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Home > Cricket > The Cup > Column > Sujata Prakash

Five reasons why India failed

March 27, 2007

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The roof has fallen. A cricket obsessed nation stands stunned in disbelief. Wasn't this the same team that steamrolled the West Indies in a warm up match just two weeks ago? Weren't we supposed to see a Vision unfold before our eyes? Instead, all we're left staring at is a blurred picture of a ruin.

The media is sharpening its knives. The public is demanding answers. For the moment, none are forthcoming from the people who have them. Perhaps there is no clear cut explanation, or perhaps an anticipated backlash has prompted a defensive withdrawal. Out of fear springs the instinct for self preservation, so the catch word of the day is 'collective failure'. Do not pick on me; I was just one of the cogs in the wheel. But that is not true. The team as a whole failed to bat well, yes, but the men running the show have to shoulder most of the responsibility for the run-up to the debacle.

Reason number 1: The wrong coach

Greg Chappell - His Vision 2007 remained just that: a vision in his mind. He will have his defenders, but the clamour for his head is far stronger. His rotational policies and experimentation turned out to be a joke, for in this team there are no less than eight players who were very much around in 2003. Youngsters were picked and discarded, cited as being not good enough. And yet, despite the lack of young, agile, hungry players in the team, Chappell claimed he was satisfied with his preparation for the World Cup. Does that sound contradictory to anyone? The most damning evidence against him is that he took charge of a team that had reached the finals in the last World Cup, and brought it to the bottom rung in this one.

Many will argue that a coach is not responsible for careless runouts and self induced mental pressure, but if that is the case, why do we need a coach? Why is it that big companies seek the best CEO money can buy? Anyone can come up with a rosy dream, but bringing it to fruition is another matter.

Reason number 2: The wrong captain

Rahul Dravid � As a batsman, he is par excellence. As a team mate, no one could ask for better. But to be a great captain, one needs to be a little more vainglorious, a little less Mr Nice-guy. When a player fails to field well, a common occurrence in this Indian side, his brows knit slightly, but that's as far as he goes to show disapproval. His shoulders droop when the team loses its way, and his field placings go awry too often. Against Sri Lanka, having them on the  ropes at 216/5, he overlooked the elementary rule of putting in a slip for the new batsman. On the first delivery he faced, Chaminda Vaas edged the ball and it flew to the boundary, instead of nestling in the hands of first slip. And then we demand consistency from our bowlers! Time and again, Dravid has shown he lacks the killer instinct. But his culpability is less than the coach's or selectors, who should have corrected these flaws long back, or had a rethink about the choice of captain. Now, Dravid needs to go back to doing what he does best: be a great team mate and batsman!

Reason number 3: The wrong selectors

The prime qualification needed to become a selector is a lack of backbone and a flexible spine. When Dilip Vengsarkar grumbled about Dravid's obsession for Virendra Sehwag, the question begged: so what are you there for? If the captain calls all the shots and fills his team with non performers, then the selector might as well hand in his resignation. Now is not the moment to point a finger at any player, but it was painful to see ageing stars struggle to score a measly twenty or thirty, a specialist spinner look pedestrian in front of Murli, himself past his prime, the amateur running between wickets, the dastardly way a bowler/batsman kept swiping at the ball until he finally got out, leaving his captain stranded without a hope. Halloween 1, 2 and 3 combined could not have made for a more bloodcurdling effect. The absolute shame is, based on current performance, some of the 'stars' gracing the occasion on March 23 would not find a berth in the Bangladeshi team, forget the Super 8s.

Reason number 4: The wrong men in the BCCI

Sometimes you just wonder, when the men behind the men in blue are not counting money, do they ever glance at the screen now and then, or do they just wait for the effigies to be burnt before reacting? The first lukewarm reaction came from BCCI President Sharad Pawar. 'There will be drastic changes', he said. At the same time we hear the rumour that Sachin Tendulkar will be offered the captaincy. Now that is a change, and a drastic one. The other utterance of . Pawar is, 'players will be picked on merit, rather than past records'. If Sachin Tendulkar is indeed made the captain, it will belie Pawar's good intentions. Tendulkar has neither a good record as captain -- his win percentage in ODI's was only 30 per cent, and his own average fell to 36 from 44 -- nor does he merit the captaincy at an age when he should be thinking of retiring from the one day game. The BCCI must not base their decision on seniority or number of runs scored, but with an eye to the future. That means youth, and youth will fail, and fail again till he finally gets it right. If Bangladesh can get there, so can we.

Reason number 5: The wrong fan base

We've seen them on TV. They blacken and burn posters. They tear down players' houses, or at least a window pane or two. Try being a cricketer in a nation that teeters between anguish and rapture. There are no half measures. A player has to be of exceptional mental strength, like Sachin or Dravid, to not get swayed by the adulation, or broken by the abuse. Australians love their team, but they treat their players as any other athletic humanoid. It allows the Aussie players breathing space, and they can enjoy the game as a challenge, rather than a noose around the neck. If we want our players to change, we must change. Hockey, anyone?

All is not lost. Indian cricket is too strong to not bounce back. But for that to happen, Dravid and co will have to introspect harder than they ever have.

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