks for your analysis of the players performance! For the most part, I thought it was balanced and accurate. However, there is one point I seriously disagree with and that relates to blaming Tendulkar entirely for the Cape Town Test loss. And this is my reasoning:
I have no doubt that Tendulkar played poor cricket and got an even poorer decision but have we actually asked the batsman why he played like that? Was he seriously hampered by injury or was it simply a strategy that he and Dravid decided to employ?
And then there are more questions: Ganguly threw his wicket when he was set and had Smith chewing on his nails. Isn't he equally guilty of removing the foot off the opposition's neck? And wasn't Dravid also equally responsible for that crawl? He was the set batsman and he should have taken the onus of scoring if Tendulkar was struggling. And then, how is Sachin responsible for Laxman's run out? Countless times during the series we saw that Laxman and Ganguly running poorly between the wickets. And on the 4th day in Cape Town, Laxman had only himself to blame.
Again, I thought Sachin played poorly that day and I have always believed that the team benefits the most when he plays aggressive and attacking cricket but to blame him entirely for ruining the Cape Town Test is too much to digest especially when you have 3 other batsmen who lacked the killer instinct that day and played equally important roles in handing over the momentum to SA.
Excellent reviewes. No one can match you in analysing Indian team. Keep it up.
read your 'naked and the dead' column, both parts with interest and anticipation. I understand the sense of anger, disappointment that the team did not achieve what was so close to grasp. But, I think, the real question to ask is 'where is this Indian cricket team headed' and 'why should we expect it to dominate'?
I am not going to fixate myself on to the World Cup. Yes, it is the top tournament in one-day cricket and we need to make good account of ourselves. Doing otherwise would mean all the money in the world cannot buy you success or respect, which is a fact anyway, any day. But, I think having the world cup as the target when Greg Chappell came along was itself a mistake in my opinion. In sports, as elsewhere, life goes on whether a world cup is 2 years away or 2 months away. Top teams don't tell themselves, well I want to win the world cup, so in the meanwhile I will just be mediocre and somehow incrementally build myself up to that. That doesn't work anywhere. Dominating performance over a consistent period of time is what will get the team laurels, no other magic wand can do that, Greg Chappell or otherwise.
In that sense, you have to ask yourself, given the system (BCCI, the pitches, lack of sports infrastructure, etc., lack of international-standard competition among state-level teams, etc., and the fact that at the end of the day, cricket in India is part of entertainment, similar to Bollywood, not sports), the individual players that are bred in such a system, and the fact that money is so good, so why would any one care, except for frustrated fans and media guys that would complain in anger every time there is a screw-up by either the system or the team, given all this, do you really expect the Indian cricket team to reach the level of Australia, say? Why should that happen? It hasn't happened before. The only difference now is the money. Except for brief periods spanning few months, and some time several months, the teams from India have never made any other team quake in their boots at the mere thought of them, which is what Australia now and West Indies earlier did.
And there is a reason for the teams' inconsistent, mediocre performances over several decades, at least the last three. Barring Sachin Tendulkar during his heydays, India hasn't had performers that were simply outstanding. Not just good, simply outstanding. But, in a game where teams consist of eleven players, you need a critical mass of outstanding players, ably supported by less outstanding players, who on their day can match the former every inch of the way. The examples of the last decade's west indies team (with a Lara in it), Sri Lanka (with a Muralitharan in it), and India (with a Tendulkar in it) clearly point to this. Compare this with an Australian team that boasts of Warne, Mcgrath, Ponting, Gilchrist, Hayden, Langer, Waugh brothers, and the rest. How can you expect the West Indies, India and Sri Lanka teams to beat this Australian team? It's impossible, may be a match here, a match there. That's what happening. Unless and until the system produces such talent in sufficient numbers, no way out.
