October 11, 2007

Brought to earth with a bang

If India are to seriously build they have to put the win in the World Twenty20, and the attendant clamour over youth, in perspective

India fell flat on their faces on a pitch that should have suited their bowlers, rather than the opposition's © AFP

Someone once said that if hangovers preceded the act of drinking, far less people would drink to excess. Similarly, had India known the pain likely to follow in one-day cricket against a team like Australia, they might not have been so euphoric over their success in the ICC World Twenty20. After five one-dayers in varied conditions and different climates, on myriad surfaces, the Indian team has been brought rudely back to terra firma, most clinically and emphatically in the fifth one-dayer in Vadodara.

While you can hardly expect any team to steamroll the Australians, a team with a batting line-up like India's should not fall so flat on their faces, especially on a surface that turned square and should have suited their bowlers more than the opposition's. Even given that the Indians were unlucky to lose Sourav Ganguly to a run out early on, and Yuvraj Singh to an inside edge that was well caught, and Dhoni to a flick down the leg side, there was no justifying the first nine wickets managing only 107 between them before being saved from absolute embarrassment by a 41-run last-wicket stand.

The easy thing to do would be to pan the Indian team, but that would be futile. Ganguly fell early, and Rahul Dravid - who now has 44 runs from five knocks in this series - was out first ball to a peach from Brett Lee. Had it not been for Sachin Tendulkar batting ominously well in his 400th outing, Australia's rout would have been even more complete. This only underscores how much this team still depends on at least two of these three to fire if they are to succeed, especially in big matches, against tough opposition.

Sure, India went all the way in the World Twenty20 without its illustrious trio, but the celebrations that followed, with phrases like "fearlessness of youth" and "great spirit in the dressing room" being dished out with greater regularity than the cash awards that politicians within and outside the Indian board offered, revealed the possibility that India might have lost touch with reality. The likes of Robin Uthappa, Gautam Gambhir and Rohit Sharma put in sterling performances but you need more than cameos in 50-over cricket.

If India are to seriously build, and play with purpose over the next few months, they have to put the win in the World Twenty20, and the attendant clamour over youth, in perspective

That's where the class of someone like a Tendulkar comes to play. Even in Chandigarh, when he was struggling to hit the ball as well he could, he ensured he put the highest possible price on his wicket, and 79 runs materialised from somewhere. More importantly, in starting the way he did, with Ganguly, the innings had backbone, a solid structure around which other freer spirits with lighter hearts could express themselves. On Thursday, once that safety net was gone, with Ganguly and Dravid both out for ducks, it was left to Tendulkar to plough a lone furrow, and it was never going to be enough.

The one person whose role is most critical in Indian cricket's ever-changing scenario is Mahendra Singh Dhoni. Batting where he does, sandwiched between the bankable seniors and the booming juniors, he has to be the glue that binds the innings, in the literal sense. He should be able to build an innings, beginning solidly and ending explosively. But, equally important, as captain of the team and the strongest link between the side that played such inspired cricket to win the World Twenty20 and the one that has hit an abrupt low in the ODIs against Australia, he has to ensure that good sense prevails.

Fortunately for Dhoni the selectors - some of whom are not averse to making public statements that put their own players under pressure - have resisted the temptation to ring in sweeping changes. But that's just for now. Pakistan will be no pushovers, and then India travel to Australia for the toughest of all assignments. And, while Australia brush off their Twenty20 loss, almost pretending it never happened, you can be sure they'll be reviving memories of this series when India land on their shores in December.

If India are to seriously build, and play with purpose over the next few months, they have to put the win in the World Twenty20, and the attendant clamour over youth, in perspective. Otherwise, more such rude shocks are in the pipeline.

Anand Vasu is an associate editor on Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Vinod on October 12, 2007, 15:44 GMT

    So what was so wrong with the Twenty20 team that beat Australia: Gambhir, Sehwag, Uthappa, Yuvraj, Dhoni, Sharma, Pathan, Harbhajan, Joginder, Sreesanth, RP Singh.

