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January 22, 2012

Indian cricket

India never cultivated aggression, even when they were No.1

Samir Chopra
Ryan Harris celebrates dismissing Rahul Dravid, Australia v India, 3rd Test, Perth, 3rd day, January 15, 2012
India have often eased off after taking a lead in a series  © Getty Images
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India's recent run of seven away Test defeats, despite sometimes involving spells of competitive play (and arguably, at the MCG, a real chance to win), have been marked by a lack of competitiveness: four by an innings, one by over 300 runs, another by almost 200 runs, one by over 100 runs. Out of those seven Tests only two have gone the distance, while the game in Perth ended in two-and-a-half days.

The analysis of India's defeats has been copious and plentiful. One aspect of this analysis has centred on the seeming lack of fight, of aggression and resolve: India's Test team rose to the No. 1 ranking because it had shown the ability to fight back from adversity; what happened to those reserves that enable champion teams to claw their way out of the bear-trap of a grim sporting circumstance?

I have five reasons to offer: The Oval 2007, Bangalore 2007-08, Mohali 2008-09, Wellington 2008-09 and Dominica 2011.

In each of those games India had a chance to drive home a decisive advantage to increase the margin of victory in a series. In each case, Indian - it did not matter who the captain was, for in these games they were led by Rahul Dravid, Anil Kumble and MS Dhoni - declined to pick up the gauntlet. In each case, they missed a chance to cultivate a quality that is as valuable as the ability to fight back from adversity: to stay on top of an opponent who is down, to manoeuvre yourself into a winning position through aggressive play.

India lost out on valuable opportunities to cultivate and nurture reserves of aggression that would have stood them in good stead when adversity again presented itself. Sometimes (Oval 2007) it involved a failure to enforce a follow-on and, failing that, to aggressively fight back from temporary misfortune to again assert themselves in a situation where they had the sporting and psychological upperhand; sometimes it involved a failure to score quickly and declare in time (Bangalore 2007-08) or even consider that opportunity (Mohali 2008-09); sometimes it involved ludicrous delays in a declaration (Wellington 2008-09); and lastly, and most bizarrely, declining a chase for a victory target (Dominica 2011).

Though I have been a fan of the Indian cricket team for many years now, and thus have grown used to the idiosyncratic reactions of my fellow travellers, nothing has surprised me more than the defences mounted of Dhoni's tactics in Wellington and Dominica. Reacting angrily to a defeat is understandable; apologia for a lack of imagination and cricketing backbone is considerably less so.

The Indian cricket team will return to India soon; heads will roll; and a new season of cricketing encounters will kick off. But personnel and venue changes will do little to change Indian cricketing fortunes unless something is done to change a mindset that is comfortable with 1-0 leads, that fears possible defeat when pursuing victory. The edge that is sharpened in rejecting sitting on leads, in finding ways, to not just save a game, but to win a game that looks only half-winnable, is an invaluable weapon; it enables the summoning up of reserves in hopeless situations, like the ones that India have all too often, in the last year, found themselves in.

Talk of grassroots change and the new generation in Indian cricket is indeed appropriate at this stage. I would ask that some attention be paid to these five recurrences of one of Indian cricket's oldest maladies, present even when the team is winning and returns home with trophies and laurels. If defeat is to be subjected to forensic examination, then let us do the same even in times of seeming triumph. Valuable lessons lurk there as well.

Samir Chopra lives in Brooklyn and teaches Philosophy at the City University of New York. He tweets here

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Keywords: Rankings, Touring

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Posted by kapil on (April 18, 2012, 0:03 GMT)

It very easy to comment here but remember Multan test of 2004, when Dravid decl. Indian inngs for an outright win whole India d media slammed Dravid for his BRAVE nd COURAGEOUS INTESIFYING decision.... also abt Oval 2007 test remember y Dravid didnt force follow on was India's premiers bowlers Kumble & Zaheer got injured nd RP was de lonely bowler left. so Indians went for safety rather then glory...

Posted by MaruthuDelft on (March 13, 2012, 18:41 GMT)

Indians wanted peace. That is why they settled with agriculture and vegetarian. West yielded to its instinct and wanted fun. So they hunted to have tasty food. They needed aggression. But now India knows even in agriculture you have to win against competition. So now India has to learn aggression. Unless India profoundly accepts they were wrong and West was right they won't be resolute in becoming aggressive. So they will never win.

