|Photos||Video & Audio||Blogs||Statistics||Archive||Shop||Mobile|
It's more difficult to stay at the top than to get there
December 11, 2009
India have not set foot on the summit by stepping off a helicopter; they have got there after establishing several base camps and making steady, sometimes hazardous, progress. India's ascent is not a point, it is currently a curve; it is not a moment in time but part of a phase. Any attempt to think otherwise would be unfair and shortsighted.
And so while India must celebrate, it must be with a sense of history. This lot of players has put the ribbon on the box, but the cake was baked by many; they have scored a goal but you usually cannot do so unless someone has passed the ball to you. And that is why the only aspect of this moment that disturbs me is the cash award to this team. I am not a huge fan of cash awards to professional players - they are presumably paid to win anyway - but the announcement of this particular one ignores the fact that various others set it up over the last five years.
In particular, India have been served by three very fine captains before the hugely impressive current incumbent. Very few good teams win with inadequate leaders anyway. Under Sourav Ganguly, India realised that winning overseas was an option, and India have much for which to thank a player the world found very convenient to misunderstand. Rahul Dravid was the perfect captain to follow, with his strong commitment to the team and to the cause. It is easily forgotten that under him India won in the West Indies for the first time in 35 years and in England for the first time in 21. And Anil Kumble was the leader at a decisive moment in Indian cricket: in Australia in 2008, where the Test win in Perth must rank on par with the win at Kolkata in 2001 for significance.
Don't forget, too, that Mahendra Singh Dhoni's current record reads: played 10, won seven, lost zero. Included in that is a series win against Australia, an away win in New Zealand, and now one against Sri Lanka. There are no freebies there. Something is right in Indian cricket.
Indeed, India's current position is good for world cricket, as indeed South Africa's little reign at the top was. Three teams competing for No. 1 is always better for the sport than a giant blocking everyone's path.
|I am a little concerned at the state of denial in some parts of the world, with the continued devaluation of India winning in India. This is not accompanied by a similar attitude to Australia winning at home, or for that matter South Africa or England doing so|
But I am a little concerned at the state of denial in some parts of the world, with the continued devaluation of India winning in India. This is not accompanied by a similar attitude to Australia winning at home, or for that matter South Africa or England doing so. India's winning streak has not been due to financial jugglery, which is a convenient myth in itself, but due to good cricket. To assign other reasons - and what a pity that is being attempted - is to undermine players of extraordinary pedigree.
And these are not just batsmen. True, Sehwag, Gambhir, Dravid, Tendulkar, Laxman, Ganguly, Yuvraj, Dhoni (even Jaffer and Karthik at key moments) are extraordinary players, and they have set up many victories, but to focus on them would be unfair to those that take 20 wickets. Against England, home and away, Zaheer Khan was the Player of the Series; against Australia it was the very impressive Ishant Sharma, who will soon be leading India's attack again. Amit Mishra and Sreesanth have had their moments in the sun, and Harbhajan has taken more wickets than many of us think he has.
But as with all success, India must celebrate the moment and move on. Australia and South Africa are fine teams and Sri Lanka have just the man to drive their transition. As business leaders will tell you, it is more difficult to stay on top than to get there. India need to groom batting replacements, and there are only two on the horizon: the scarcely tested Murali Vijay and the untested Cheteshwar Pujara. Harbhajan Singh desperately needs competition to take him to another level, but more important, India will have to find a way to ensure that players of serious ability, like Rohit Sharma, Sreesanth, Ishant and RP Singh, don't lose their way. And it will call for people with vision at the top. They exist but they are in a bit of a melee at the moment with others of various hues and political colour.
Isn't it ironic, though, that for a country accused of devaluing the game, India are struggling in Twenty20 cricket but are atop the summit of the most traditional form of the game? Maybe there is a story there.
Harsha Bhogle is a commentator, television presenter and writerFeeds: Harsha Bhogle
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
|Comments have now been closed for this article
My Favourite Cricketer: Jack Russell brought a neatness to the keeper's art that was matched by his meticulous scruffiness in other regards. By Scott Oliver
Numbers Game: The rate at which he has accumulated ODI hundreds and MoM awards is among the fastest in history
Modern Masters: Rahul Dravid and Sanjay Manjrekar discuss Ricky Ponting's technique
Allrounder Calum MacLeod's return from a faulty action is key to Scotland's World Cup hopes. By Tim Wigmore
Probably not as much as boring periods in the likes of rugby, football and tennis, Russell Jackson thinks
Also, most brothers in a Test XI, and the fastest to 20 ODI centuries
Out of 70 batsmen who've scored 15 or more Test hundreds only five are from Pakistan, but Younis Khan's appetite for hundreds matches that of some of the top contemporary batsmen
The offspinner was Australia's highest wicket-taker in 2013, but his form has dipped sharply this year
When a team loses its best bowler, it is expected that the team's performance will suffer. As usual, Pakistan defied the expectations