ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 / Features

India v West Indies, Group B, World Cup 2011, Chennai

India look to kick the habit

"Your daily habits will determine how far you go," says India's vision document for the World Cup. At the moment India need to stop their habit of making silly errors with large consequences

Sharda Ugra in Chennai

March 19, 2011

Comments: 39 | Text size: A | A

Gary Kirsten takes on MS Dhoni during a warm-up game of football, Chennai, March 18, 2011
Even as he plays football, MS Dhoni is succeeding or failing; so says India's vision document for the World Cup © AFP
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Chennai is a city of early risers. At the first sliver of light, the streets are dotted with people delivering milk and newspapers, setting up flower stalls, going for walks. Even the sun over Marina Beach switches swiftly onto a full beam in March, demanding that the day be seized.

India are not the early risers of this World Cup. They come to Chennai knowing that every little detail of the team will soon be under its fierce glare, from their brightest parts to all that is hidden in India's shadows. On Sunday, the team will not only wrestle against West Indies, but also try to clutch at their reputation that has dangerously peeled away, layer by layer, over the course of this World Cup.

At the moment, all attention is focussed on India's brightest parts: the batting that is due one blazing firecracker of a performance, the bowling that could be revitalised with a fresh face and a new edge, and the undeniable fact that their rivals can often be brittle under pressure and have a great sense of detachment from the art of playing spin.

Yet it is from the shadow that India must find their answers, because after Sunday, they will be into what captain MS Dhoni calls the World Cup's "lottery stages". India's 'vision document' for the tournament contains a paragraph that says, "The fight is won or lost far away from witnesses. You don't succeed when your dream is accomplished ... you are succeeding or failing right now. Your daily habits will determine how far you go."

As India prepare for their last group game, the result of which will determine whom they play against in the Ahmedabad quarter-final, they will have to undo all habits formed over the five group games sprawled over a month. With the undeniable advantage of hindsight, Dhoni and his team know that what they are missing in this World Cup (apart from sharp fielders, of course) is the detailing.

This has happened at an event where the broadest brush has been constantly swept around in their favour: the format has been fool-proofed so that the disasters of 2007 are avoided. Barring their opening match, India play every single game in conditions they know well. Australia and Sri Lanka are now on gas awaiting Sunday's result to work out who will travel to Ahmedabad for the quarter-final. No-one on BCCI's payroll will be lent out to visiting teams as temporary support staff even in emergencies. In this environment, the team has not performed with an assurance its fans need, its Board wants and its competitors would be daunted by. Sachin Tendulkar's two centuries have virtually disappeared behind a blur of India's uncrossed 't's.

Against England, India's first World Cup match against one of the stronger teams in its group, a single was run short on the last ball of the innings. Against Ireland and Netherlands, India lost its top four within 100 runs when chasing, a warning sign about the batting's collective sense of direction. That then morphed into the thoughtless 9 for 29, against South Africa.

Eight balls were left unplayed in that innings. At the tail-end of the South African innings in Nagpur, a catch dropped of Morne van Wyk was forgotten because the batsmen fell three balls later but then the ball had also wobbled over the boundary. That was runs conceded. In the 49th over in Nagpur, an easy run-out chance with the two batsmen stranded at handshaking distance in the middle of the pitch was fluffed because of a bad throw. The batsman? Robin Petersen, who got a streaky inside-edged four off Ashish Nehra's first ball in the last over, and then hit the six that swung the match South Africa's way.

On Sunday night, India and West Indies will fill in the final details as to how the World Cup knockouts will be shaped. India needs its most precise performance, with no straggly bits in selection, batting orders or bowling changes. The injury to Virender Sehwag may see him sit out the game and give him time to get ready for Ahmedabad, and it will also act as India's best option to still persist with its power hitter Yusuf Pathan and try out both newbies, Suresh Raina and R Ashwin.

It is as if the pieces of advice offered in the vision document by Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong are now taking on a life of their own. "Pick your battles," Armstrong advises, saying that businesses and teams need "detailed strategies on which stages to win and which to sit back." The World Cup is the same, Dhoni's team has been told. "You can't win every battle. However, you can win the important ones."

Sunday's game qualifies as one of those. Irrespective of the result, West Indies are not expected be India's most formidable opposition in the tournament. Yet, it could be the match in which the World Cup's late risers finally reveal what they are really capable of doing when fully awake.

Sharda Ugra is senior editor at ESPNcricinfo

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© ESPN EMEA Ltd.

