Thursday, March 1, 2012


When I began writing this story, the Indian bowlers were being slapped around the Bellerive Oval by the Sri Lankans and it looked like we were heading towards yet another day of having our noses dragged through the turf and getting our blue bottoms spanked bluer still… Less than 40 overs later, the Sri Lankans are still cowering while Virat Kohli punches the air and announces to the world that he has truly arrived. Eulogies would be written, heroes would be resurrected and Suresh Raina’s Icarian fall would be forgotten. India’s victory in a crunch game against seemingly insurmountable odds is definitely worth a Homeric epic, especially since its heroes are blessed as much with a tragic flaw each, just as much as they are endowed with the prowess of titans and the halo of past glories.

My point is, this victory is not just another win. It is a truly great (and I do not throw this word around frivolously) victory, achieved by a truly great team, albeit on a wicket that suits its game. It’s a sign of power and panache and the limitless potential of this team.

So here’s what will happen next (I would like to gloatingly remind readers that the last time I made a prediction was when India tied their game with England during the World Cup, and I had said that we would reach the finals, bat second and win the cup. The rest, as they say, is hallowed history)… Sri Lanka will lose to Australia in the final game against the hosts. Why would that happen? It’s elementary, dear Watson. Sri Lanka beat Australia on eventual featherbeds in Sydney (where heavy clouds ensured Australia got the short end of the stick in a rain affected match) and Hobart, which suited Sri Lanka to the hilt while the sporting wicket at Melbourne will ensure that Aussie athleticism and seam bowling will win the day. Also, that howitzer called David Warner is due for a big one. India and Australia will face off in the finals. And yet again, like they had done four years ago, a galvanised India with three in-form batsmen, that’s Gautam Gambhir, Mahendra Singh Dhoni and the devastatingly brilliant Hectorian hero of India’s Oz campaign, Virat Kohli, should win the day. It doesn’t matter what number the Aussies pile up against our now-ragged-now-raging attack, ODI cricket is a batsman’s game and the better batting side will usually win games more often. Also, signs would suggest that Virender Sehwag is just about getting his whack back and Tendulkar seems destined to score his most elusive hundred yet on this tour. So it really might not matter what Ravindra Jadeja and Vinay Kumar do or don’t. When this line-up starts firing on all cylinders, little can stand in its way.

So we salvage our tattered reputation; so what if we lost the Tests, we won the CB triangular. We are still the World Champions and Sachin, Sehwag and co. are back in business, so why worry, right? There’s the small matter of looking into the future as far as VVS Laxman and Rahul Dravid are concerned, but hey, it’s all good now. Maybe we will give them a home series or two and then take a fresh look at things. As for Ravindra Jadeja and Suresh Raina, why fix what ain’t broke too bad. The captain has faith in them and what’s an Asia Cup or two between friends. Conversely, if India were not to make it to the finals, scapegoats would’ve been sought and slaughtered and a holy cow or two would’ve ended up in the tannery as well.

So as an armchair expert, for whatever my two bit’s worth, here’s what I say we should do from here whether we play, win or lose in the next few matches in Australia...

  • First up, Gautam Gambhir to shut up and let his bat do the talking, which it does rather eloquently when he has his mind on the job. World-beaters, and tough as nails champions like him needn’t whine about pitches when the going gets tough. It’s embarrassing… Clive Lloyd’s West Indians, the Aussies of the last decade, even Imran Khan’s and Sourav Ganguly’s boys from the subcontinent, why even this very team until a year ago would just pick themselves up after they got knocked down and come swinging hard, irrespective of the pitch and the weather.

    Some pitches will seam, some will spin and some will bounce… Just go with it Gauti! So play late, dance down or hook, with your mouth closed.
  • Kapil Dev, Ian Chappell, Dean Jones, Prashanto Banerji, Tom, Harry and the other one, please let Sachin Tendulkar be… That man has scored more, played more, won more, understands more and done more for the game than all of us put together. So let’s all join Gautam Gambhir and shut up about what we would have done if we were Tendulkar. We are not! And that monkey of a 100th hundred is hopping harder on our backs, not his, so let the champ be. He just won us the World Cup, remember…

  • BCCI, listen up. Create a succession plan with shortlisted understudies the way Cricket Australia does. Michael Clarke, Adam Gilchrist, Brad Haddin were all part of this succession plan. Australia’s crop of young guns, Mitchells Starc and Johnson, James Pattinson and Pat Cummins are all being harvested for the future. From this bunch will emerge the Brett Lees and Glen McGraths of the next decade.

