A psychologist can help Indian players

WHAT a dreadful sight it was. India losing the match when it entered the decisive phase. It may not have surprised those who have followed the fortunes of the team for long but then it was indeed shocking for most of us who have come to believe that this Indian team looks better equipped to handle such a situation.

The defeat at Faridabad brought back memories when India had surrendered after having fought bitterly. It is all a matter of mind and we all know that.

It is not that the team has not won close matches. There have been quite a few stirring wins in the past, but of late the number of defeats have increased. It is a problem which needs to be addressed because the team can not afford to adopt similar tactics when it plays in the World Cup next year.

For some time there has been talk of having a psychologist with the team, someone who can make the players realise their potential. It is true that some players need to be talked into performing and there is no harm if the team adds one more official because this could make all the difference.

A psychologist can help the team and I think the team needs to have one. He can help the players believe in themselves.

This self-belief is a very important aspect of a team's preparation. Look at how New Zealand has progressed in the last one year. It has come to understand its strength and has begun to play positive cricket mainly because of this self-belief.

The same applies to Sri Lanka. It has been transformed into a wonderful team simply because the coach Dave Whatmore tells his players they are world beaters. And then they play like world beaters. It is all in the mind and the Sri Lankans have not let their supporters down.

What is it that Sri Lanka has and India does not? To me, the difference lies in the mental approach to the game. The Sri Lankans do not worry about losing while the Indians seem to pay too much attention to looking for loopholes even when they do not exist.

Look at the fiasco at Faridabad. There was no need to panic when Douglas Marillier began his fantastic charge. After a while, it became clear that this was one rare performance and it was the kind of innings you play once in a lifetime. I think the Indians paid a heavy price by playing the waiting game. There was a distinct sign of bowlers expecting Marillier to make mistake than force him into making one with their skills. This is where a positive mind makes the difference.

Often the Indians allow the game to drift by expecting some divine intervention instead of taking the decisive step by themselves.

It would not be fair to single out Zaheer Khan for the defeat because he bowled exceptionally well in his first two spells. He is an attacking bowler and I am sure would have learnt some valuable lessons from the two costly overs he suffered in the closing stages. It is quite easy to suggest, in hindsight, that Zaheer ought to have done this and ought to have done that but yes, I would have loved seeing him unleash his trademark yorker. At least one because it mattered a lot at the stage.

It was a collective failure by the Indian team and one which would have given the hard message that when it comes to handling the crunch situation the team still needs to improve a lot. The roots of this problem lie in the fact that the domestic structure of Indian cricket does not encourage victories.

This desire to win has to be developed from an early age and the structure of domestic cricket does not encourage such qualities. I would again, at the risk of repeating myself, blame the state of pitches, which makes the players to get into this habit of surviving and not experimenting to achieve success.

It is a good sign that the Board has decided to conduct the Duleep Trophy matches on uncovered pitches. I am sure it will lead to some competitive cricket.

I see a lot of merit in this demand for having a psychologist. The Board needs to be complimented for giving the team a trainer. It is important that someone keeps a tab on the manner in which the national players train and this can be done only by a professional.

The trainer from South Africa is quite a reputed man in his business and I am sure he will make the Indian players understand the meaning and the advantage of proper training. I know that only a fit body can perform the deeds of a willing mind.

The season ahead requires the Indians to be at their best. The tour to the West Indies will be demanding even if the home team has been experiencing problems in finding the right replacements. The two home series against England and Zimbabwe have highlighted quite a few shortcomings in the Indian ranks but there have been some gains too. It is for the team management to make use of the gains like the progress shown by Ajay Ratra as a wicket-keeper and Dinesh Mongia as opener in the one-dayers.

I am very glad that the Board has finally decided to plan overseas tours for the India 'A' team. It is a step in the right direction and I am sure will give the selectors a lot of material to pick from. A decent performance in the India 'A' team will bring the youngster into the reckoning and also give him the confidence of playing international cricket. This would be the ideal way of grooming men for the future.