A bunch of chokers

Published : Nov 10, 2001 00:00 IST

EVEN as another limited-overs series goes by, the outcome for India is much the same: a loss in the final, for the ninth time. The Indians seem to be a bunch of chokers when it comes to the business end of the matter.

Before the series, I was under the impression that Sourav's boys stood a good chance. India's batting, the middle order especially, let us down. I am pretty disgusted with it all.

The side's overdependence on Ganguly and Tendulkar, especially in the shorter version of the game, is not a very good sign. It has reached a point wherein once the opening pair of Sachin-Sourav is dismissed, the side just gives up. Where on earth is the team effort then? It cannot go on like this, or we'll never win a title.

It is time something was done regarding the middle order. I thought it was a golden opportunity for the likes of Sehwag and Yuveraj to truly establish themselves. I expected them to deliver at the right time, which sadly wasn't the case.

We'll have to find men in the middle order who will deliver in crunch situations. Like how Steve Waugh does for Australia, Lara steps in for the West Indies or for that matter Aravinda de Silva performed time and again for Sri Lanka. Men with that ability to finish.

Indian cricket is more about individual brilliance and less (or is it zilch?) of team effort. Look at any of the ratings for batsmen and you'll see at least three Indians figuring in the top 10. But in team ratings India is in the lower half. This trend does not augur well for the future.

We've been talking about grooming players for the last 10 years or more, but the Board has done pretty little in this regard. It is time the Board bucks up and does something about developing a second string, which is the driving force behind top teams such as Australia, South Africa and Pakistan.

With regard to developing a second string, the big question is: do we possess young talent, or is it that we don't know how to groom talent?

I think the answer to all this lies in improving the quality of our domestic cricket. This can only be done by making sure that all our international players participate in at least select tournaments. Say, the Duleep, Deodhar and the Zal Irani trophies. This would at least form part of the learning curve for the youngsters who would get to play against the top stars and learn from the experience. What can be a better test for a bowler than to cross swords against Sachin when playing against West Zone, Sourav if playing against East and a combination of Rahul and Laxman when up against South. I think the Board should take a leaf from Australia's book in this regard. In the past, many of the top players were identified from these matches.

Coming back to the just concluded tri-series, there is no use in saying that India has a mind-block while chasing and is hence bad at it.

I felt absolutely disgusted when we lost to Kenya while chasing 247 for victory. It showed how unpredictable the Indian side is, for it had, only a couple of days earlier, humbled South Africa.

True, India trounced Kenya in the game ahead of the final with Sachin and Sourav setting an opening-wicket record, but the side's unpredictability came to the fore in the title-contest, bowled out for 183 and losing by six wickets.

Cricket is a mind game, you know. And strength of mind is essential to emerge winner. Winning also needs to be a habit, be it against good sides or weak opponents.

Look back at India's batting through the series and you'll notice that apart from the Sachin-Sourav partnerships there were none else. In overs-specified cricket, partnerships are a must. A side needs to have at least three decent stands. This also reiterates the fact that cricket is a team game.

The Indian side is in dire need of a good all-rounder. When I say all-rounder, I mean a player who could well walk into the side as a batsman or a bowler. And not a bits and pieces cricketer.

And what a sad state of affair it really is that we do not have batting after No. 6. We need bowlers who can bat, like we had Roger Binny and the like in 1983. This is a ridiculous scenario. We should either have speed merchants like the West Indies of the old possessed who could skittle out oppositions, or we must have bowlers who can bat.

Coming to wicketkeeping, it is a specialist's job. That Rahul Dravid is landed with it is absurd. I mean, where is it all heading?

In this day and age of the game, handling of pressure is a must. You just can't escape it.

It comes as good news that Sunny Gavaskar is heading the National Cricket Academy. I hope he'll identify good talent. Indian cricket needs it.

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