So, what you have is a superior team, and a bunch of equally mediocre teams with or without some outstanding individuals. The competition among the latter bunch is a random draw, can go this way once, that way next. South Africa perhaps is the leading team in this pack, but they are still in this pack. That's why India even came close to beating them in a series.
As for individuals, well Sachin's peak has long been over, with or without injuries. As far as I can see, he is trying to prolong his career. But if he is looking for a swansong-type of exit, he may not get it. But nobody's going to seriously ask Sachin to move away (in that sense, what Ganguly said about 'Sachin won't be dropped' is true, although I don't know what made him say that!) unless a prodigal talent shows up to claim his place. But we know from three examples Sehwag, Pathan, and Raina recent, and not so recent, that making the whole world go 'wow' is easy for a brief period, almost impossible in the long run. That's even more true for teams, than it is for individuals. So, India was lucky to produce a Tendulkar, because frankly, who would have predicted that India would throw up a batsman, that Bradman would compare to himself? But, even this miracle is too good to last for more than 15 plus years. I hope Sachin will bow before the sheen wears off even more than it has already. Dhoni has talent, will he become another Gilly, I will hold my bets for some more time. Dravid is going to be around for longer than Sachin, that's for sure, but who knows what kind of exit he will have. If Yuvraj matures during Dravid's time, he can be the force for the future. Others will just hang in there, until pushed out. In the meanwhile, the circus will go on. New players will pass through the revolving door, and prove to us that they are almost there, but only almost.
That's how I see it, so I am not going to expect anything great from this team, because it's simply not there. I will enjoy the occasional flashes of brilliance, precisely because they are exceptions to the rule. As an Indian, I will celebrate the likes of Tendulkar, if they show up again in future. As for the best team tag, well that's like asking a monkey to build ships or design rockets. Simply not done!
Simply superb! Especially, your report on SRT. No one in India has the guts to call a spade a spade. That Sachin
Tendulkar was singularly responsible for the failure of the team in SA is obvious to everyone but nobody dares say it openly. You have hit the nail on the head. Hats off to you!
By the way, there have been suggestions from some quarters that the relationship between Dravid and SRT is not good, that SRT deliberately played "that Innings" to deny Dravid the victory and Dravid, in turn, paid him back by not giving him bowling in the 2 nd innings. However hard is it to stomach, there appears to be some truth in this, as, otherwise, SRT would not have batted the way he did (despite being fully aware of the damage it woud do to his reputation) and Dravid would not have ignored SRT the way he did (despite being fully aware of SRT's potential as a spin bowler in those conditions). What is your take?
Prem, failures are not new to Indian cricket, we have suffered many ignominious defeats in the past. The difference this time is, these guys are earning in millions from playing the game but what do they give us in return? Zilch! This is what bugs me. The Aussies, who perform 10 times better than our guys, earn a pittance, compared to our guys. What a travesty?
Keep up your good work. Indian Cricket need guys like you who are not afraid of calling a spade a spade!
Its been really long since I have read such a good report on a debacle..
It is true that batsmen let the team down in SA. But who do we have to replace them? Besides Gambhir for Sehwag and Yuvraj for a middle order spot (in case of the inevitable Tendulkar injury, or to replace either Ganguly or Laxman), there isn't anyone. The so called "youth" were tried and found wanting in the ODIs, although Kaif has played so many ODIs that he can no longer be in the "to be groomed" category.
Vengsarkar was right - there is no special talent out there. With the great number of teams playing in India's domestic circuit and the above-average remuneration earned by an average player, most players are very comfortable playing domestic cricket without a chance to play for the country.
A final point about Sehwag. Commentators and pundits alike described his batting as "thats the way he plays" or "he shouldn't curb his natural game".
Guess what - Sehwag continued to do the same, hoping that the law of averages will give him a break sooner or later. Good international teams, however, have worked him out and are willing to give him a few boundaries until he falls into a predictable trap. He has now scored a century against Haryana. Has he learned anything? Absolutely not. Should he be benched for the next few Tests? Absolutely.
