Set for the top

The youngsters in the Indian ODI team are playing with a lot of panache and selflessness. It is this trait that has proved to be India’s strength. And with a positive captain like Dhoni, who backs his players to the hilt, there is every indication that India will get to the top of the ICC rankings in the future.

The Indians were all over Sri Lanka in the one-day series prior to the last ODI and they were on the threshold of getting to the top in the ICC rankings. Hence there was some motivation for them even though the series was in the bag. Considering the form displayed by the Indians, they were expected to whitewash Sri Lanka but a determined effort by the host thwarted Dhoni’s plans.

While India was trying to get to the top of the ladder, Australia was challenged by New Zealand and the onus was on the world champion to prevent its slide further down the ladder. A well-earned victory in the third ODI at the SCG ensured that Australia held on to its second position and India, as such, had to settle for the third place. These rankings keep changing as quickly as the weather in the Channel Islands which means a team has to perform consistently to stay at the top.

In terms of consistency, the Indians have been performing well in the recent past and the heartening fact is that they are garnering victories as a result of contributions from every player. “The Indians are not afraid to get out,” observed Muttiah Muralitharan, the legendary Sri Lankan off-spinner. On the face of it, it may be a simple statement but it conveys a lot.

The current Indian batsmen go out to the middle with enormous confidence in their abilities and look to take the attack to the opposition camp. The approach of Yuvraj Singh, Virender Sehwag, Suresh Raina and Rohit Sharma is more or less the same despite the fact that they are all in different stages of their careers.

It is expected of Yuvraj and Sehwag to take on the responsibility of going after the bowling given their experience. Moreover, they are not really in any danger of losing their places, but Raina and Sharma cannot rest assured as far as their places in the team are concerned, yet they bat with a lot of panache and selflessness.

It is this trait that has proved to be the strength of the Indians. And with a positive captain like Dhoni, who backs his players to the hilt, there is every indication that India will get to the top of the ICC rankings in the future. How soon it gets there is a matter of conjecture but there is no doubt that the current Indian team is playing with a lot of pluck and gumption.

Talking of gumption, the Australians exhibited a lot of it during their domination in international cricket for a decade and a half but the exit of some great players has affected them badly. Ricky Ponting has been under a lot of pressure of late and every defeat is only adding to the skipper’s woes.

A captain is only as good as his team, and with the Aussie attack looking innocuous, it is not an easy job for the captain to keep the winning record intact. The Aussies have to realise that there cannot be any suitable replacements for the likes of Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne because they were rare gems, much like a Kumble or a Tendulkar. The Australian system is very well structured but one gets the impression that they have been victims of their selectors’ complacency. Sometimes it becomes difficult to look beyond a certain situation and especially when the National side is on top of the world.

Unlike the Indians, the problem with the Aussies is that the younger generation has not looked the part so far, but let me hasten to add that it will be too early to write the Aussies off. They went through a similar situation but fought their way to the top under Border in the late 1980s. However, whether Ponting can resurrect Australia like Border did is a big question.

Ponting failed both as a captain and leader on his last tour of India and the backlash of that miserable tour seems to be taking its toll on the punter. A few wins here and there at home would have provided some solace to the Aussie skipper. Quite obviously the fiercely competitive Aussies will find it difficult to settle for a second or even third slot for that matter as they are used to being the dominant force.

The current situation of the Aussies should give the Indian selectors enough food for thought as there will come a time when quite a few great cricketers will exit from the Indian team at the same time. As far as the ODI team is concerned, India seems well settled, but foresight is required when it comes to the Test side. Krish Srikkanth and his team have sneaked in younger players in the Indian ODI side as and when possible, but whether they do it for the longer version of the game remains to be seen.