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Commentator, television presenter and writer

Three reasons why India failed

Their new-ball bowling lacked spark, the fielding was shoddy, and they were clueless against bounce

Harsha Bhogle

May 14, 2010

Comments: 334 | Text size: A | A

Yuvraj Singh fields the ball, Sri Lanka v India, Group F, World Twenty20, St Lucia, May 11, 2010
Yuvraj Singh: a ghost of his previous self © AFP

So India go out again, having delivered a box-office dud. It will lead to much breast-beating and ranting, a demonstration or two will begin somewhere, and doubtless, television cameras will be there. But beyond providing an outlet for our frustration, allowing for catharsis, all that will achieve little. Those who call for the heads of our cricketers are among those who bow deferentially at the first opportunity. Currently we are armed with hindsight, that greatest of all selectors. It bestows on us great wisdom and sagacity but delivers no results.

I'm afraid India weren't good enough. Sometimes that is difficult to accept, but that is indeed the truth. A different batsman might have been picked, another spinner might have made his way here, but there was no Bradman or Sobers left behind. Yes, there was a Tendulkar but that chapter is already part of history. It could be argued that those picked were men of great skill, but that is an ally that only fights a quarter of a war at best. Beyond that, attitude is the weapon to possess, and whether or not that weapon was rusty is a question that must be asked and answered dispassionately.

So why were India not good enough? Among many reasons three stand out.

The new ball, in the hands of India's bowlers, made no statement. It wasn't the first serve, as it should have been. It was merely a formality that had to be achieved for a game to start, just a pawn that was pushed forward with little intent. The new ball on flat pitches and on grounds with short boundaries is like a toy for a pampered child to toss around, but here it had fangs. India's openers were shown them, the opposition weren't. It is a serious issue. New-ball bowlers have to be cultivated and nurtured so that they grow into handsome trees; they cannot, at the first sight of a storm, wither away.

India's fielding stood out. Like a radio might, or like my old phone does. It was like a retro movie. When it comes to fielding or athleticism, India make an occasional concession to modernity, flirt with the latest and slip back towards the old and the comfortable. When Australia took the field, I thought more than once that their hockey players had arrived. They were smooth, they glided around and made what might otherwise have been a three a two. Great catches arrived with the frequency of a politician's quotes. It was beautiful to watch but I do not think our young cricketers are watching. They demand the latest sometimes but they do not demonstrate it.

India's fielding stood out. Like a radio might, or like my old phone does. When it comes to fielding or athleticism, India make an occasional concession to modernity, flirt with the latest and slip back towards the old and the comfortable

Once India's finest, Yuvraj stood at mid-on, the abode of the tired fast bowler and the slow-moving spinner. At long-on and fine leg, the limbs had to be cranked to start. It was painful because of what should have been. He is a cricketer who is richly blessed, and a period of humble introspection might just be the right prescription. The turn he took a kilometre ago was the wrong one.

And India could not play the rising ball. Few enjoy it but everyone has to live with it. The modern game led some people towards thinking that they could ignore it, but here in the West Indies, as last year in England, has come the realisation that even in Twenty20 cricket you can be found out. Even very accomplished cricketers like Gautam Gambhir looked out of sorts. He looked tired as the ball came at him with ferocity. And Suresh Raina, the brightest of India's young cricketers, has to come up with a solution.

Not one of these three shortcomings was unknown, and it would be easy to blame the system and the coaches for it. Teachers don't write exams, students do, and eventually they must figure it out themselves, and so we must return to attitude. There is no point blaming the pitches and the bowlers in domestic cricket for the inability to play short-pitched bowling. Gavaskar emerged from the same school, as did Tendulkar, Dravid and even Laxman. Abhinav Bindra and Saina Nehwal are products of such a system. Azharuddin emerged as one of the world's finest fielders. Greatness lies in rising beyond the system. It isn't the system, therefore, but work ethic that lies at the heart of success. I'm not saying India's cricketers don't possess it, it's just that they don't display it often enough.

From here on, India's young cricketers need to ask themselves whether they want to be rich also-rans or want a place in history. It is a choice they must make. Currently they are not good enough, but pelting abuse, and the odd stone, at them will not solve the issue, only point fingers at ourselves.

Harsha Bhogle is a commentator, television presenter and writer

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Posted by   on (May 17, 2010, 21:58 GMT)

People People. Please dont blame IPL for Indian team's woes. An Indian team selected by national selectors will always be a bad team because a government bureaucracy in an already chaotic country cannot be expected to use ingenuity in team selection. IPL, on the other hand, is ruthless and bad players are not tolerated by default (nepotism and zonal bias are totally absent). PEOPLE PEOPLE grow up and realize that IPL promotes fairness and genuine talent. And there is even and widespread dissemination of commercial benefits. Infact, international cricket should be completely done away with (with an exception of soccer type World Cup every few years) and IPL should be extended to a 3-4 month annual season.

Posted by SGangu on (May 17, 2010, 19:17 GMT)

Beautiful and mature article. And this is the need of the hour. For deep introspection, for real corrective measures to succeed, which separates Men-of-real-stuff from Boys.

Posted by W350 on (May 17, 2010, 18:29 GMT)

To put it in simple words..India was all hype....all talk...nd nothing..basically nothing at all when they took to th field!!! yes,they won th 1st 2 games but that was probably to do with the pitch(neways SA looked all together a team outta ideas).. Its not criticism but my hurt feelings thts out here in words..most of these guys were jumpin aroun at IPL matches, but i failed to see the same during th W.C..shame on these guys....a total disgrace 2 c em put money ahead of teh country...i bet dravid tendulkar wld hav shown these youngsters how 2 handle pace...nd probab get robin singh n kirsten 2 teach em fielding... Yuvraj th arse singh....y was he in th team!!! Robin Utappa wld hav been a far better bet..esp with th form he was in!!!

