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February 1, 2000
In 1991/92, when the Indian team finished its Test and one-day international commitments (excluding the 1992 World Cup in Australia) they had won a tour game against Queensland, drawn the Sydney Test against Australia, lost 4-0 in the Test series (by margins of 10 wickets, 8 wickets, 38 runs and 300 runs), won three one-dayers in the World Series Cup (1 against Australia and 2 against West Indies) and tied one game against WI. They even qualified for the finals which Australia won 2-0. India lost the second final by a narrow margin of 6 runs.
In 1999/2000, the Indian team won a tour game against New South Wales, lost all 3 Test matches (by margins of 285 runs, 180 runs and an innings & 141 runs), drew against Tasmania and won one game in the Carlton & United Series against Pakistan. They did not qualify for the finals.
It is tempting to think that this is just a normal performance by an Indian team abroad. But if the results are put in perspective, it is obvious that this team has performed worse than the team which visited Australia eight years ago. The Indians were no competition at all in the Test series. There was absolutely no hope for any result other than a thumping Australian win. At least in 1991/92 there was a drawn Test and a close defeat at Adelaide. In the one-day series, India tied against West Indies at Perth, beat a strong Australian side at Perth and beat West Indies at Melbourne.
Has Indian cricket gone downhill? Has Australia progressed in its cricket? Is it a case of Indian cricket being stagnant while others have progressed? I think Indian cricket has failed to catch up with the world around it. The administrators and players have been in their own world, completely oblivious to developments, specifically in fielding and in the method of playing one-day cricket. The safest way out is to blame the administration but I feel that the players are to blame too. They are not able to take care of their injuries, they do not bother to improve their fielding standards. The standard excuse given is that Indian grounds do not facilitate diving, sliding etc. That argument will not hold water as many Test centres and other grounds have good outfields. How else do we find visiting teams diving and sliding around with abandon? Does the ground's outfield change when the Indians field?
There is also a distinct lack of self-confidence in Indian players. Some term it the killer instinct, some would say "The will to win". But it all boils down to self confidence. If Andrew Symonds, in his 12th one-day international can walk in at 59/5 with 40 more runs to win and hit six boundaries in a score of 28 to guide Australia home, it conveys the enormous self-confidence he has. It is tough to imagine an Indian No 7 batsman even thinking of doing this.
And now on to the administrators. For the last 2-3 years, there has been talk of a cricket academy. I do not think a cricket academy is the solution to all the problems of Indian cricket. There is no accountability. A BCCI secretary can say all he wants about the Indian cricket team and deny it a few days later and there are no questions asked. However if the coach makes any comment about the schedule/team selection, his views are shot down. Jadeja is asked to prove his fitness and a Board official unanimously decides that Jadeja is unfit and hence can't play in the C & U Series. The team management requests for Jadeja's inclusion midway into the series and their request is turned down. It couldnt have been for fitness reasons because Jadeja has been playing in the Wills Trophy and the Deodhar Trophy.
If these, and many other problems are not solved and are just swept under the carpet, it is evident that Indian cricket will remain stagant, whatever the talent we produce and whatever our Under-19s do.
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