Excellent analysis! I was waiting to read the Part 2 eagerly and just finished reading it.
Sehwag and Sachin should definitely be rested for some time. Knowing a little bit about types of people, it was never a good move to make VVS Laxman the vice-captain. He is not a leader. He should be just told that you are going to be around for 2 years - just do your job, which is batting.
Sehwag should be brought back and made the captain. He is a guy who is capable of leading and delivering. By the time his next slump comes around, he would have reached his expiry date anyway :-)
Also read: When Sachin was 'out'
This piece was just reiterating what has been doing the rounds in newspapers recently. It might be interesting to look at it from the other angle too. Please do that bcoz I think the players are not getting any break here. The "support" that we give our team is appalling.
I am tired of all the noise against SRT. People want to drop him from the team as they do not want to consider his past records and performances. Strangely the same people are blaming him for not being his old self and failing in the 2nd innings "as always." Looking at the series just by itself I think SRT was one of the most successful batsmen in a bowling dominated series. In all the three 1st innings he made the most useful contributions. Given that pitches tend to do more for seamers in First innings and that the openers were mostly having a torrid time I guess his runs came in tougher situations against the new ball. Some of the others got a few runs more later in the day against the older ball. He tried being aggressive in the 2nd inning of the first test and didn't work out. 2nd test 2nd inning he never got going. And got a bad decision in the 3rd test 2nd inning after batting at 3 down bcoz of time issues (lots of batsmen feel comfortable only in their spot ... ask Dravid who for all his good technique and discipline couldn't adjust to opening).
And the slow batting in the 3rd test 2nd innings gotta be a team decision. Otherwise I am sure the caoch or the other senior members of the side must have sent some messages (with drinks) to the batsmen. If they didn't then at least blame the team not just the guy. That too when he got out to a wrong decision.
SRT, Dravid, Laxman, Gangs are the best we got (in that order) and they are still very very good. The aggression is missing from the team in general (except from Sehwag and Dhoni). In 90s our batting at least at home used to be very aggressive and confident. That attitude has gone missing after the "Azhar Days." Even under Gangs we were not doing good at home. Maybe some long home series in nice hot weather conditions will help get the mojo back.
If the bowlers can keep their heads ON during the world cup (unlike the final last time) we should do well. Our batting is on par with any lineup but our bowling is not.
Good wishes to the team.
Aussies will meet no resistance on their way to defend the WC2007.
Nothing else matters. India simply doesnt have the talent to match the Aussies.
Please do me a favor, use your reputation to educate your fans to
switch to long distance running. It is every man's sport. Also there are benefits.
You live longer. It is a win win. Time and money well spent.
Having said all this I will wear a "Tendulkar" cricket shirt and run my 8th marathon
This is a 100/100 paper. All the issues that you put forth - and in the perspectives that you do - are spot on. Sadly, and painfully, as you've pointed out, most are recurring from many occasions past.
I'd stop short of too many "whole-scale" changes prior to the 07 WC, which means that not only will we have to make do with whatever "experienced" players we have (read, the Kaifs, Rainas,Tendulkars, Gangulys, Agarkars, etc.) but our WC performance will just run its own course...
But here're some thoughts on solutions in looking ahead, post 07 WC.
I. Relieve Dravid of all captaincy because of two important reasons :
A. He's a poor captain.
B. He's our best batsman, in both versions, and too valuable to lose to being just a poor captain.
II. VVS as Test captain ( and certainly no place even in the ODI probable list !)
Even though he seemed distant in this series as VC, look at it this way : he still merits a place in the test team, doesn't score very many more than 60-70 these days anyway & importantly, the "full"captaincy might just be what he needs for the last 2-4 seasons of his unfulfilled-potential-of-a-career & play more responsibly at critical junctures.
III. ODI Captain
Post WC 07, throw the gauntlet to Yuvraj Singh.
