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Home > Cricket > World Cup 2003 > News > Report

'Batsmen have to fire'

Ashish Magotra | February 18, 2003 20:49 IST

Indian fans continue to pour in from all over the world into South Africa.

Only the earlier enthusiasm is now replaced by fear and embarrassment. While fans in India have vented their anger by stoning the houses of a few cricketers, the overwhelming feeling here in South Africa seems to be that the batsmen have not recovered from the mental disintegration in New Zealand.

Mentally the team is still down and one wonders what psychologist Sandy Gordon achieved in the 3-4 sessions he had with the team. Maybe the Board of Control for Cricket in India should have hired him for a longer period. Maybe for the entire tournament.

Sanjay Manjrekar, now a television commentator and a member of the 1992 World Cup team that did not perform to it's potential, knows what it is like to be on the losing side. Manjrekar is a lot more enthusiastic than other former cricketers. "Let's not overreact and get emotional. We, as Indians, wanted our team to win but the rest of the world did not give us a chance against Australia. Actually, the points table does not look too bad."

"What hurts is the fact that we lost out on a good chance to do well. It is the way we lost which was most disappointing."

"It's a mental battle now," declared Manjrekar. "(Sourav) Ganguly was right when he said each one has to think about his game."

But maybe the time to just think is now past. It time to actually go into the middle and perform. The only place for the Indians to get rid their demons is on the ground, not in their hotel rooms. People talk about moving Ganguly down the order and push Virender Sehwag to his usual position as opener.

At Sunday's post match conference, Ganguly gave no indication of dropping down. Experts feel that the stubbornness of the Indian skipper is a good thing at times but at this important juncture he needs to realise that dropping to one-down would only help his and his team's cause.

However, former India captains Ravi Shastri and Krishnamachari Srikkanth are convinced that nothing can be achieved with Ganguly continuing to open the innings. "If you are not getting runs, move down the order," said Shastri.

The former captain reckoned that it was high time the batsmen take responsibility. "Play only six batsmen so that each one of them will have a sense of responsibility to perform," he said.

Shastri had a simple yet realistic way of overcoming the mental barrier. "Just forget about it and look ahead," said Shastri. "If Zimbabwe win (against India), then they are in the Super Six which means India have to slug it out with England and Pakistan. This should be motivation to do well," he added.

Srikkanth agreed that the mental aspect is a factor but reckoned experience should blow away the mental blues for India. "This team has played a total of 1000-1500 ODIs and they should be able to put this loss behind them," he said.

Srikkanth felt that a decision to go with six batsmen would be fraught with danger. "If you look at the record, the number seven batsman has come to the rescue and scored runs. I don't think it will make sense to stop playing seven batters," said Srikkanth, who figured in three World Cups.

Former South African paceman Meyrck Pringle feels that the Indians are playing a lot of unnecessary shots and that contributes to their downfall.

"They should probably have arrived at least a month before the tournament just to get used to the pace of the wickets and that's probably what they are lacking at the moment. But I don't think it's going to take much longer to adjust now. They will fire soon. They are professional cricketers and they know that their nation is not happy with them."

Most cricketers from other nations feel that the team will eventually fire and some like Fanie De Villiers feel the problems lie not on the field but off it.

De Villiers questioned the BCCI's policies. "Where is the next Tendulkar going to come from?" he asked.

He felt that the back-up system in India was weak. "There are no proper academies to support the players and that is what led to the debacle in New Zealand."

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