    I would replace Sharma with Tendulkar and Joginder with Zaheer Khan. Other than that it is a much better team. Dhoni already hinted that the young players are a bit intimidated by the "legends", so why have so many there especially when they are not performing? I admit dropping Ganguly is a bit harsh as he has been performing reasonably well until this series. But Sehwag and Gambhir gave india superb starts in the Twenty20, usually in one-day mode, only going ballistic in the second half of the game.

    So: Gambhir, Sehwag, Tendulkar, Yuvraj, Uthappa, Dhoni, Pathan, Harbhajan, Zaheer Khan, Sreesanth, RP Singh.

  • Coolest on October 12, 2007, 10:56 GMT

    Irfan Pathan must be given a NEW BALL, he can swing the ball both ways and is currently bowling the right line and length, in order for him to do this, he has to be given a new ball not a 15 overs old ball.

    Mahendra Singh Dhoni is currently showing NO TRUST in Irfan Pathan. His, not so good captaincy is costing India big time.

    As you all saw in the 4th ODI, Rahul Dravid came before Robin Uthappa in the 40th plus over, when India needed a lot of power hitting to score quick runs, made NO SENCE whatsoever. Even though India won, you still can not hide Mahendra Singh Dhoni's bad captaincy. And even in the 5th ODI ater the 2nd power plays when India needed to stop the easy singles, he was still protecting the boundaries when Australia needed only a single run to win the game. That is enough to show that India needs a new captain.

    India need a captain like Ricky Pointing. You think it is impossible to find one ? Wrong, we all know what he is capable of ..... "Mohammad Kaif". Yes.

  • Nilangsu on October 12, 2007, 5:53 GMT

    I don't see how one of the posters, Alexk400, sees politics in the Indian team. It's only those with questionable intelligence that fail to interpret numbers. Each with above 1050 runs in '07,Tendulkar and Ganguly are the highest run-scorers this year for India. In recent times, India have won only those matches where they got a start from this pair. In the Future Cup,Gambhir got a couple of chances and failed. Rohit Sharma couldn't utilize the chance that he'd got. Uthappa is still in the 20-20 frame of mind, and should realize that ODI cricket needs more than cameos.Dravid,though,has suddenly gone off form (and is a reason behind India's batting woes: this doesn't mean that you drop him). Yuvraj fired on a day when everybody else failed. The bowling, a real pain nowadays, has allowed Aussies to score 300 runs in 3 matches so far, and 280 in another. The trio(except, temporarily for Dravid)aren't the reason why India have failed time and again.It's a combination of many OTHER factors.

  • CHANDAN on October 12, 2007, 4:00 GMT

    Anand Vasu has said correctly.We like to enjoy history and sit on our laurels.No doubt we did a fantastic job in T20 but we should not forget that 50-50 is altogether different ball game and requires much more capability and skill sets and consistency.The younger generation is all hype and low on performance.There is not a single younger player who is consistent in Indian team.The fact is we cannot win a single 50-50 game without contribution from the big 3.And remember one thing- Out of 15 member current Australia team, 9 are 30 Plus.So age has nothing to do with performance.We need to curtail the media hype once any younger player hits a 50 or 100 or becomes Man of the Match and start comparing him with the big 3.U become famous only when u perform at a certain level against all top teams in all conditions.

    Chandan Kumar

  • Kannan on October 12, 2007, 3:41 GMT

    India has just won the 'hit out or get out' version of cricket world cup, accept. But in 50 over matches you need more skill and temperament. After the win in last match, I was disappointed seeing people discussing in news channels about the opening partnership from Sachin and Sourav saying they actually hampered India's total under 300. It was a terrific partnership under pressure and difficult conditions.

    The pitch at Chandigarh was much greener than the one in Vadodara, yet we saw how our heroes of 20-20 managed their stay when the ball is swinging.

    Tendulkar and Ganguly are only two Indian batsman to have scored more than 1000 runs this year. As Sachin said for place in the team, age should not be criteria.

    They may not be as athletic as others but they put money on their wicket and of course yesterday India dint loose the match because of their fielding.

    Boys can finish the innings in a bang but we need men to fight it out in front.