Reasons in favour : excellent shot-making ability, excellent outcricket (fielding, running between the wickets, general athleticsm, superb team spirit), good temperament - especially in big games, (seemingly) good leadership abilities, naturally aggressive.
Reasons against : amongst the worst players of spin bowling ever, uncertain in the corridor, suspect against the short stuff - but these negatives, especially the later ones, are shrouded with protection in the ODI version of the game. No place in the Test squad.
IV. Sachin Tendulkar
Post WC, make him announce his retirement from ODIs, and play him in the tests for another season at least to see how he copes. Clearly, his case will be like that of another Kapil's with no pro-active offer to retire (hey, everybody is not a Gavaskar or a Warne!)
Medium pace: all said & done, we seem to be experimenting with new medium pacers at a reasonable rate and the results, though not overwhelmingly positive, are at least encouraging - I'd like to see a slightly faster rate of experimentation.
Spin: Must try new spinners more, Kumble won't be around much longer, Harbhajan strikes me as being overrated & one of those quintessential "forever underperformers".
VI. Sehwags, Kaifs, Pathans, Dhonis, Rainas...
Talk is cheap, mate, performance matters - shape up or ship out. Kudos to the authorities for sending Pathan back, let's step that up.
With regards to Sehwag (I'd say all of the above as well) you hit the nail on the head when you questioned the attitude issue : if you don't care buddy, neither do we.
Your failure analysis of the tour is very accurate. I hope the Indian team's thinktank and the BCCI are paying attention to it.
Someone needs to remind Tendulkar that he needs to step up his game.
Scoring 50s and 60s for someone of his experience (leave alone calibre) is just not enough. He just needs to look at performances of his contemporaries like Lara and Ponting to realize what is expected of him.
Dravid is not a born-leader like Ganguly. He is a great batsman but he probably won't be a great captain. We need to get Ganguly back as captain for the World Cup if we are going to stand any chance. Ganguly has shown in the past that he can be a leader, a mentor, and a teambuilder.
You were bang on target when you said that India were already at the next level when they beat Australia in Australia. To regard the first test win against SA in SA as a good thing for the team would be complacency at its worst. Given SA's recent form in Tests and given India's momentum going into the 2nd and 3rd tests, India should have won the series. Anything less should be considered a dismal failure (as you have aptly outlined in your article).
I really don't know what to comment on Sehwag. He has always been a hit or miss player. But to go on a miss so many times without a hit in between is definitely not acceptable. Your complaint that he played only 70 deliveries when he was batting at the top of the order is not totally valid. Remember, we didn't object at his strike rate when he scored 300 against Pakistan, so why object at his strike rate now ?
But I definitely agree with you about his attitude. His apparent lack of care for his bad form demands an explanation from him.
I always remember SRT and his attack of Mustaq Md. and Abdul Quadir during the non-ODI ODI on the first tour of Pakistan. Then I remember the attack against Warne. From there to the now toothless SRT, I think is in the mind.
The reason is I think Sehwag. I feel that by Sehwag taking up the more attacking role from SRT, SRT probably at the back of his mind is leaning twoards a responsible innings aka Dravid. But Dravid he is not and I suspect Sehwag gone from the team and SRT at the top of the order for ODI will help him. My gut feeling. Your take ?
I read your analysis frequently and most of the time I agree with you. I agree with your analysis of SRT, but could it be he was injured in the 2nd innings in Cape Town? Maybe he was not able to reach the pitch of the ball due to the hamstring injury. It seems that the whole world knows what was supposed to be done at the time. This is at least the third time this has happened. Doesn't the team management tell him about? I am sure journalists like you have a communication channel open with him; can't one of y'all politely get the point across to him?
It is really sad to see him in such a pathetic state. I hope he doesn't do a Kapil Dev on us.
