Cricket: Indian team’s cup of woes spilleth over!

Published: Wed, 02/11/2015 - 08:01 Updated: Tue, 06/16/2015 - 09:36

India will be going into this World Cup without Sachin Tendulkar and with non-regular opening pair, uncertain middle order and toothless bowling attack

Sandeep Kumar  Delhi 

When the icc cricket World Cup was last played in Australia in 1992, it was a team from the sub-continent that surprisied the world by lifting what was then known as the Benson & Hedges World Cup. The first to feature coloured jerseys, white cricket balls, black sightscreens and  floodlights, the men in green from Pakistan, led by their legendary captain, Imran Khan, beat the mighty Englishmen by 22 runs to win the first World Cup played under floodlights at the Melbourne Cricket ground.

Despite having a history of a sub-continental team winning the World Cup in the southern hemisphere, the performance of the Asian teams has always been below average in the tough Australian conditions. Ever since the three teams’ international series started off in 1979-80, on 20 occasions the three Asian teams have participated in the tournament but only India and Pakistan have managed to win the tournament on one occasion each. Pitches in the Australian summer have always favoured teams who have quick bowlers. Wickets there are quite hard and are recognised for notorious bounce and pace. In comparison to English wickets, swing plays a
limited role.

For India, going into this World Cup as defending champions and one of the favourites to win, things do not look very bright. The Indian team chose to have a Test and ODI tour of Australia  to get an early feel of the Australian conditions to help them in the prestigious World Cup. After witnessing their current performance one can safely say that they put up a bad show that would not just disappoint their millions of fans, but also punters who had put their money on them, based on past performance. What are the chances for Team India to save their pride? Objectively speaking, only few cricket expert would back them, but Indians’ worship of their team borders on madness. They cite history to support their optimism. Team India has a unique history of performing disastrously in their pre-World Cup tournaments and acquitting themselves better in the main tournament. It happened in 2003 against New Zealand and again in 2011 against South Africa. 

So, from where can the Indian team or the Men in Blue bring back the confidence to reverse their fortunes? On this tour, the team has been badly beaten. Worse, it has failed to put up a consistently regular line-up. It seems that Duncan Fletcher, the coach of the team, is aiming to emulate the rotation policy of Luis Enrique, head coach of the Football Club of Barcelona, who doesn’t hesitate to bench Lionel Messi in an all-important game.  There is no clarity nor can anyone even guess the probable Indian line-up. The form of every player is yo-yoing.

The fortunes of Rohit Sharma have changed drastically. From being the most hated player during the Test series, he has become the most wanted and his return to the team is eagerly awaited, considering the loss of form of Shikhar Dhawan whose moustache-twirling celebrations after scoring a century have now become history. Similarly, the question remains which position Virat Kohli will play at: number three or four. Kohli, who was in sensational form in the Test series, failed to live up to his reputation in the ODI tri-series. The only trusted in-form man in the star-studded powerful batting line-up is Ajinkya Rahane, but he himself doesn’t know  whether he will open the innings or bat in the position of Ambati Rayudu. Suresh Raina’s inconsistency is also making the battle line-up wobbly.  Even Dhoni has not been in his elements,  chasing huge totals on his own.

If we look at the bowling department, the team looks very weak. Considering that eight of the selected 15 players can bowl— full-time or part-time—not one of them is in a position to be considered the bowling spearhead. Like in the past, bowlers carry their injuries and do not go flat out in any match. Due to this, there is no clarity on whether Ishant Sharma and Bhuvneshwar Kumar—nursing  injuries— will even return to the squad in the opening stage of the World Cup. Ravindra Jadeja, who was included in the last 15 despite his shoulder injury, didn’t even look like picking up a wicket in his comeback match against England in the recently concluded tri-series. Also, the Indian team went into the last match with Mohit Sharma, who is not even in the World Cup squad. Umesh Yadav, despite his pace, doesn’t even fit in the line-up, courtesy of his low confidence and his inability to bowl in the right areas. 

Remember the Commonwealth Bank series of 2008, the only occasion when the Dhoni-led team won the only tri-series in Australia till date. Even with a mediocre bowling line-up comprising Praveen Kumar, Munaf Patel, Irfan Pathan and the rookie Ishant, India managed to beat Australia 2-0 in the best of three finals.  Back then, it was the starting phase of Dhoni’s captaincy era, and he looked confident, whatever decision he took.

In an attempt to lift the morale and confidence in the dressing room, the team has currently taken  a break from cricket. The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has booked a luxurious resort near Adelaide to help the jaded team rejuvenate. Coincidentally, in the 1992 World Cup, the Indian team was in a similar position. After spending two months playing in Australia before coming into the World Cup, the team looked both physically and mentally tired and crashed out of the tournament without making any big impact. However, the Mohammad Azharuddin- led team wasn’t provided the luxury of chilling out in fancy resorts in order to rest and recharge.

Come February 15, India will be going into this World Cup without Sachin Tendulkar and with a non-regular opening pair, uncertain middle order and a toothless bowling attack.  

 

This story is from print issue of HardNews