  • The Indian team is also in a state of transition, but unlike the Aussies who keep rotating the young hopefuls, until class tells, India persists with one till he fails and then is forgotten in the dust of domestic cricket. Or we wait way too long before giving them a chance by when the fire within has been reduced to a flicker. Remember Prashant Vaidya? Of course you don’t. This Vidarbha paceman was India’s quickest bowler through the late 80s and early 90s. When did he get his break? In 1995, when he was nearly thirty and had become a medium paced trundle.

  • Today, we are doing the same thing with Rohit Sharma, Manoj Tiwary and Ashok Dinda. Instead of keeping them on the sidelines, Tiwary, Raina and Rohit need to be rotated. The same way, Dinda and Vinay Kumar need to be rotated so that the team has more options and an opportunity to judge who to persist with in the long run. And hey, what happened to Jaidev Unadkat, the great bowling hope from last year? One bad debut and he’s forgotten? He is the left -armer who would replace Zaheer, so give the guy a pat on the back and let him know he is in the mix, will you?

    If a Rohit Sharma is supposed to grow into the shoes of a Laxman or a Ganguly, then let him know that and let him bat consistently at that number. The poor guy keeps floating in and out anywhere from number three to number seven between tours. This is not how you rebuild a team. This is how you squander your riches, ruin your future and end up a pauper.

  • India rose to the top of the Test and ODI ladder to a great extent because it finally found a strong, solid and aggressive opening pair. Every great team had them. Greenidge and Haynes, Hayden and Langer/Gilchrist and now Sehwag and Gambhir.

  • Now Sehwag is in his mid 30s and Gambhir in his early 30s. Who is next in line? Murali Vijay? Abhinav Mukund? Robin Uthappa? I say, it has got to be Robin. He might have chinks in his temperament and his technique but there’s a fire in his heart that is rare to see. I remember this ODI when he was facing up against Brett Lee and ala Mathew Hayden, ‘walked’ into Lee and smashed him over the sight screen for a monstrous six. That attitude can’t be coached, and nor that kind of eye-hand coordination.

  • Both in England and Australia, India lost not because of lack of skill, but a lack of planning. Duncan Fletcher is a good man but he really hasn’t got it in him to coach an Indian team. In fact any man who is works well with a team like England is bound to not succeed with a sub-continental team. The values, the culture, the sense of structure is all so different. What works for one is sure to fail with the other. We need a coach who has found success with teams with similar culture. Which is why the controversial Dave Whatmore might have been a good pick. I think Wasim Akram would make a great pick too and imagine what it could do for Indo-Pak relations. More good than bad, I assure you.

  • Lastly, our captain of the future isn’t Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir or Suresh Raina. It’s Virat Kohli. Kohli captained India to an Under 19 World Cup win in 2008, while turning in sterling performances with the bat. He has the right pedigree to lead the team. MS Dhoni has been captaining India in all formats and could evidently do with a bit of a break.

So in my humble opinion, Virat Kohli should be made captain for the 2012 T20 World Cup in Simla with Dhoni joining the team as mentor and playing only as a batsman. Wridhiman Saha should come in as the full-time glove man in the team.

After one more season, Kohli should be made the vice-captain of the Test and ODI squads too and eventually replace Dhoni as Test captain while MSD could remain the ODI captain, a format he understands best and is most comfortable in until the next World Cup, or actually for as long as he cares.

So that is all it will take for us to regain lost pride and our rightful crown as the champions of cricketing world. Go ahead, my captain, his board and all of you who matter, give it a shot. You have nothing to lose but a fig leaf called pride. All the best!


1 comment:

  1. Ma bad for dropping by so late, the first segment doesnt need air anymore but i loved the 2nd half with lot of commandments, the indian team definitely needs fresh air and i hope they bounce back in Asia Cup. One point whch i wud differ with is the curious case of Duncan Fletcher. Gary kirsten wasnt a blended mentor when he joined the team, but he cud adapt fast. Lets be fair to Fletcher and give him some more time.