As you had mentioned, the post mortems are just fill ups before the next series, but even then its needed. It is really good to see you taken the initiative. As Harsha Bhogle once put it - after each drumping of our cricket team one swear to God that he will never return to the ground to watch another match. But like a hopless drunkard we return to the game which spurns us. And do we have any other options, I'm afraid we dont- cricket is the only saving grace [?]for the 100 million who wants to follow a national sport.
Everybody says we lost the match in the later part of the 2nd innings. But we had given away the initiative much before that. I - On a pitch where we were in a position to score much beyond 500, we batted like millionares and scored 414. II - People are going on and on, on sehwags failures. But I really belive that the teams think-tank has a major role in this. In the final test when i) he is truly out of form, ii) when he has scored atleast a 40 coming at 6 in the 1st innings, iii) when his make-shift replacement Karthik has done brilliantly well in the 1st innings - what was the need to ask him open the bat in the 2 innings ? They may say it was done to send out a positive , aggressive signal. But the need of the hour was to bat out sensibly for atleat initial 50 overs and get to a score 150 with min loss of wickets and then take on the bowlers to increase the lead. Now, in this context where would one like to have sehwag batting - openning ? or coming at 4 / 5 with score 175 /3 ? I think Dravid with his batting and Captainship and Sachin with his bat in the 2nd innings of the 3rd test cost us a famous test series win in SA.
I think you are absolutely right in your analysis. Indeed the tour has to be identified as failure. Just to draw a parallel the Aussies were targeting 5-0 whitewash to call it a successful ashes win.
The way Indian cricket team celebrated after the win at wanderers was as if the series was over and won comprehensively. All seem to have forgotten the dismal performance in the ODI series and that more was required to reclaim the lost ground.
SA batting was equally vulnerable and the pitches were not entirely biased towards home side. as a matter of fact in a rare case it actually favored to visitors in last test. So it was not as if we had to win against all odds.
How often do we find / expect opposition dismissed for 84 in 25 overs. Wherever pitch had a larger say in situations like this, even our teams score as little and last as less overs (remember NZ tour a few years back). So does that mean that we always need to wait till others make wide spread errors to create wining positions for us?
I think the series was a failure on tactical grounds, mental grounds. Those are the exact same reasons for our "give aways" when we have squandered favorable positions in the past.
The team always has potential and skills, they just need to have an internal collective push to overcome such situations. The only reason for success in 83 world cup, or 85 championship or 87 Madras test, 2003 AUS series was the positive intent.
I know it is easier said than done and I think the great players we have understand this very well.
That's why we (all the cricket loving public) never give up on hopes.
"India has too few of those; that is why it is all the more vital that the spirit of a Sreesanth be fostered, encouraged - and never broken by temperate `advice' from well-meaning `seniors'.".... you had quoted when you talked of Sreesanth.
I cant agree more on this. Infact I couldnt help thinking of the past, of Saurav's captaincy and how he urged his boys to be theirselves, and how he wanted them to care two hoots to the authorities. Yuvraj's pranks and bad boy stuff is a case in point. Saurav wanted Yuvi to be the Yuvi that he was. Agressive and natural. Pathan's aggression in his early days is another point. And there is also Sehwag, who doesnt talk much, but when he gets to swing his willow, he does the aggressive talks his way !!! which was thoroughly seconded by Saurav. Harbajan Singh is another example.
Sachin's captaincy didnt fructify for exactly this reason. Im not sure if Rahul's style would either (time would tell though).
All the boys mentioned above, who were great when playing under Saurav, know themselves that they owe it to SG. We havent seen much of Yuvi for some time now. Sehwag has lost it in his mind. There was a time when SG told that Sehwag is never under pressure. Thats the kind of psyche that should be instilled in the boys. That brought out the destructive Sehwag out to the opposition. All these boys needed to be nurtured. Instead, doubts were cast, when talks of process took the centre stage.