  • AT on October 12, 2007, 0:59 GMT

    Well, we don't have to drop the big three just like that. Just choose/drop the players based on their perfomance. Thank God they dropped Agarkar. He was one plater who should've been out of the Indian side 2 years back. Similarly, Dravid hasn't been perfoming well in the last few outings. If he doesn't revive his form in the next couple of games, he can be given a break and can return after regaining some form. Moreover, I don't see any reason to drop Sachin and Sourav since they are in good touch. India has to definitely put more concentration in the bowling department. Yes, we did win the 4th ODI because of our bowling but Murali Kartik and everyone got thrashed in the next game. Our bowlers don't have the consistency. I still do not know why they dropped Sreesanth as he was taking wickets in the first 3 ODI's. Selection must be based on perfomance. I thought they dropped Sreesanth just to give chance to other bowlers. I am just hoping that somehow we will improve our perfomance.

  • Craig on October 12, 2007, 0:37 GMT

    What people have to remember is that the World 20/20 is a completely different version of the game. In same way that regular ODI's are different from Test Matches.

    Whilst yes it can be said that the big 3 are getting older, and that there are younger, fitter players running around, how can players be dropped based on age? If Australia did this, where would they be? The oldest side in the world, and currently the best side in the world.

    Whilst this system may work for Australia and not India, there is no current requirement to say hooroo to the Big 3. What would India have managed had Sachin Tendulkar not been around in the 5th ODI? 60? 80 maybe?

    If India were up against Bangladesh and this was the scorecard, then there maybe a reason to worry, but this is the World Champions that India are playing. The result here needs to be put into perspective.

  • Kranthi on October 12, 2007, 0:16 GMT

    It was just a day off for the Indians. They really put up a great fight so far in the series, so one dramatic lose to Aussies shouldn't become the one to judge the composture of the Indian team .Its just too early to say that the India is out of the contest. And making the T20 victory look just a matter of fate is absolutely not acceptable. Thats a different format of game and Aussies have to admit that they were thrown out of the T20 game for not being able to live up with the pace of T20. They would rub it off because they haven't been good at it. India did put in great effort to get to the TOP which the Aussies couldn't and definitely India are the champions in T20 and they are making their way into the 50-50 format as well. There is no denying the fact that Indians need a great appreciation for their T20 voctory.This series has been a real threat for the Aussies and they are under more pressure than Indians who are keen to dethrone the Aussies in 50-50 as well.

  • Paul on October 11, 2007, 23:49 GMT

    Fraggy, the series should be 5 nil, India was lucky that Australia choked in Game 4, so even if India could manage to win the last 2 games, it would be hollow victory given that Australia easily beaten India in 3 of the games, scored 309 in the first game and only lost by 8 runs in the other game. Looking at this results analytically, India has been comprehensively beaten so far.

    Drop the Big 3 - Wow, this would be a huge move as Ganguly and Tendulkar have performed more consistently than any of the younger players in this series, so to blame them for the current result is plain incorrect. Hayden, Gilcrest, Sanath, Brag Hogg, Pollock are all excellent cricketers - Who you boot them out just to bring in some young and inexperienced players. I dont think so

    Get over The T20 win already!! It occurred in a different form of the game, more suited to younger players and it wasnt even a World Cup. This win doesnt not translate to winning in ODI or Test Cricket!!

  • albert on October 11, 2007, 23:44 GMT

    If Anand had written the same article immediately after the 20twenty World Cup, it would have climbed quite a few rungs in the list of good analytical writing on Indian cricket. The team has shown good attitude and seems to have a good depth of talent and willingness to perform and compete. It is important to understand there is no end state in development and growth. You have to get to the top and continously work to stay there. Celebrating success is critically important. Euphoric abandonment of sense over world cup win is good for the man on the street, but not for the players. This series was a great opportunity to bring Australia under tremendous pressure by beating them in this series immediatley after the 20 twenty, and seriously challenging their authority. We have a few more games and I won't write India off. If both teams play to their potential, India will come out tops 9 times out of 10.

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