Moving in the right direction

THE World Cup journey has opened up new avenues for Indian cricket.

VIJAY LOKAPALLY

"We ought to support this team because it looks good enough to scale greater heights," says Kapil Dev.-Pic. V. V. KRISHNAN

THE World Cup journey has opened up new avenues for Indian cricket. "A fascinating experience," gushed skipper Sourav Ganguly, who led by example and carried the team to the final before running into the unsparing Australians.

The team's new-found strength was its self-belief. It matters a lot in what state of mind you step on to the field and the Indians obviously improved with every game once they realised the significance of playing collectively. "To me the greatest gain was the bond that we created. We played like a unit and that was a great feeling really," said Ganguly.

"We have the under-19 and `A' team tours to identify quality players and such tours should be encouraged because they highlight the difference between domestic cricket and the international stage," points out former skipper Dilip Vengsarkar.-Pic. V. V. KRISHNAN.

Playing like a unit also meant the team was on the right track. It learnt to play to its potential and the experience gained from the competition was invaluable for some. As vice-captain Rahul Dravid summed it up, "It was such a wonderful experience to be counted among the best."

Kapil Dev, captain of the 1983 World Cup winning team, was lavish in his praise for the team. "The team played some terrific cricket and I would say `hats off to the young brigade'. I felt very proud at the manner in which they won their matches after the setback against Australia. We ought to support this team because it looks good enough to scale greater heights. What more do you need from this team? It has played consistently well and won against strong opponents. It is a team with a bright future and we should back the players. I would also like to give credit to Sourav (Ganguly) for his excellent captaincy. That the whole team is behind him is a tribute to his leadership qualities and that means a lot. I know what it means when every player in the team backs the captain. Sourav's captaincy was a big factor and the respect that he commanded from all was a feather in his cap," said Kapil.

The clinching factor, in Kapil's opinion, was the ability of the bowlers to raise their level. "The bowlers did an outstanding job and there was a lesson in it for everyone. We must learn to give credit to our bowlers and also have faith in their abilities. The fast bowlers served the team very well and I can't find any loopholes in this department. They may have let the team down in the final but then such things do happen."

"We have some very talented youngsters around and we must not waste time in giving them opportunities," says Mohinder Amarnath.-Pic. THE HINDU PHOTO LIBRARY

India may not have looked a complete team but it promised to become one in the coming season, what with the competition for places becoming far more intense than it ever was. The fact that Sanjay Bangar and Ajit Agarkar could not even earn the semblance of a chance to figure in the playing XI speaks for the healthy state of competition within the team.

Former coach Aunshuman Gaekwad welcomed the bench strength of the Indian team as a positive sign for things to come in the future. "I've always believed your cricket is best reflected in the quality of your bench strength. And I'm glad to note that Indian cricket is moving in the right direction. There are a few areas which need attention but then these things will be sorted out once the youngsters gain in experience," observed Gaekwad.

The World Cup performance was the icing on the cake for a team which did manage to win a few Test matches abroad and did exceedingly well in the limited-overs tournaments in the run up to the premier competition. "Test match victories shall always remain special no doubt but the team did us proud by reaching the World Cup final. It was quite a creditable achievement and it does augur well for the future. The confidence level attained by the team was a big gain in my opinion," noted former wicketkeeper Syed Kirmani, who was in South Africa as a commentator for a Dubai-based radio channel.

Batting may have remained India's strength for years but it was the progress made on the bowling front that made an impression. "I'm quite impressed by the two left-armers (Zaheer Khan and Ashish Nehra). They look quality bowlers and importantly I like the way they adapt," said West Indies great Michael Holding. In his opinion, India possessed a rich talent in Nehra and Zaheer with a promise to go a long way.

"I think the fast bowling culture seems to have started. It's nice to see 13-14 year-olds wanting to bowl fast," feels Sanjay Manjrekar.-N. SRIDHARAN.

Mohinder Amarnath, who played a big role in India's epic win in the 1983 World Cup, was of the opinion that it was the best time to identify the talent for future assignments. "We've some very talented youngsters around and we must not waste time in giving them opportunities. It won't be a bad idea to form a pool and groom them for the next World Cup. It is four years away but we must not just sit back and bask in the glory of the recent World Cup. It is the right time to plan for the future. The team made some mistakes and should concentrate on not repeating them. Often things look easy from outside and that's why some people indulge in unjustified criticism," said Mohinder.

As Mohinder rightly pointed out, things look very easy from outside, leading to some frustrated commentators making comments, which show them in poor light. "It's very easy to criticise but so difficult to contribute," observed Mohinder, known and widely respected for his balanced views on the cricketers.

Former captain Dilip Vengsarkar too was very forthcoming in his assessment of Indian cricket. "There's a lot to be done frankly. We must look at things in the right perspective. We have the National Cricket Academy to look after the cricket affairs and groom the young talent. And then we have the under-19 and `A' team tours to identify quality players. Such tours should be encouraged because they highlight the difference between domestic cricket and the international stage."

Vengsarkar pointed out, "Getting fast bowlers is a good sign. Hopes have risen now that we would win overseas. Nehra and Zaheer have come up nicely and everyone in the team is convinced that they have to keep doing well because the bench strength looks formidable now. I would love to see India achieve the status that Australia enjoys where the team doesn't even miss the likes of Steve Waugh, Shane Warne, Jason Gillespie... I'm sure the Indians have the potential to become world beaters in both forms of the game."

"There are a few areas which need attention but then these things will be sorted out once the youngsters gain in experience," observed former coach Aunshuman Gaekwad.-Pic. P. V. SIVAKUMAR

Former Test batsman Sanjay Manjrekar sought support for the team from all quarters. He said, "Reaching the final was a creditable effort but I was most impressed by the manner in which the team achieved the place. There's no doubt that Australia is the best team in the world but India happens to be the team best equipped to topple them. Realistically India can match the Aussies and to be honest I would say it was a fantastic team effort. Often Indian cricket has suffered in the past because forces may not have pulled in the same direction. But it is nice to see the team play collectively with the players backing each other, playing for each other."

Manjrekar feels the biggest gain from the season was the faith Ganguly placed in Javagal Srinath, Zaheer and Nehra. "I think the fast bowling culture seems to have started. It's nice to see 13-14 year-olds wanting to bowl fast. I like the selection policy now because it encourages the team management to pick the better bowler to play and not just some seamer or some spinner. The bowler has to earn his place in the attack."

Indian cricket, judging by the views of these experts, is moving in the right direction. A captain who leads by example is showing the way by backing the right men. It augurs well for Indian cricket.