Rediff Logo Cricket
March 25, 1999


send this report to a friend

Is there anything this Indian team management is incapable of ?

Rohan Chandran

Cricket is like beer." So says a member of the Stanford Cricket Club (name withheld because his parents are known to surf these pages and may be less than amused to learn that their beloved son is in a position to make such an observation).
It's been a fortnight since he uttered those immortal words (and believe me, they will go down in history) and what worries me is that I'm starting to see sense in his questionable logic.

"You don't like it at first," he explains, "but after a while, you can't do without it, even though you can't explain why you like it so much."

After much thought, I've worked out that this is how I feel about one-day cricket. I swear to you, I don't like it. And yet, I wake up at 2 am, drive 15 miles, and lie sprawled on the floor (and therein lies the essence of the analogy, no doubt), glued to a television for the next eight hours or so. And then it's straight to the office.

It's not as easy as it sounds either, and I'm not speaking exclusively about the trials and tribulations associated with being an Indian supporter. It took a major deforestation exercise just to ensure that the satellite signal reached our little dish, perched precariously on the balcony railings. Throw in the cacophonous snoring of the enthusiastic fans gathered around me, along with the repeated realisation that I actually have tickets for the games I'm watching on a 29 inch screen, and you begin to get a clearer picture.

It's been 10 days now, and I'm still trying to work out what I feel about how the tournament has unfolded. The performances of South Africa and Pakistan have come as no surprise, and having advised other people to bet on New Zealand at 22-1 (I wouldn't dare myself), their showing has impressed too.
At the end of the day though, India and England are my teams, and that's where it all begins to fall apart.

I suppose I should be grateful to my beloved Manchester United, and also to George Lucas, for giving me reasons to miss India's woeful performances with the ball against both Zimbabwe and Kenya. Even without having seen them live though, it's clear that things aren't quite working out. What worries me in particular, apart from the batting, bowling and fielding, is the fact that the team management still does not seem to know what its ideal combination should be. Five bowlers, or four? Is Robin Singh an all rounder, or a spare batsman? Should Tendulkar open the batting, or come in at number four? The list of questions is endless. The list of answers is nonexistent. The shame of it all is that every man and his dog have been asking these and other questions since time immemorial.
For the last dozen years, Indian batsmen have struggled to appreciate the value of running singles. For even longer, fielders have been afraid of making contact with the ground on which they walk, or occasionally, run. Coaches have come and gone, consultants have come and stayed, and nothing has changed. It's hard to avoid the conclusion that it boils down to mental issues with the players themselves.

At the end of the day, each and every individual has to want it badly enough, and unless he does, his performance will never quite measure up when it really matters. The talent is there, but that has never been enough. Just ask Brian Lara.

There were stories in the press recently about Sri Lankan fans being presented with a cricket quiz when applying for visas to enter the UK. The rationale behind this was to ensure that those coming in were bona fide cricket fans. It's probably a good thing the Indian team didn't have to go through such an ordeal. A quiz on the basics of the game may well have been beyond some.

Of course, there is an alternative explanation for India's performances. One which Indian fans tend not to consider, and yet one which history lends remarkable credence to. The theory is simply this: India are not that good. We can criticise the team all we like for losing to South Africa, but maybe we should all pause to consider a small truth. South Africa are a superior one-day side. Seven out of ten times, they will beat India. For India to win, we need to play out of our skins, and we need South Africa to be sub-par.

A week ago, we played as well as we could, for the most part. They were just up to the challenge. I don't countenance the acceptance of being second-best, but sometimes a dose of reality is in order.
Speaking of reality, as someone who suspects that Ajit Agarkar has far more potential as a batting all rounder than as a bowling one, I should have known better than to include Debashish Mohanty in my fantasy team in CricInfo's Fantasy Challenge game. My team, named "How Low Can You Go," is currently languishing in 27,945th place, well above it's target of dead last. Waqar Younis and Brendon Julian have proved to be inspired selections, but Mohanty and Scotland keeper Alec Davies are starting to get me worried.

Worrying also is the appeal the Indian team management submitted after the loss to Zimbabwe. Normally, what would bother me would be the inability to accept defeat, and the insistence on searching for excuses and scapegoats, in preference to an honest attempt to right the things which went wrong. However, in this case, what is really terrifying is that the appeal served as proof positive that the Indians haven't even read the tournament rules and regulations.

They complained about their innings being reduced to 46 overs. The match referee was spot on with that one, and the fact that other referees have failed to be as strict is neither here nor there. The blame for this lies squarely on the shoulders of those out there in the middle who made no effort to speed things up.

Remarkably, some of the players out in the middle were heard telling others to take it easy, and that there was no rush. Go figure.

If that wasn't enough, the Indians then complained about the fielding restrictions applying for only 13 overs in their innings. However, the rules clearly state that under the given circumstances, the field restrictions shall be applied in the same proportion as they were for the first innings, with fractions ignored. Divide 15 by 50, and multiply by 46. Then discard the fraction part of the result. Whichever way you look at it, that makes 13.
Just to top it off, the next item on the complaint was that the Zimbabwe bowlers were allowed their full 10-over quota each, should they desire to use it. Again, the tournament playing conditions state as clearly as can be that this should be the case. The mind boggles - if the team management is capable of filing a formal appeal and protest concering an alleged incorrect application of tournament rules, without having ever read the rules in the first place, is there anything it is not capable of ?

I can't even imagine what to expect next. Perhaps I'd be better off just having a beer. It's all the same, after all, isn't it?

 Name: Email:
 Post a message:

Tell us what you think of this column