Sri Lanka v India, Group F, World Twenty20 2010, St Lucia May 12, 2010

Thanks for coming, India

India's IPL stars have been exposed at the World Twenty20 again. Apart from technical shortcomings, it suggests a shocking lack of respect for the international game and its challenges

It was almost farcical. A group of nervous West Indies players was actually hoping an underprepared, lethargic Indian side would keep them alive in the tournament by beating Sri Lanka. As India went about conceding 33 runs in the last two overs - admittedly they didn't have any interest left in the tournament - the IPL final came to mind.

Kieron Pollard seemed like he was pulling off a heist against Chennai Super Kings when MS Dhoni came up with the move of a genius. He placed a mid-off almost behind the umpire, and a long-off almost behind him. The bowler was asked to bowl full and straight, and err, if he had to, on the fuller side. Lo, Pollard was out, caught at the very straight mid-off. Later Dhoni explained how he had not pulled a rabbit out of the hat, and how it had been a rehearsed move, which had worked against such big hitters as Matthew Hayden in the warm-up games. Yes, Indian cricketers have time to prepare and play warm-up games for the IPL, but not for major international events like the World Twenty20.

How impotent India's batsmen must feel. They knew exactly where they would be hit, they had enough time - about a year - to prepare for it, yet they reacted to balls headed for the ribcage and upwards almost as if it was a hitherto unknown underhand tactic. And there was no devil in the Kensington Oval track either: it just offered pace and true bounce. No sideways movement, no unplayable swing.

Unlike Dhoni with his genius move in the IPL final, not many in the batting line-up can be said to have worked endlessly in the nets, at camps, during warm-up matches, to try and eliminate the weakness that was pointed out to them a year ago, by the likes of Luke Wright among others. Between the really important cricket, a number of needless ODI series and tri-series involving Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, (both outside their FTP commitments and both involving the BCCI's unconditional allies in cricket politics), the IPL (demanding schedule, travel, inane media work, mandatory late-night parties), and the false confidence that the flat pitches and hyperbole during the IPL tend to create, who has the time to think about bouncers? If they had had the time, at least some improvement would have shown. They actually seemed more clueless this time around.

For two editions of the World Twenty20 running, India haven't won a Super Eights game. But it is the manner of the defeats, almost identical to the ones produced any time this line-up bats on a bouncy track, that will hurt them more. To be fair to them, there is hardly any time in Twenty20s to duck under a few bouncers and try to wear the bowlers down. There is a reason, though, why such tactics are not tried against the likes of Mahela Jayawardene, Shane Watson, Kevin Pietersen, et al. The bowlers know those men can hook them for sixes; the Indians' only scoring shot to well-directed bouncers has been the top edge over the keeper's head. Their team-mate Virender Sehwag is a perfect man to learn from; bowlers have tried bowling short at him but don't quite like being upper-cut for six or getting whipped away for four.

Suresh Raina has reiterated that if he's not allowed to plonk the front foot down, all those heaved sixes and slog-sweeps become top edges that go nowhere: against Australia he nearly played on with an edge that could have hit a low-flying aircraft. On a slow and low St Lucia pitch against Sri Lanka, he was back in form, crackling away to a good-looking 63. M Vijay, who had come across as a more solid batsman, doesn't attack the short ball. Although Gautam Gambhir did most things right, his wrists didn't drop in time, something he will now have to contend with in the longest version of the game too. Yuvraj Singh managed to keep the pull shots down, but his head kept falling away. After a couple of short ones - not nasty ones mind you - Rohit Sharma stopped moving his feet completely and kept edging slower deliveries floated outside off.

Neither does Yusuf Pathan enjoy the captain's confidence to bat before the game is almost over, nor has he shown the aptitude to translate his daredevilry from the IPL ("greatest innings" and all that) to the international level. Dhoni felt he needed to pick an extra batsman in back-to-back Twenty20 internationals, going with just three bowlers, much like he invariably did in the IPL, where he picked one of Manpreet Gony, Joginder Sharma, L Balaji or Sudeep Tyagi as a specialist bowler.