Posted by Hafiz on (March 10, 2012, 9:52 GMT)

Don't blame the media; they gave them the best slogan "Dekh lega India"; "Thunder down Under". Par lot key budhu ghar ko aye.

Posted by KennyK on (January 26, 2012, 22:50 GMT)

Totally agree with so many good comments!

Posted by Bingo Haley on (January 26, 2012, 20:19 GMT)

Excellent comment derrida derider! Very incisive thinking!

Posted by kshah on (January 26, 2012, 19:31 GMT)

The AUS -IND series is a major setback for Indian Cricket....The Indian team was perhaps on a high and the results reflect the rest..But lets be fair, in recent years, the Indians alone have competed in Australia...2003 & 2007 seasons are examples..they deserve to be praised in that regard. More so, when one observes the performances of the other two Asian greats in recent times down-under..i.e. Pakistan & Srilanka, they've never progressed.

Having said that...the Indians appear to positively justify the number one tag,,,, but in their own back yard only.. Elsewhere, there's lots to be desired.

For me, the Aussies may well be on their way back to the top. England have the potential to back their rankings and the South Africans are not too far behind as well...But the three Asian greats unfortunately, have some work to do...Their own conditions will not afford them the opportunity to become world beaters in alien territory.

Posted by GK on (January 26, 2012, 17:32 GMT)

Problems 1> Indian openers were major flop, BCCI should have back up option especially for openers, Should have two pairs of openers, which whome BCCI can relay on. 2> Fitness level should be made mandetory from the junior level, and at senior level failed to maintain should be send back to NCA. 3> Indian players should be taught how to be aggressive from the day one, I am not talking about aggression with other players, but with cricketting attitude. Hats-off to Gaguly on this,he brought in aggression. 4> England,Australia, SA, other countries jelous of India, and making lively pitches. which India should learn to play going forward. England even went on to choose a more swinging ball against Indians. 5> BCCI should concentrate on providing lively pitches starting from domestic level. 6> Indian players should play cricket on IPL way. In my View IPL is killing test matches, Dravid and VVS are best examples. 7> Indian cricketers should learn how to be humble and aggressive.

Posted by somit biswas on (January 26, 2012, 16:17 GMT)

Well done mate!!!

Posted by Farooq Tahir on (January 26, 2012, 13:38 GMT)

@Faisal You should have kept your mouth shut instead of giving such a stupid statement.

Surely, Indian teams lack aggression. Whenever, we see any sort of aggression in Indian teams, whether it is Sehwag, Youvraj or even Tendulkar of 90s, they got wins and people's support. They need aggressive bowlers, this is why Australia of 2000 and Windies of 80s and to some extent Pakistan in 90s won a lot of matches.

Posted by Venkat on (January 26, 2012, 10:02 GMT)

Indian team's approach is wrong. They are never aggressive in any tour. None of the players have shown their aggressive approach to the game. Most of this entire debacle is a result of selectors indecisiveness. Better, experienced and players who have proved themselves earlier on australian pitches are ignored and other's have been picked. Ishant should have been ignored before the series. Umesh was given a chance, that's okay but where is Rohit Sharma. Why is he not played at all? This is utter foolishness that players are taken with a reputation of future of Indian cricfket but are never given a chance to prove their abilities. Wake up CHIKA, i think time is coming when you would be dropped as selector. I think it's time that likes of Lazman, Dravid & Sachin should think of retirement. I have never seen Laxman fail so miserably, especially in australia. And Dravid, he was never bowled out so many times, probably best defence currently in world. Sachin should come of his 100th hundred

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Samir Chopra
Samir Chopra lives in Brooklyn and teaches Philosophy at the City University of New York. He runs the blogs at samirchopra.com and Eye on Cricket. His book on the changing face of modern cricket, Brave New Pitch: The Evolution of Modern Cricket has been published by HarperCollins. Before The Cordon, he blogged on The Pitch and Different Strokes on ESPNcricinfo. @EyeonthePitch

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