Every time India loses a one-day final, the whole country tears the team to pieces, and theories are floated as to why our cricketers choke at the most important hour. Numerous villains are identified, but rarely do we have the courage to blame the real ones. Let me give you a few examples from recent history.
Somebody like VVS Laxman, immensely talented as he is, gets away scot-free after repeatedly throwing his wicket away on numerous occasions since the start of the Zimbabwe tour, but we ignore that altogether, while we are harsh on someone like Dravid, an earnest trier at all times.
A young wicket-keeper called Deep Dasgupta is picked for the Standard Bank tri-series. He may have done nothing spectacular during the series, but he did not disgrace himself either, at least in the wicket-keeping department. All of us immediately pounce on him and the selectors who picked him in the first place.
But who joins him for the Test series? Samir Dighe, whose poor keeping and dismal batting were, in my opinion, key factors in India's recent surrender to Sri Lanka. The chances he missed at Chennai nearly cost India the Test match against Australia, though he made amends with a defiant knock, making the most of a huge slice of luck early in his innings. His Mumbai teammate, Sairaj Bahutule, was the bowler to suffer the impact of his largesse to Australian batsmen. Dighe was to let the leg-spinner down again in Sri Lanka.
Nayan Mongia, India's best wicket-keeper, certainly its most experienced one, and the best batsman of the lot, does not find a place in the squad, ostensibly because the team management does not like him. Promising young Ajay Ratra, too, does not find favour with the selectors, despite his consistent showing. Again, not a whimper of protest from most of us, including our television experts.
Last week, Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly failed yet again in a final after blazing away in earlier matches; whom did we blame but the rest of the team, stating we are over-dependent on the star pair.
When all around him perish to wild strokes, we blame Rahul Dravid for not doing enough by way of aggression. At one stage, the commentators were unanimous in the view that the vice-captain should go for the big hits; sure enough, he holed out trying to do the very thing, almost as if he had heard them.
The rest of the Indian batting collapsed in a heap after his exit, the innings not lasting the full quota of overs. Not for a moment am I suggesting that Dravid is blameless in the small matter of adapting to one-day cricket, which he has failed to do even after all these years in the circuit; I am merely pointing out how confused we all are, players, critics, and fans included.
Somebody like VVS Laxman, immensely talented as he is, gets away scot-free after repeatedly throwing his wicket away on numerous occasions since the start of the Zimbabwe tour, but we ignore that altogether, while we are harsh on someone like Dravid, an earnest trier at all times. Even though he dons the wicket-keeping gloves whenever the Indian team has required him to do so, neither Tendulkar nor Ganguly have shouldered their bowling responsibilities. Anyone who watched the South African batsmen being bamboozled towards the end of the final by Tendulkar's wrist spin would be justified in feeling cheated by India's consistent under-bowling of the little master.
It is time we started identifying the real culprits in India's continuing non-performance instead of merely looking for scapegoats.