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|May 23, 2000||
Cricket in a time of choleraAvinash Subramanium
And now that the Indian team has been announced for yet another Dalmiya-backed jamboree in Bangladesh, time to indulge in what we are all so good at and love to do: an impromptu analysis of the team's chances. And a tirade against the people who, in their collective wisdom/greed, have decided to hold this 'week-long quickie' bang in the middle of middle of summer and with little regard for players' professional and personal commitments.
Why a tournament none of the teams will be in the best frame of mind to play? Why put the Pakistanis through a relatively pointless 'tamasha' right after they've come back from a hard tour of the Caribbean? Why have players like Ganguly, Kumble and Dravid come down to the sub-continent for a period as short as a week? Why continue holding a fixture that is obviously not of very great significance in the scheme of things? Most of all, why put the players through it all when the public and players' minds are equally, perhaps greater, on things off the cricket ground? And no, this is not an advocacy of Paaji's suggestion that the Indian team not play for six months. Just a call for a little more sense and sensitivity. (But then, who cares about little things like sense and sensitivity.)
Harsha made a very valid point when he said the next time Sachin goes for a big heave, it won't be just the manner of his dismissal that will be questioned. Or the merits of the stroke he attempted. Or the quality of cricket he played. It will be...well, you know what they'll say. We'll say. We'll say Sachin too has been fixed. (In the process eat away, just that bit more, into the whatever-there's-left-of pride that the little master still makes us feel for our country.) It doesn't matter whether India wins or loses. In an atmosphere such as this, even when India wins, India loses. The need of the hour is not more cricket. It is a sore restoration of some amount of credibility in the proceedings on the field. And a 'quickie' like the Asia Cup is not exactly the best place to look for that. The reasons for which have been outlined, to some extent, in the preceding paragraphs.
So, in an environment where, in all probability, cricket is not uppermost on every team member's mind (not the least the manager's) how does one do what one is expected to do? How does one bring home the gold? How does one come out tops when the odds are so heavily stacked against you? One doesn't. One can't. And it doesn't help that this team isn't exactly endowed with cartloads of talent. But try telling that to the officials and they'll pontificate self-righteously about the need to honour 'commitments' already made. The need to spread the 'gospel of cricket' to the far corners of the earth. And the need to play more cricket, when there is already too much of it being played. (A point of view that's debatable but definitely one that holds some water.)
Not surprisingly, some of the players care little about some of these so-called 'commitments' made by the 'powers-that-be.' End up 'tanking' their effort some part of the time. Take the field when they'd rather be elsewhere. And...no, I'll keep the 'f' word out of it. (I meant 'fixing.' Why, what did you think?) But of course nothing of this sort happens in India. Obviously the men in charge have got it all figured out. Even before the CBI. And into this cauldron of doubt, recrimination and reluctance, I throw in an 'un tres petit' analysis of our team's chances.
Those informed about the game will tell you that the one-day game is mostly a batsman's game. A fact that gets even more amplified when teams play in the sub-continent. In such a scenario it becomes doubly important to have the bowlers who have the experience and can keep their heads when the odds are heavily stacked against them. Unfortunately, the best bowler in this team is not even on the eleven. He is the manager. And, quite frankly, I see little chance of our opening attack ever going for less than between 70 and 80 in the first ten overs. In fact, I can already see Aravinda and Jayasuria lining up to face them. And I haven't even started on Imran Nazir.
Speaking of whom, doesn't Imran Nazir's technique, temperament and attitude remind you of Sachin? Isn't there's something about him that takes you back to the time when Sachin had just started making waves? Mark my words, this young man will go places. The more I see of him, the more I'm reminded of Sachin. (Which can mean only one thing for our toothless bowling attack in Dacca. More headaches.)
Keen observers of the game will also tell you that great fielding can often make up for a relatively weak bowling attack. Unfortunately, this is one area we've talked ourselves to death on with little effect. What's worse, our captain himself is a bit of a slouch when it comes to ground fielding. Meaning yet another area where we aren't going to set the standards. Which leaves us with batting and the other half of the game. (The one that's played inside the player's head.)
Fact of the matter is, when it comes to batting, all it takes is one good ball to send the best of the best packing. Or inconsistency. (That word again.) So when was the last time our batting delivered with some degree of consistency? Significantly, it was during the now 'notorious' Pepsi Cup in India. Unfortunately, Hansie, the bookies and Sharjah put a quick end to that celebration. And with pretty much the same batting line-up to look forward to, there's little evidence to feel relaxed and assured about. (Also, whatever the Lele's of the world may say, there are members in this team whose commitment doesn't always come across as 'total.') The tip then would be, don't bet your life and life-savings on the batting to deliver. Because with our batsman, including Sachin in the recent past, one just never knows. And the less said about our lack of mental toughness the better. So I won't. (Not that the circumstances surrounding the game at this point in time help.)
Hmm...from the looks of it, this is not going to be a tournament that promises much joy for the India Blues. And so, my money's firmly on the Lankans. Not that I'm a betting man. (Makes sense, considering I don't have the good offices of the BCCI to back me.)
Mail your response to Avinash Subramanium
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