Rediff Logo Cricket
May 21, 1999


send this report to a friend

Commonsense was lacking against Zimbabwe

Michael Holding

To say India's performance so far in this 1999 World Cup has been disappointing would be an understatement. It has always been said that India doesn't do well away from home, and surely there are statistics in abundance to support this. But surely, if any team is capable of shedding that tag, this one should be the one.

Sachin Tendulkar, arguably the best batsman in the world, Saurav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid, two young, potentially brilliant batsmen, Mohammad Azharuddin, the most experienced and highest run-getter in the one-day game, ably supported by Ajay Jadeja and Robin Singh, should be capable of getting scores between 260 and 300 runs against almost any bowling attack. Then, Javagal Srinath, Venkatesh Prasad, Anil Kumble, with the support of Ajit Agarkar, Robin Singh and others should win more games than they lose. Sadly, that has not been the case.

Losing Sachin Tendulkar on the morning of the game against Zimbabwe could not have helped India's cause, but surely Zimbabwe have nowhere near the amount of talent in their team as India has. The difference appears to be in the approach. Teams with less individual brilliance usually have to rely on greater team spirit and commitment to succeed, and Zimbabwe have shown those attributes alongwith applying a bit more brainpower to their game.

A fine example of this was seen when captain Alaister Campbell called up Henry Olonga to bowl that fateful, three-wicket over at the end of the Indian innings. Campbell knew he had to bowl India out if he wanted to win the game as there was very little chance of the 46 overs being bowled, and India restricted to less than the 253 runs required.
Olonga did the job required, but you have got to question India's approach with two overs to go. India needed nine runs off 12 balls, with three wickets in hand, with Robin Singh batting well on 33 runs, and Srinath looking very solid at the other end. What should have been a comfortable victory for India turned out to be total disaster. Robin Singh had a swing at Olonga's first delivery, which spooned up on the off-side, but luckily into no-man's land, for two runs. That was certainly not necessary, but he got away with it.
One would have thought that after that shot he would have concentrated on just pushing for one's and two's, with only seven runs to get off 11 deliveries. It was not so. Next delivery, another lofted drive, this time straight to Alaister Campbell, and he was out, caught for 35 runs.

But worse was to come from his then partner, Javagal Srinath. With eight balls to go, and only four runs to get, Srinath thought it wise to try and end the game with one blow. The only problem was he missed and Olonga didn't. He was right on target with his next delivery as well - Prasad LBW no score, and the game over. Unfortunately, Kumble was left at the non-striker's end, helplessly watching. He, I suspect, would have applied a bit more commonsense to the approach it he had been able to get back on strike.

Taking a close look at the first game, lost to South Africa, the tactics used there would have to be questioned as well. That total of 254 for 6, while batting first, should have been a lot more. While commonsense seemed to be lacking against Zimbabwe, collective will seemed to be the problem against South Africa.

It didn't seem as if the welfare of the team was put ahead of the welfare of a certain individual batsman in the later stages of the innings, and that cost India dearly. It is not the first time an individual has seen it fit to place self in front of country, nor are India the only team to have suffered for it. The World Cup comes along very infrequently and on this world stage, selfishness cannot even seem to be a motive for any actions.

Unfortunately for India, Sachin Tendulkar has returned home following the death of his father, and it isn't clear when he will be back, or if he will be back. India's philosophy of batting him at the top of the order has to be another question mark. True, a great player like Tendulkar should be afforded the opportunity to face as many overs as possible, but this tournament is being held in the United Kingdom in May, with a white ball which is doing everything. So far, the fast and medium fast bowlers have reveled in the conditions, and most, if not all, opening batsmen have struggled. It surely must be wiser to have Tendulkar batting a bit lower in the order and coming in when the ball has lost some of its shine and hardness. That way he would be able to take full advantage of the situation. It is better to have him facing 35 overs later in the innings than to risk losing him within the first 15 overs against the new ball, swinging and seaming all over the place.

Later on in the competition, when the Super Six comes around, June has arrived and the sun starts to shine, the pitches get drier and harder, then you send him back to open the batting again. Right now, though, India, having played and lost two games, are not sure to make the final six. They have three games to go, against England, Kenya and Sri Lanka, and they have to win them all. A lot more thinking and team effort is needed for India to be still around come the Super Six stage in June.

 Name: Email:
 Post a message:
Michael Holding

Tell us what you think of this column