The bouncers actually did the team a favour. They hid that the captain seemed to have no confidence in the specialist bowlers picked by the selectors (R Vinay Kumar was finally played after Praveen Kumar had returned home, Umesh Yadav was found to have travelled with the wrong visa, and Zaheer Khan had a niggle). That the captain was not only defensive, he was stubborn too. That Gambhir ran between the wickets in a manner that Ravi Shastri called pathetic - and it takes a lot to get Shastri to utter a negative word on air. (Nor does Gambhir usually convert threes into twos.) It hid that India's fielding continued to match IPL standards - minus the crazy catches pulled off by the likes of David Hussey.

It turns out there is a far wider gap between the quality of cricket in IPL and internationals than the Indian team lets on. Their coach is slightly old-fashioned and saner. For last year's embarrassment, Gary Kirsten blamed IPL fatigue and the sudden shift from that substandard cricket to top-quality international stuff, without sugar-coating his words. He also spoke about how his team had handed Australia their worst Test-series defeat in recent times, and that it followed a gruelling camp was not a coincidence. Only a board as deafened by the sound of money as India's could have not listened to the man. This time he may as well ask for subtitles.

The IPL tragics often cite India's No. 1 ranking in Tests to make themselves believe the cricket can't be so bad. Therein lies the major flaw: Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman are too established and too good to let a hit-and-giggle league effect their techniques or work ethic. And it's because of them, not the IPL stars, that India are No. 1 in Tests.

Dhoni admits his side is tired. He says that's the reality of being an India cricketer. He admits most of his line-up can't attack the well-directed bouncer. He says his spinners bowled flat and his seamers kept bowling the same pace. He says his side didn't play to its potential, but he finds nothing wrong in either the IPL or the scheduling. Yet clearer signs of either a tired or unprepared side could not have been cited.

While defending the IPL and the scheduling, Dhoni said, "Players need to be smart because IPL is not only about cricket. You have to respect your body, and if you don't do that, the IPL is draining." The team and the board will do well to add international cricket to the to-respect list.

Sidharth Monga is a staff writer at Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Thank You on May 19, 2010, 1:15 GMT

    The way I see it - talent is not something you can control but effort is something you can. There are a lot of very talented players on this Indian team and just as many lazy ones - more often than not it is the talented players who are afflicted with the laziness. As a team, its is much better to have a bunch of humble hard working players than a bunch of bloated talented ones. It is this mentality that I'm bigger than the other players or I'm above criticism which is root for all things bad. One performance one accomplishment seems to over-inflate these guys' egos and the lack of mental toughness is exploited by the opponents all the time. For a culture that promotes humility, this breed of new cricketers ought to stay true to themselves and start to think as a unit. The culture of giving your 100% both in preparation & execution needs to driven into these guys and perhaps at the lower school, college & club levels with no special treatment for anyone. Effort trumps talent over time.

  • neil on May 18, 2010, 23:42 GMT

    great to see indian batsmen play the bouncers aimed at their head and body. looking forward to seing more of the same.......

  • Raja on May 15, 2010, 16:45 GMT

    Stop lobbying for waste fellows like Robin uthappa. Check his average both in domestic and International level at is not even successful once in 7 matches. Check the way he got dismissed by the International bowlers. He is an absolute waste and could not utilized his opportunities. How many of the karnatka guys cry for uthappa if he is not from Karnataka. Go by class , Technic, potential and learning attributes. Take it as granted Robin Uthappa is not gonna shine at any international level for India. What we need is technically strong cricketers who can also play big shots and score faster like Tendulkar and Shewagh .I believe M.Vijay is a bright prospect on this. Only thing is he needs international exposure by playing county games or going for a special camp to NCA as suggested by Gavaskar. Dont discourage young talents they can do wonders if coached well.Can you deny that M.Vijay lacks technique and class. Why are u blaming selectors?

