March 26, 2007

Chasing a dream... for 24 years

ESPNcricinfo staff
“Cool first, write afterwards
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“Cool first, write afterwards. Morality is hot but art is icy,” Henry James had once said. A pieces like this isn’t quite art and the response to India being walloped by Sri Lanka has little to do with morality but I know what the master meant when he said that. Put another way, he meant take your time, and do not yield to the temptation of the knee-jerk reaction.

Which is what I have been doing over the weekend. Taking my time and keeping both my knees tightly strapped lest they react.

But there is no running away from the question: How exactly did India manage to come undone? How did a side that former cricketer Vic Marks (among others) was tipping as one of the favourites of the tournament manage to so comprehensively mess things up, ending their campaign before the stage when one had supposed it would begin in earnest?

Various theories are floating around, not all of them to do with the quality of cricket the side played. In Monday’s edition of the Hindustan Times, Rahul Bhattacharya (an old cricinfo hand) writes about the “lack of chemistry” in this team. Things like chemistry are intangible, they are hard to communicate unless you have seen the team but one knows when it’s there – just as much as one knows when it’s not. (I remember watching the Indians play volleyball before the start of play every morning during the terrific tour of Australia in 2003-04 and remember thinking, “These guys have something special between them.” And they did. It showed in the results.)

“There was no open rebellion,” Bhattacharya writes, “but the insecurity had seeped in too deep. The only hope for it galvanizing lay in the bonding that comes from special triumphs. It was not to be.”

As much as 1966 is for English football fans, for followers of Indian cricket 1983 has acquired a status of mythic proportions, and its mythology grows and grows as every Indian World Cup team since that one tries to match that triumph and falls short.

How was that victory achieved? I have wondered about this so many times over the past 24 years. And why has it never happened again? India was certainly not the most talented side in the 1983 tournament. (We’ve had several better teams since.) No one picked it as a dark horse. It did not have a decent track record. It had had far less practice in one-day cricket than teams like, say, England or Australia.

So how did they do it?

We had great players like Kapil and brave, committed ones like Amarnath. They were lucky. They were plucky. (Remember, India beat the defending world champions not once, but twice in the tournament.) But more than anything else, everything came together for India that summer in a way that things sometimes do in team sport: when all the units in a side weld together, when one player inspires the others, when the cliché of one for all and all for one becomes a demonstrable reality and the whole of the team become greater than a sum of its parts.

You need that for success in sport. And in the West Indies at this World Cup, that was found sadly wanting.

Soumya Bhattacharya is the editor of Hindustan Times, Mumbai. He is the author of two volumes of cricketing memoirs - You Must Like Cricket? and All That You Can't Leave Behind - and a novel, If I Could Tell You

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • fanedlive on March 30, 2007, 12:24 GMT

    Yes, my name is R Dravid (not Rahul)!

    As a management teacher, I see how much of management skills are required in this supposedly slow/ lazy game. Gone are the days when Cricket used to be the quintessential game of the Babus (remember Lagaan!), who used it to kill time. For the fitness freaks among the babus, there was Badminton (Poona). Today, cricket is all about consistency in fitness and quick recovery from injury (see what Maddy Heyden is done to his toe; how Oram bowled against the Windies; or how the big bully Symonds throws the ball).

    All that talk about strategy and planning should be left to the Harsha Bhogles and Charu Sharmas of the world. It is the commentator's forte - to keep television viewers interested before, during, and after the game. As the commentary graduated from radio to television - since you could see the game being played out, they had to talk strategy (and not describe what is happening).

    Any professional activity is about mental preparedness, physical fitness (V Anand works out in the gym for 3 hours every day!), and intense concentration (N Karthikeyan does hours of Yoga every day!) to improve competitiveness/ performance. When you lack these, you cannot be a professional. Imagine a software programmer who is afraid of working late hours, cannot sit for long hours in a chair, and is not able to concentrate on his job! Same is true for every professional in this world. And to make sure all this exists in professional sport is why we have all the coaches and support staff. Remember, we are talking of kids who became professional at 18-20 years of age, when you and me were requesting our parents to accompany us to college for admissions/ meeting the principal/ teachers.