Posted by svinodmenon on (May 17, 2010, 18:16 GMT)

I am happy that one indian at his level as accepted that india need good quality fast bowlers. It is not only the fast bowlers. India need some apinners as well. It is very boring to see Harbajan bowling to the opponents without any life. He either doesn't pick any wickets or he will pick 1 or 2 wickets and go for huge runs. It is serious that all the other countries have more than 1 quality spinner that they can replace. But it is shame that India doesnot have one like that. Eg Swann, Ajmal, Vettori, Shakib. They all better than the one in india. Indian management and BCCI should resolve the problems and should not blame the players. Players are giving their best. India never won a T20 match against New Zeland but they stood as the best team in 50 overs and test cricket. Prepare the best team for T20 as raise the questions. After all we are just ranked 8 in the world in T20. We should not critisize our own players.

Posted by knowledge_eater on (May 17, 2010, 13:22 GMT)

@ Prince.Rocio please do that, support Hockey Badminton Tennis Billiards and CHESS .. Support Vishy request him to make a round of your city. He is number 1 right now. People don't show frustration in India, they take the skin out of players. All I want is everyone to calm down. WHY not a single frustration or article over NZ team !! Be a professional supporter. We are not mothers brothers and fathers of players. We have no right to insult someone just because they come from different background. Many comments are just because of regionalism. WHat the hell is that!Its like no-one pay attention in history class in grade 7-10, where all freedom fighters fought against others, they got together. If that didn't happen, we will probably have different Map of India. When you are down, you need people to support, not spray acid on them. Even they have money, if they see like this from fans, they don't feel peace. Ohh that was the whole plan for Media. India Lost thats it , no drama. Peace

Posted by Prince.Rocio on (May 17, 2010, 7:02 GMT)

@knowledge_eater. Its not jealousy dude. it may be frustration. because when indian team win we are the one who celebrate. people like you will watch win, then go to next work forgetting the performance. Fans like us celebrate when we win, and frustrate when we lose. its always emotion for Team India. Its nothing wrong. You talked abot they earning crores. if we fans are not watching, and we shift to other game like Hockey ( just example, though they performed recently well. ) , what will happen to BCCI and how they going to pay money to players. They may have thousands of crores to pay. but we are millions of Fans who believe in team. so when they dont perform we frustrate. i think its right.

Posted by harisank on (May 17, 2010, 6:37 GMT)

Artistic comments of Harsha Bhogle, could be enjoyed for the examples and anology quoted such as ploitician's quotes. Nowadays specially in T20 cricket between the international teams, the difference is not much and you can not say all these things as the reasons. Meaning if you overcome all these issues with clever planning, the success is not going to be assured. Still there is an element of form on that particular day, Luck, etc., All said and done, a touch of complacency is there among the team members as our selection policy is not ruthless. Selection should not be done on past glory and that will keep the players on their toes. Yuvaraj after IPL failure got selected only based on past glory which is very bad. Jadeja's selection is also not based on current form. Murali Vijay got the nod after IPL glory, but apparantly became nervous and failed. This year England are the winners and they deserve every bit of their success. Indian team was not based on current Form and failed.

Posted by knowledge_eater on (May 17, 2010, 4:39 GMT)

@Prince.Rocio hahaha that was exactly my point, read what I said again ... they are making crores or what ever .. and we get nothing. How fair is that ? haha Bunch of nevermind .. I support certain team, that doesn't make me Owner of that player. I don't own players. I can't tell them what I want. I just support them. Who cares if they fail who cares if they win, Its only emotional satisfaction. But when people like you and most of here just show their frustration clearly shows that we are just projecting subconsciously things we were unable to do in life, we want our players to do that.I see most of the comments here just because we envy certain people's life style.I would never envy players thats why I am able to make positive comments. Let me tell you secret, thats how people become happy in life, when they are satisfied with what they have.Your tax money doesn't go to players, always remember that but they pay tax through that Gov't provide you service. Jealousy kills happiness lol

Posted by YoBro on (May 17, 2010, 1:39 GMT)

too much cricket. lack of motivation - thats it. This is how IPL and all this T20 garbage is ruining cricket. Now Tests also will see players going through their motions. Gee, thanks Mr Modi. Hope you're wallowing in your ill-gotten gains, meanwhile.

Posted by Prince.Rocio on (May 17, 2010, 0:02 GMT)

@knowledge_eater .i support karthik gopi. Being an Indian is the same that we want our players to perform. they are not playing for free. they earn crores bt they wont perform. something has to be . done like salary reduction. then only they will play consistent. i dont understand what bajji, yuvi are doing in the tournament. looking for parties? there are more talented t20 players in indian than the played 11. there comes greedy BCCI politics. Now in news, Mr,Modi, a partner in scheme is shooting against the companions BCCI. if it keeps on going, Indian cricket will be shattered.

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Harsha Bhogle Harsha Bhogle is one of the world's leading cricket commentators. Starting off as a chemical engineer and going on to work in advertising before moving into television, he is also a writer, quiz host, television presenter and talk-show host, and a corporate motivational speaker. He was voted Cricinfo readers' "favourite cricket commentator" in a poll in 2008, and one of his proudest possessions is a photograph of a group of spectators in Pakistan holding a banner that said "Harsha Bhogle Fan Club". He has commentated on nearly 100 Tests and more than 400 ODIs.

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