SG once even tried to get Yuvi to open instead of Akash Chopra, in a home series, coz he wanted to win, and to produce a result in tests, the run rate needed to be upped (the way of the oz). Maybe SG had a vision, to have Yuvi open with Sehwag in home series and having Chopra partner Sehwag in away series, after seeing this pair's success down under.
If SG cant be bettered, atleast the same approach should have been followed with respect to SG's boys when SG lost the captaincy, simply because these were tried and tested methods of people management.
Coming back to Sreesanth, I was shocked to see Sreesanth making it up with the officials by restraining himself in the second test. He even patted Prince and Amla. He looked like a guy who was forced to do a volte-face, by the obligations that follow the " well meaning advices" of the seniors.
There had been a time when the boys were left to be their own by SG while SG was willing to take it on himself to face the officials for aggression related issues. Thats the sign of a true leader.
Rather, I found the boy being restrained, simply because the management would want Sreesanth not to miss any tests. The BCCI headed by Dalmiya had vetoed the ICC to even have a test match being stripped of the official status, when SG played Sehwag inspite of his being asked to miss a test.
What a contrast !!!
Things werent great for Indian cricket during the phase when SG was removed from captaincy. But then one gets the feeling that SG should only have been given a sabatical for a temporary phase with respect to captaincy (and as player), with the long term in mind, coz he is someone who had a vision, something that very few captians in the past had shown glimpses of.
I have been following your analysis for the past 3 or 4 years and I like them very much. That said I have read "The naked and the dead" and was suprised you have no mention of Sourav Ganguly's indifferent attitude in the second innings of the second test. Before I procede any further just wanted to clarify I am not one of those fanatic supporter nor opposer of Ganguly.
I have seen his complete innings, every shot he played he tried to get out, edge over slip, between them, over the keeper, in no man's land etc. In that innings all India need was bat for time, win was out of the equation. I was completely digusted with the way he played in that inning, tried to play shot of every ball. If Tendulkar's play in second innings of third test was so bad that he was blamed, and rightly so, to have turned the test in favour of SA then I dont see Sourav's inning any different. In fact I was suprised to see you critizing Laxman's Innings for playing slow in the second test when thats what was needed. In that situation getting out because of bad form or bad foot movement or to a good ball is much better than to a bad shot, which I think ganguly played.
To me second test was not drawn because of Jaffer's and Ganguly. Note, here I am not mentioning Shewag, he is common reason for all the failures, so didnt want to mention him specially.
And the third test was lost because of the period of play between Tendulkar and Dravid.
I wish to hear from you on why that Innings of Ganguly's in not being mentioned just because he is back into the team?
Rightly said, your article was on the money. I am not saying this for the heck of it but sincerely believe that apart from Zaheer, Sreesanth, Ganguly and Dinesh Karthik there were no other gains in the tour. Wasim did his talent and starts some justice by getting a century in the final test. But I believe he could have certainly contributed more given the fact that he is just coming out of a West Indies tour where he made a double century. I am sure he did not have the pressure of being dropped during this test series. But then he did get off to a couple good starts but failed to convert them which I guess he will surely learn as time goes on.
As for Dravid, he did play a couple of good innings but I don't think he really got into the groove in this series. The same goes for Laxman. But I will reserve my harshest comments for Sachin. Time and again we as a nation have showered our praise, love and emotions on the little master.
He did give us a few glimpses of the old Tendulkar who played exquisite drives and flicks. I have always felt Sachin is not as good a Test player as he is an ODI batsman. There are numerous instances of him winning us ODI matches but in Tests, my fingers are sufficient to do the same. The situation was ripe after Ganguly got out. He could have walked in, used the initiative and played positive. If he was in excruciating pain, he shouldn't have come out or atleast could have taken singles and rotated the strike which would allow him to settle down and also allow Dravid to play his part. But he did something which have never ever seen him do, play his part in losing all initiative to the South Africans.
Dravid got out trying to accelerate the scoring, Sachin's call for the second run got Laxman out [yes, after seeing the replays I feel it was Sachin's call] and then he got a tough decision to end his misery. To be frank [it might seem a little too harsh], after his showing - me and my friends were delighted at his dismissal.