    To sum the long response short, what this team lacked was the psychological preparedness of a professional outfit.

    Period.

    Amen!

  • fanedlive on March 30, 2007, 9:04 GMT

    GET A BOWLING COACH ASAP A BOWLING COACH IS NEEDED. WE NEED TO STOP TELLING OUR BOWLERS TO SACRIFICE PACE FOR ACCURACY, LIKE WE TELL ZAHEER, NEHRA, MUNAF, SREE SANTH AND PATHAN LET OUR QUCIKIES RIP... AND WE NEEDD A BOWLING COACH FOR IT NOT A BATTING ONE WHO'S CLUELESS ABOUT BOWLING

  • fanedlive on March 30, 2007, 4:55 GMT

    As a person who resides outside India (in New Zealand for the past 9 years)I am perhaps blessed with a unique perspective of looking at the Indian Cricket Team as an (almost!) outsider. That somehow lets me view them as Sportsmen rather than Demi Gods and Cricket as nothing more than a Sport. I think the problem lies not so much in what the team did wrong but in the Mass hysteria that surrounds Cricket in India, right from the media waxing lyrical about the team if it does well to supporters burning effigies and destroying players' houses if they don't. Till such time as the players are allowed to do what they do best..play Cricket & not become glorified models for corporate houses..this problem will persist. The greed reflected by the BCCI & corporate India to squeeze out of cricket as much money as possible, results in too much Cricket being played and players burning out

  • fanedlive on March 29, 2007, 18:38 GMT

    well india made few mistakes in the 07 wc india shuld have taken 3 sbowlers n 2 spinners dravid did not do so coz he is a defensive nature caption india shuld have taken pathan as a 7th batsmen n 5 th bowler wht the hell is agarkar doin in team he hast performed consistently keep sre santh in place of agarkar opening shuld be done by ganguly n sachin if the run rate is clicking at 6 n over u can call dhoni at 3 or if wickets fall down early dravid can come in then yuvi n shewag then pathan n the tail.

  • fanedlive on March 29, 2007, 5:50 GMT

    Despite all the criticism, stone throwing, name calling, bad mouthing the Indian team is recieving and all the "will be held accountable" rhetoric coming from BCCI.. the true reason why the players failed is not obvious. My theory will be opposed even by the players themselves (because by nature achiever's do not like to acknowledge 'helplessness'), and yet anyone with a decent insight into human psychology will agree. I believe that the main batsmen were depressed even before the game. This condition frequently happens to achievers and manifests itself by an inability to perform that which the achiever has the physical and mental skills as well as the mental desire to do. Sometimes also referred as a performance block. When physical skill, mental desire and will power is not enough .. it is like a car with a good engine, transmission in forward gear, full throttle but would not move. When you really examine internal brakes were locked. Psychologists call it "inner world" refuses to cooperate with the thought world and all willpower in the world will fail. Some of us experience it every year when our 'new year' resolutions fail. The only way for an achiever to regain his groove is to take time off and do 'recovery' work with a psychologist. Sometimes even just taking timeoff can help. This was obvious with Sourav Ganguly's comeback. I hope the players and Greg Chappell see a shrink before making any rash 'retirement' decisions.