  • indian on May 15, 2010, 7:06 GMT

    Guys seems like every indian cricket fan is blowing at Dhoni,he is not selfish remember sometimes he takes the responsibility of being a captain thats when he is known as one of the best captain,sometimes captain has a strong believe in one player thinking that he is going to be a match winner when he fails it comes to happens with every captain,atleast under dhoni we are number one today which has never happened even when we had the world's best players,this years T20 almost everyone failed in their dept except Raina,Yuvi you need to come back man you are a freaky player for the opposition,forget about Gambhir he is good when his GURU is playing,MRF need to do something different so that atleast we get bowlers like srinath and prasad if not KAPIL DEV,thats when i think we will play guys stop picking on Dhoni when he doesn't have a bowler to open the innings what he is going to do-hope for the best for next years oneday world cup

  • Dummy4 on May 14, 2010, 20:45 GMT

    i m not agree with dhoni's words that ipl parties pooped indian crickters. if IPL parties pooped themthan y he didnt say on that.time y he is saying today after loosing the series. it means either he didnt know that IPL parties really creating some problem 4 them or he was not serious 4 the T20 world cup. he was just enjoying his life.and one more thing in ipl parties not only indian crickters was taking part. there are so many england , aussies, westindians cricketers who was playing in the ipl and they still performing well like hussey or warnerwhen murali vijay was failing in first 3 matches than y didnt he dropp.y chawala?? y not ojha??? y not utthappa?y saurabh tiwari ignored??? it was the fault of team management and dhoni also . he must give his keen eyes to the talent not on 4 parites

  • sam on May 14, 2010, 20:39 GMT

    Siddharth, at the end of the it's just Twenty20 World Cup and no big deal. I would rather like India to win test series' in SA and Australia in the next one and half years. But to do that Dhoni must understand the difference between world class talent and 'gully cricket' talent. Vijay has problem against quality fast bowling. He is not very comfortable of the backfoot. Raina has lost all his grace (plus he can't play quality short pitched stuff). I forgot the last time he hit a cover drive for a boundary. Must have been a couple of years ago. Badrinath looked like a novice against Steyn. Even when he scored a fifty(on debut) all his boundaries were edges. Pujara looked uncomfortable against quality quicks in the IPL. Even though Kohli is brash, arrogant, overconfident,etc., he is the only young world class player we have. Replace Yuvraj with Kohli in the test team. Do it now! The other one with potential to make it big at test level is Rohit but he lacks Kohli's desire to succeed.

  • adnan on May 14, 2010, 15:51 GMT

    What happened we r the champions and u r not allowed us to play the final, how can you play the final without the world champions, and this is also unfair by the ICC that we have to play the low grade teams before and also we have to beat them, so in protest we quit, haven't u seen we r the best as u can see in IPL, everyone praised us, and we even not allowed low grade players to play in IPL( like Bangladesh, Pakistan, Zimbabwe etc), and we earn less money and fame by palying in Wrld cup, even though we give this sacrifice, travel so far and its an an honour for ICC that the world's greatest team has opted to come to play World cup, but as promised that we have to play only one match which is Final by default, ICC betrayed us. Shame on ICC

  • Dummy4 on May 14, 2010, 10:51 GMT

    who play well deserve to win !!

  • Ajit on May 14, 2010, 10:41 GMT

    If so many people have such a BIG problem with the IPL and Team India participating in the IPL, rather than complaining like always ... the best way to convey your message is to boycott viewing/following such events ...

    My personal view is that if IPL could act as a good competitive match practise for players like Jayawardane, Kevin P, Kallis et all, the same can be applicable for Team India too ... No point in hounding the team after everything is over ...

    Unfortunately, these players will continue playing like always and good Indian players like Trivedi and Irfan Pathan will continue being on the sidelines ...

  • aravindhan on May 14, 2010, 10:00 GMT

    Dhoni did mention after winning the Chennai Super kings' match in the league phase saying they should atleast reach semi final as franchise owners invest a lot and it is the responsibility of the players to take the team to semi-final. Dont they get paid while playing for India? If Dhoni can take a franchise team to semi final(en-route to winning the IPL3), why cant Indian team full of so called stars,mega stars, super stars reach semi final or win atleast one match in second round?

    Bring all the glamorous girls to the stadium and make them support the individual players when India plays.Will they start to play with sense then?Those so called glamorous girls or Ladies support and hug the players as their pockets will get filled with more cash when the team wins. Seems the players dont prefer the actual cricket fans supporting them?

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