Team India not quite there yet!
The ICC World Cup is almost a month old. And even though Team India has played five of its six group matches -- the final fixture against the West Indies takes place in Chennai on Sunday, its performance thus far was anything but convincing.
In the hindsight, the opening match against Bangladesh was probably the only instance when the Men in Blue scored what can be labeled as a comfortable win.
Thereafter, it was a disappointing tie against England, a couple of laboured wins against the two minnows -- Ireland and the Netherlands and, more recently, that shattering defeat at the hands of South Africa in Nagpur, a match that will probably be remembered for Team India's dramatic batting collapse -- they lost their last nine wickets for the addition of just 29 runs -- as also for Ashish Nehra's dramatic final over.
With seven points in the bag, qualification for the knock-out stages is not a problem. However, a good result against the West Indies on Sunday is sacrosanct, not only for the sake of the co-hosts' eventual standing in the group but also to help boost the morale going into the knock-out stage.
Image: Ashish Nehra
Photographs: Getty Images
Team yet to learn from mistakes
However, the team, it seems, is yet to learn from its mistakes. If practice is something that makes one perfect, then Team India is far from perfection.
Having arrived in Chennai six days in advance for its final group tie, the Men in Blue skipped practice altogether on the opening day (Tuesday).
And a day later, more than half the team preferred to stay in the comfortable rooms of their hotel rooms rather than sweating it out in the ground.
In fact, the support staff outnumbered the players during the practice at the IIT ground in Chennai.
While most of the big guns, including captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni, were conspicuous by their absence, there were seven players who turned up -- Yuvraj Singh, Yusuf Pathan, Suresh Raina, Virat Kohli, Piyush Chawla, R Ashwin and Munaf Patel.
Their aversion towards practice notwithstanding, there are certain issues which the team needs to sort out if it hopes to go far in the tournament.
Image: Team India is far from perfection
Fielding an eternal drawback
The first one pertains to planning.
With fielding being an eternal drawback and question marks hovering around the bowling, it is the batting that has to do the trick for Team India.
And even though the batting is good enough to do the same, there is a tendency for our batsmen to get carried away -- the fact that the team slumped from a comfortable 267 for one in the 40th over (39.4 to be precise) to a disappointing 296 all out in a period of nine overs (48.4 overs) is proof enough of that.
So what's needed is to set a target before going out to bat. MS Dhoni, the captain, put it in another way.
"I always talk of a par score," he explained recently, adding, "When you look for that extra 20-30 runs, you end up scoring less.
"In Nagpur, against South Africa, a par score was 320-330. We tried to get around 350-360 and ended up 30 runs less."
This anomaly can be avoided.
Image: Yusuf Pathan drops a catch
Playing to the gallery
The second one has been well-documented after the Nagpur fiasco.
Our batsmen have a tendency to play to the gallery and go for a few big hits to draw applause from the ever-enthusiastic crowd.
If it works, there is nothing like it. When it doesn't, they find themselves back in the pavilion.
"It happens that when you are in a comfortable position," said Dhoni, explaining the tendency.
"You want to go out there and play the big shots that the crowd wants you to play," he added. The captain was quick to mention that his players need to check themselves from doing thus in the matches henceforth.
Playing a few flashy shots might entertain the crowd for that moment. However, losing your wicket in the process doesn't amuse anyone. It only affects the team's prospects.
Image: M S Dhoni
Harbhajan largely off-colour
The bowling is not something that the team can rely upon beyond the extent.
While Zaheer Khan is the pick of the bowlers, usually bowling an impressive second spell, with the old ball, it is the support staff that has failed to make a mark.
Both Ashish Nehra and Munaf Patel have struggled to make an impact and S Sreesanth was unimpressive in the lone match he featured in (against Bangladesh).
Harbhajan has been largely off-colour and the second spinner, Piyush Chawla, was disappointing to say the least.
In fact, against South Africa, Dhoni handed the ball to Nehra (for the final over) when Harbhajan had an over left. What happened next is something we all know, but the decision clearly points to the lack of faith in the offie.
Dhoni admitted later his decision had boomeranged.
"I had two options," said Dhoni, adding, "I had to go with one.
"It didn't work."
Dhoni thereafter also spoke in Nehra's defense.
"Ashish has done well for us and I wanted to give him exposure before the knockout stage," explained the captain.
He had offered a similar explanation as regards Chawla when the leggie had come under criticism earlier.
Defending his bowlers notwithstanding, Dhoni, as well as the Indian think tank, is clearly aware that there are not many genuine options as regards the bowling and some kind of solution has to be found, within the existing resources, ahead of the knock-out stages.
Image: Harbhajan Singh
Take positives out of each game, says Dhoni
There's a general tendency in the Indian team to shy away from anything that is negative.
We Indians, in general, aren't very comfortable being criticized but it is something that cannot be avoided.
And considering cricket is akin to a religion here, every move of the team is bound to be analysed. Dhoni has no problems with the analysis part, albeit he would prefer a line to be drawn somewhere.
"It is good to analyze games," he was quoted as saying.
"Because once you do an analysis, you know what went wrong," he added.
The Indian captain was quick to put forth a clause though.
"But over-analysing is wrong," he said, adding, "And that is something that happens a lot in India.
"We need to take positives out of each game."
However, if the team continues to play in the manner it has been playing thus far, then the negativity surrounding it is bound to aggravate.
Positive analysis is an off-shoot of a positive performance. And the latter is something that the Men in Blue will have to try and achieve in the next few days, if they to end the 28-year-old wait for that elusive second title.
At the moment though, Team India is far from being the perfect side that the hordes of fans expect (rather want) it to be.
Image: Zaheer Khan