Full marks to the South Africans. Even though they werent in the best of form in the series - their batting was weak with Smith, Gibbs, Amla, De Villiers struggling for runs at the top of the order. I am sure this was the closest India has come to winning a series here. Lets see how the Pakistanis perform, perhaps that would be a real verdict of our performance and also of the fact - whether or not, have we missed the biggest opportunity in recent times to win an away series - that too in SA !!!!
While there is much to be said for Dinesh Karthick in terms of his batting, and, while your constructive criticism of his tenure in SA holds weight; I still feel you missed the nub here in terms of a post-mortem. If this is to be a retrospection on just the performances of the players in question, then, per your inferences there is little to cavil at. However, I can't help feeling that the censure should also include the coach, the captaincy, and primarily, the selectors.
How could the selectors pick an extra wicket-keeper in the first place, when only 3 tests were to be played? Then, you have them playing the ersatz keeper in ODIs and tests (although, here he played owing to Dhoni having showed us that he is human enough, and, his hands don't belong to an automaton from the Rise of the Machines, as I used to previously think...). Then again, how could Jaffer be picked for the ODI series in view of the fact that they should have finished constructing a team (or a semblance of it) w.r.t. the World Cup? While I love to watch him bat, he will look more impressive on a bench in a 100-over match. They could have given Badrinath a chance for the tests, maybe Raina (again?) for the ODIs. While I might not be skilled enough to play the selector, I do like to understand when I am given a raw deal.
Again, then again, you have Dravid keeping a cover, extra-cover and a mid-on, when any of the simplest minds (mine could definitely be amongst them) could suggest 4-slips, gully, point... as a basic approach to a test morning. We all love to shower emphatic approbations on the Australians when they have just a short mid-wicket and the rest of the field in a crescent-shape next to the keeper? While their bowlers might be just a little special, don't their captains give them a reason to be so? It's all very well to analyze a batsman's predilection for a certain shot, or his penchant to hook, or pull; but, following the basics have to create some results. Sir Donald Bradman was examined minutely by the English, but, that never stopped him from decimating them.
If we have lost so many test matches following weird theories and notions, why not try and win one match following just the basics?
The likes of Dravid, Laxman,Sachin,Kumble are definitely a failure in the sense that 10-20 extra runs or 3-4 wickets here & there would have defintely tilted the balance in India's side.More so is the fact that it is these failures which has affected what could have been a huge morale booster ahead of the World Cup.Dhoni can be best said as neither a failure nor a success.He was the only guy to atleast have taken the fight to the opposition in the second test, bravely facing the chin music & more importantly cutting short his normal flamboyance to the dour defence stuff.A certain Sehwag better learn from him.
What is puzzling is the decision to send off Pathan.In the warm up match before the 1st test, he scored a century and 47, also took a couple of wickets.Im not arguing that he's back to form.But how can a guy short of fitness/form score 140-odd runs in 2 innings?Atleast had he not been sent, he could have ben used in the 3rd test for the puzzling Munaf.His batting also could have come handy and who knows, might have taken the odd wicket also.In a nutshell, the Indians have let off a golden oppurtunity to be only the 2nd team(apart from Australia) win a rare test series in SouthAfrica!!!A heart break to everyone.......
Superbly written article. Direct and hard hitting but still striking a balance. Objective analysis and not judgmental.
A word on Sachin Tendulkar - we (Indian public and media) had made him a `god' and nobody likes or wants their god to fail. Because in his/her failure comes a question on our own judgment - why we elevated the person to that level in the first place. Sachin WAS a good batsman. Not any more. If one takes a critical and unemotional look at his career we would see how many of his innings have won or saved the match for India. Sachin performed - even in his glory days - when there was no pressure on him. The closest he came to performing a heroic inning was in the match against Pakistan when we almost chased a 270 odd for a win but fell short by about 20 runs when Sachin undid his hard worked century by playing that atrocious shot in a rush of blood.