Comments: 39 
Posted by benny1234 on (March 20, 2011, 13:14 GMT)

India is going to win the match against West Indies because the great Tendulkar has scored only two runs

Posted by Pathiyal on (March 20, 2011, 13:11 GMT)

the fact that really works against the indians is in their attitude of measuring a contest - only in terms of results. in their tryst of anticipating the outcome so early they miss to cherish the events during the match. i have seen many grounds in india wherein any member of any competing team is not cheered at all by the spectators if they play against india....unless you are a very very special and acceptable player like brian lara, for instance. a sport is a sport, not a war and thats why its called sport. their your patriotism takes a temporary off and sportsmanship comes in place. i have seen many guys (of course indians) who switch off their tv sets if someone like UV, viru or sach gets out. this general attitude puts a lot of pressure on your team and they in turn are not able to enjoy their game. after all they are also one among you.

Posted by Seshadrisharma on (March 20, 2011, 11:06 GMT)

I completely agree with the authors comments here..you cannot practice over night and achieve something...whether you have work or not , everybody in their profession need to practice daily what they are doing..Daily Practice/Habit would determine how far each individual would go when other things remain same

Posted by   on (March 20, 2011, 9:50 GMT)

will they bring back irfan pathan? i think a decent thrid strike fast bowler is missing

Posted by ElevenStars on (March 20, 2011, 9:00 GMT)

This is very important match for Team India, and India must win & face Australia in Ahemdabad. Ahemdabad picth is turning pitch like chennai. So advantage is with India.Its best chance to knock out Aussies out of the world cup. If india looses against Windiws then TeamIndia's worlcup campaign will be over as they have to face Srilanka in Columbo. Even if India wins against srilanka then they will face Aussies in Semis, on bouncy,seaming pitch in Mohali..!! . Here india will be knocked out for sure. So If Team India wanna win world cup . Then they have to beat Windies.

Posted by Ganes.V on (March 20, 2011, 8:17 GMT)

Good article.Almost all of us know that THIS Indian team is going nowhere!Out of sheer luck they have qualified for the next stage-thanks to Bangladesh.And the way SA, SL Pak Aus NZ and WI are playing-I feel it would not be the right thing to happen if India goes on to win this edition of world cup- just because they DONT DESERVE to win the cup.On and off - here and there we have seen strokes of brilliance and excellence from a few players-but as a team we are yet to see them do it!A totally bad fielding unit-no excuses for that- and equally bad as a bowling unit. Just could not defend 338 against England and also could not defend a decent total against South Africa as well.We cannot expect the batsmen to score 350+ against all teams always so that the bowlers can keep bowling the way they do now and give away 300+ scores to all teams.Its sudden death from now on. Being an Indian I would love to see India doing well but am not sure how long will this team go.!!

Posted by   on (March 20, 2011, 8:12 GMT)

i am scared india deliberately might refrain from winning as rakesh vasu said..sehwag out with injury and new guys being tried out might be just a prelude to the show..

Posted by   on (March 20, 2011, 8:11 GMT)

This match is a non-event because most followers of the game know that India will almost surely lose to either Australia or Sri Lanka in the quarter-final.

Posted by AshutoshSinha on (March 20, 2011, 8:04 GMT)

This has been a mediocre World Cup! Imagine, the round robin matches are almost over, and, barring a few, there are is little to suggest that there is a champion team. Every team is hoping it can be a dark horse. A cursory look at all the scorecard makes me feel that I would have wanted to see a lot more of brilliance. Barring the odd one or two innings, there has not been an innings that has changed the course of a match. I am a little disappointed. Is it because of T20 that our expectations are too high now?

Posted by KiwiRocker- on (March 20, 2011, 7:22 GMT)

One has to feel that horse may already have been bolted in India's case. If India wins today, they will face Australia and if India loses, they will face SL. India is doomed either way as both Australia and SL will take India to cleaners.India had an easy ride to WC as India is in a far easier Group.B with SA only notable team to beat but India has made a mess by losing against SA and then an aweful tie with England. I do not see this Indian team progressing beyond QF. Indian selectors need to be blamed as they have lulled Indian fans into fanatacy land. Yousaf Pathan is a medicore player with 600 runs and he has been made some Abdul Razzaq. Yuvraj and Raina should not even be in team as they will be sitting ducks against pace.Dhoni continues making excuses one after another while he is milking cash rich BCCI and sponsors. In a sad twist of irony, Pakistan may have sealed India's fate by beating Australia- If India lost, it will be their biggest world cup loss and probably best chance!

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