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|May 5, 1999||
Flexibility is the key, says Madan LalSanjiv Kumar in New Delhi
With the World Cup returning to its birthplace after 16 years, the team with flexible strategies, surprise tactics and strong nerve will smile in the end, say the heroes of the 1983 World Cup triumph.
Though the whole concept of the one-day game has undergone a sea change, the weather in England remains the same and will play a crucial role as master blasters like India's Sachin Tendulkar, Sri Lanka's Sanath Jayasuriya and Pakistan's Shahid Afridi will have to rethink the tactic of going after the bowling in the first 15 overs, a strategy adopted by every team after the 1992 World Cup co-hosted by Australia and New Zealand.
''Different strategies have to be evolved in the heavy and overcast conditions in England, where mediocre bowlers come out looking formidable, as the conditions do not suit an aggressive start, '' says Madan Lal, a member of the victorious 1983 squad.
"In many of the matches, the new ball will move late to make the Jayasurya method unpromising. The Indians must concentrate so that they do not lose quick wickets especially in the beginning and they must not be in a tearing rush to pile on the runs indiscriminately," the former coach says, advising that the top order's priority should be to build an innings of character without panicking.
''For Indian batting, which enjoys passive subcontinental tracks, it will not be easy to get runs there. Stay on softer English pitches with necessary application and patience for full 50 overs to get the runs. To emerge on top they will have to take quick singles while batting and stop those singles while fielding.''
The Indian team has three to four days between every match, so strategies should be planned and improvised upon as the situation changes. ''True, we cannot change our approach at this stage, but we can introduce some unexpected moves to throw the other side off guard,'' suggests Madan, who took three vital wickets in the 1983 final against West Indies at Lords.
''We can use bowlers differently too. Maybe one could open the attack with Kumble instead of the usual Srinath-Prasad combination. With the prevalent inclement weather conditions, the wickets will never be solid and an in-form Kumble may be a dangerman. The frequent change of bowlers, switching between Agarkar, Ganguly, Jadeja, Tendulkar, who are reletively unexposed, could provide the necessary shock treatment.''
The former Indian coach feels that youth is not on the side of the Indian team. "Compared to other teams, the Indian team is a young side, which is often prone to distractions. A mature player can quickly bounce back after a shock but a youngster may not have the capacity to do so. In such a situtaion, it is the responsibilty of the captain, manager and senior players to keep the team's morale up."
Kirti Azad, another member of the winning 1983 combination, feels that the captain holds the key and skipper Mohammed Azharuddin will have to lead from the front, giving it all he's got. "His belief and trust in players will transmit to get the desired results," the former all-rounder says, hoping that Azhar's apathetic theory - the boys should know their job - will take a back seat this time.
"The Indian captain should be very clear his players' roles, to get the best out of them and yet be flexible in tactics. Besides, the taem management must put its head together to ensure maximum productivity," he adds.
''We should not expect Sachin to win every match for us. That will only put unnecessary pressure on the team. We have ten other players to play their defined roles and rise to the occasion without overdependency on any one individual.''
Azad thinks that off-the-field strategies like bonding as a team require for the players to mix together, building up team spirit through discussion and self-scrutiny. "It is also important to spend a lot of time learning the opposition," Azad believes.
''No one doubts the Indian team's ability, but to win they will have to play with zeal and passion. Theoretically, we have a balanced side. Our problem is purely psychological,'' observes Yashpal Sharma, who played two splendid knocks of 89 and 61 during the 1983 tournament.
''Our weakness though is that our shoulders slump too soon. We think we have lost an encounter even before the opponents have won it. That is where captaincy has to come into play to keep the approach of squad positive.''
"Who could have guessed that the West Indies, champions of 1975 and 1979, would be beaten in the final and India would pull off the huge upset? Our fighting spirit was written off, but we kept coming back purely because of our collective desire to win. Our never-say-die attitude and team spirit were what saw us reach the pinnacle of the world cricket. There is no reason why we cannot do so again,'' remarks Sharma.
"The spirit and enthusiasm should be evident when a team enters the field. Our team unfortunately did not give out very energetic signals in their recent matches. The present team is more gifted but they have much to learn from the gritty 1983 squad.''
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