In contrast look at the careers of Sunil Gavaskar (India's best bat ever), Rahul Dravid, Steve Waugh, Viv Richards, Brian Lara amongst other greats and you will find them replete with match winning or saving innings. Innings of glory and immortality.
Whoever criticized the master blaster (this must be now a millstone hanging around his neck) was labeled as a heretic. Heroes with demi god statures can't be critcised. Hence whether it was Imran Khan or Greg Chappell or Viv Richards or even Sanjay Manjrekar it raised a public outcry when they pointed out to the fading greatness of Sachin.
What we need to do is accept that Sachin of today can never be the Sachin of yore. Take him off whatever pedestal we had put him on. Treat him as one (and not first) among the equals when selecting the team. And if he needs to be dropped for poor form or for any selfish batting display (like in Cape Town) that he may put on then so be it. It will be good for the team. And I would even say good for Sachin. It just might add a couple of years to his career.
We have to take a call - should we rather have an ordinary Tendulkar for few more years (from whom we have tempered down expectations) or a great Tendulkar. The latter very likely will never be a reality again. So let us spare the poor man.
Warm Wishes for the New Year. As always your articles especially the post-mortems of recently concluded tours are interesting and to the point. I did go through the article 'The Naked and the Dead' and do agree with most observations. I have a few of my own. Post-mortems are dime a dozen in all dailies and by independent writers but does it really achieve anything ? Well it does increase the acidity in my stomach and invigorate my heartburn reliving those sickening memories once more.
But apart from that, I donot see any changes in the way the selection happens or in the way strategies and plans are decided/enforced by captain and coach. I always have a question when I see inexplicable actions from our Indian cricket team and the management. When certain things are glaringly obvious to a layman like me (and a few million others) why do they seem to always miss it or why do they always see something else that we miss ? I do not buy into the fact media creates superstars and hence they are to blame for our inability to drop , say a Tendulkar (***blasphemy***). My point is if media is responsible for creating them, should not the same apply when the entire media pillories a certain player and the board should then toe the line accordingly ?
I am sick of reading reports demanding/pleading for Ganguly to be reinstated as captain now that he has proved himself with the bat. I truly feel Dada has a lot to give to Indian cricket especially in the ODI format but giving him back captaincy is like short term brain fade. Both Dravid & Ganguly have at the max 2 years more and it would be wiser to stick with just one (not jump around like a yo-yo) and groom a younger player for long-term prospects (my bet here would be Yuvraj as he seems the most likely to last the distance in the team). Another alarming aspect nobody wants to talk about is that while we have good pace attack plus bench strength what about our fading spin resources ?
Kumble is a legend and probably an oft under-appreciated bowler but if we need to have strength in spin we probably need atleast one genuine leggie (turn and bounce) who can intimidate and win wickets abroad too (is piyush a good candidate - trying him for one test and letting KP bash him around is no fun nor good for his confidence). Bhajji needs to be given a longer rope not just in ODIs but also in tests till Piyush can take the mantle of sole spinner. Finally on the aspect of the coach, I totally agree with Ian Chappell's statement, " A great coach probably adds 5 - 10% improvement to the team and no more. the rest comes from the team itself". Strategies, player fitness, role understanding, mental toughness can be explained to the players but they have to accept it completely for it to work.
And with old warhorses in the team (we have quite a few) changing their mindset or their batting positions is akin to straightening a dog's tail. Only the youngsters will respond to this as they have fresh moldable minds. So, no point in blaming the coach for this debacle. Blame the capatain and the senior players who are the true leaders and idols the youngsters look upto. and imitate...
Sorry for the long mail.. But years and years of frustration combined with repetitive frittering away of great positions of strength in away series by our team has left me a bitter fan...
Ram M Sitaraman