Sunil Gavaskar has come down hard on India's shortcomings against the short ball during the World Twenty20 in the West Indies, suggesting they train at the National Cricket Academy in Bangalore to rectify their difficulties. For the second time in succession, India bowed out of a World Twenty20 without registering a win in a single Super Eights game, making it six such losses in a row since England last year.
India won both their group games but lost to Australia, West Indies and Sri Lanka in the second stage. Besides their difficulties in tackling bouncers - a weakness exploited by their opponents - India were ordinary in terms of their fielding and running between the wickets.
"The guys who have been found to be uncomfortable against the short ball should be sent to the NCA, where they will be able to practice against the short ball, either through a bowling machine or maybe with some of the younger bowlers bowling to them from say 18 to 16 yards," Gavaskar told the news channel CNN-IBN. "They are under contract with the BCCI so nobody can actually claim that they need a break they don't need a break if they haven't performed, they need to go to the NCA and hone their skills against the short ball."
Several other former India players criticized the team's performance, saying it was not adequately prepared to succeed in a tournament where the quality of cricket was considerably higher than the IPL. MS Dhoni, the captain, said the constant traveling associated with the IPL and it's after parties took a toll on the body.
There was just a five-day gap between the IPL final and the start of the World Twenty20, giving the players barely enough rest, but Gavaskar, a member of the IPL's governing council, didn't blame the IPL for India's performance.
"If that was the case then Sri Lanka would not have been in the semi-final, or England and Australia. A lot of Australian players were in the IPL so I don't think that is an issue at all," he said. "It's just the fact that T20 is a format where you have got to be good on the day and if you are not good on your day, you lose. I don't think much should be read into the fact that the players were playing IPL, if anything playing in the IPL meant that they had lot more practice than the other teams."
Former players like Madan Lal and Mohammad Azharuddin felt Dhoni was making excuses by referring to the IPL parties and Gavaskar concurred. "I don't think that is an excuse at all. I think that is a very poor excuse used by people to say that IPL parties were the reason for the team not performing here. Tell me one thing, there were no parties here were they? So how can you say that the team performed badly in the Caribbean because of parties in India?"
Continuing on the fall-out of India's exit, Gavaskar chose not to comment on coach Gary Kirsten's alleged statement that he was fitter than some of the team members, saying he would rather wait for Kirsten to communicate his thoughts officially to the BCCI. However, Gavaskar threw his weight behind Dhoni, with the Indian media speculating on his future as captain of India in the limited-overs formats.
"MS Dhoni has done the best that he could. I still think he is the best bet as far as captaining the country is concerned. He has not quite had the luck he had when he had started with the India captaincy."