  • fanedlive on March 29, 2007, 5:27 GMT

    I am amazed by the comments so far. My memory fails me but I am not sure that chetan sharma or sivaramkrishnan played the 1983 world cup, as some have claimed. In the case of the current team, as usual we tend to over react. The successes during the Ganguly era and the early Dravid captaincy era were due to the successes of a few players- Dravid, sehwag, yuvarj, dhoni and pathan. And once these players lost a bit of their form, they were the ones who are being made the scapegoats, not the others who were passengers earlier and passengers now. This 'team' thing should get the fans thinking- whether their mass support for 'dada' who has been one of the greatest causes for attrition in the team, has helped or not. It could possibly be better for the Indian team spirit if Ganguly were to retire now, he has done well enough in the past and should retire a happy man. Tendulkar too should think of a day to hang up his boots. My strategy for the team in the future would be- use this problem as an opportunity, but avoid making large scale knee jerk changes. Remove Chappel- some low profile coach- more proficient in the basics of coaching could be better- even someone Indian like Sandeep Patil wouldnt be a bad idea. Retain Dravid as a captain for the next two years and see if any one else emerges with potential. Give a few more opportunities to people like Utappa who have done well in the domestic circut, also give some chances to guys like Gambhir and Manoj Tiwary. Persist with Dhoni- his keeping has been fairly good(his primary job), and he has contributed more with the bat than any other specialist keeper in Indian cricket(apart from Dravid). Give Yuvraj a role slightly higher up in the order, also promote Dhoni higher. Persist with Pathan for some more time. Make sure Dinesh Kartik performs consistently well with the bat in domestic cricket before we decide to take him along as a specialist batsman. Kaif was too good a batsman to shunt (especially after his good performances last year in the caribean) and should be tried for the no. 3 spot in both forms of the game. Zaheer Khan, Munaf and Sreesanth form the core of a good bowling attack and should be developed well- get a good bowling coach- or get someone like Kapil to spend some time with them. And get rid of Agarkar, for long he has been the guy with potential- blocking the way for other bowlers and never doing anything phenomenal. And finally we need to get a few good spinner- Kumble is over the hill, and Powar and Harbajan are simply not enough. Train any no. of new guys, piyush chawla or anyone else, we need to get a couple of very good spinners in an years time! Target to build a strong group of about thirty players (not so big a target in country of a billion- when smaller countries like lanka and pakistan and bangladesh have better teams). Forget about the 2011 world cup, become obsessed with developing a good infrastructure, strong domestic competition and good training opportunities for young talent.

  • fanedlive on March 29, 2007, 3:09 GMT

    There is a huge amount wrong with the Indian team and their performance at the World Cup. I will try and list a few that are at the top of my head-

    1)The game is changing! Like it or not in ODI power cricket is here to stay. Physical & mental strength are paramount. We are already at a 50 run disadvantage there when we play against SA, Aus. They save about 25 runs throught their fielding and add another 25 throught their running between wickets. Unless we get guys who are stronger and more athletic Indian cricket will go the way of Indian hockey. We are already being left behind.

    2)Lack of pace bowlers-I mean REAL pace-150 and above. This has always been a problem with Indian cricket. What is the MRF pace foundation doing? They were established more than 20 years ago. Where are the results? J Srinath?? Come on! They are obviously not doing their job so they might as well shut it down.

    3)Domestic competition-cut down the teams to 5 and make sure those idiot sponsors put their money where it's really needed-the domestic game. Encourage foreigners to come to India and play.

    4)Bowler friendly pitches or pitches which at least encourage fast bowlers. Our batsmen are flat track bullies who come unstuck any time there is a little bounce or movement. They have to learn to improve their technique against fast bowling.

    5)We need players to hit the weights HARD & HEAVY! This is about becoming faster & stronger! Our idiot players are still in the dark ages about weight training. There should be a strength training center especially devoted to Indian athletes or we will be a nation which will be the butt of all jokes.

    6)Get the politicians out of the game ASAP! Unless you're a former player(domestic or int) you cant be involved in running the game of cricket. These stupid administrators are going to kill the game.

    7)Performance based pay-period. If you dont perform you're paid less-ALOT less. Simple.

    8)Put a limit on sponsorships. Why should our players perform? They have an easy life getting paid mega bucks by the corporates to sponsor their products. Put a limit on this. If you really want to play for India you'll earn your money-ON the field-not off it!

  • fanedlive on March 29, 2007, 1:18 GMT

    Our boys got a royal walloping at the hands of the majestic Lankans and the way the Lankans played today proved how much cricket means to them, No Indian bowler can dream of putting in a performance like Malinga... the only way we can correct this is to instil some national honour in our lot, bring kapil as coach!

  • fanedlive on March 29, 2007, 1:15 GMT

    we have the worst, most over-rated ppl as part of our team, no need to praise their career averages at present. These things are fun to look at once a player has retired, which is what exactly all of them should do!

  • fanedlive on March 29, 2007, 1:12 GMT

    Soumya, stop living in the past, 1983 is not simple past, it's REMOTE past, players of 83 wud have kids 20 yr old! Face it, this team is never gonna win anything, always the bridesmaid, never the bride albeit this time they were made to stand outside the church!

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