November 9, 2001

Professionalism lacking in Indian team management

The first Test at Goodyear Park ended sooner than expected, and the final surrender was a big let-down for millions of Indian fans

The first Test at Goodyear Park ended sooner than expected, and the final surrender was a big let-down for millions of Indian fans. The post-match statements from the Indian coach were as insipid and unimaginative as his team's second innings. The same old tactic of giving extra credence to names and past deeds failed in a rather embarrassing manner. At the start of the fourth day, the Indians had their task cut out for them. What transpired on the field was both stunning and enraging at the same time. Playing shots and being positive is all right, but the shot selection was atrocious, to say the least.

VVS Laxman
Agreed that the Indians faced a daunting task, but there was not even a semblance of fight. VVS Laxman has been batting much below par, and it was surprising to see him choose to play shots without even getting his eye in. He was lucky enough to survive on the third evening, and one would have expected him to alter his game plan. He gives me the feeling that he makes a very conscious effort to play beside the line of the ball. He needs to be told that he normally plays beside the line and that there is no need for him to dwell too much on it. Thus far, he has played too far away from the body by deliberately trying to give himself room to play shots on the offside.

Sachin Tendulkar is bound to make some unforced errors, as he likes to dominate the bowling as he did in the first innings. It is impossible, even for him, to go out and get runs every time he takes guard. Sourav Ganguly once again failed to capitalise on a start, and the team desperately needs substantial contributions from him. There might have been some cracks in the pitch, but the South Africans' job was made easier by the lack of spirit in the Indian line-up.

Shaun Pollock
On the other hand, a lot of credit must be given to the hosts and especially their captain, Shaun Pollock. Pollock is probably the only genuine all-rounder in the international arena today for the simple reason that he delivers in both departments of the game. He may have lost a bit of pace over the years, but his discipline is remarkable. He bowled with great control on a track that had nothing much to offer. One should also remember that he does not have the support of Allan Donald. The extra responsibility of being a beacon for his inexperienced seamers hardly seemed to have bothered him. Pollock may have failed with the bat this time, but the way he has stuck to his job, both as a captain and leading bowler, deserves appreciation.

The Indians will now have to sit and look back at where they went wrong. If they are sincere in their thought process, the fact that they were totally outplayed in all three departments will stare them in the face. This despite a very good batting display in the first innings in the context of the game. It is easy for the captain to say that the bowlers let him down, but then again, the left-arm duo of Zaheer Khan and Ashish Nehra were not fit enough. It would be hard to convince anyone that the team management was not aware of this fairly obvious fact.

It is about time that the team management went about its job in a more professional manner than what it is doing at the moment. I am not having a go at the think-tank, for the final deciding factor in the match is the performance of the players out on the field. Yet they should resort to more logical and objective thinking before they form the final combination. This game is all about results, and in a cricket-crazy country like India, a close second is hardly given any credence.