Taking some hard decisions

AP

While the Champions League was in full swing, a few decisions were taken in Indian cricket and it was not a pleasant Diwali for some leading names on the Indian scene. The ouster of Rahul Dravid from the team and the sacking of Venkatesh Prasad and Robin Singh hogged the headlines.

The last few days have been eventful in Indian cricket and quite obviously not all occurrences will be satisfactory to everyone. The Champions League kicked off in Bangalore and despite the pre-tournament hype, it should be regarded as a tepid one. This, clearly, is an indication that no matter what the format is, the local flavour and the emotional connect are the factors that bring in the crowds.

Of course, the foreign teams will have no complaints as the winner is set to rake in a huge amount of money. Besides, their players will get noticed, which in turn might help them secure lucrative contracts in the future. However, the fact that the local teams did not match up to the lesser-known ones cannot be ignored and the reason for the success of the foreign teams is perhaps that a well-knit unit playing together on a regular basis will gel better than a squad filled with assorted players. As far as the IPL goes, all the teams have assorted players making up a team and hence it becomes a level playing field.

While the Champions League was in full swing, a few decisions were taken in Indian cricket and it was not a pleasant Diwali for some leading names on the Indian scene. The ouster of Rahul Dravid from the team and the sacking of Venkatesh Prasad and Robin Singh hogged the headlines and I get the feeling that they are the victims of the Champions Trophy debacle. Dravid was drafted in to lend some solidity against the quicker bowlers in South Africa in the absence of Virender Sehwag and while he did not set the arena ablaze, he did not fail miserably either. His exclusion can be viewed in many ways, but if the selectors had explicitly informed him that his inclusion was always meant to be a one-off thing, then it settles the issue. In the absence of any communication in this regard, it is a case of the same old process of rectification of one error with another. The irony is that even when some are found lacking in certain respects, they are retained or brought back at the first possible opportunity.

Be that as it may, the sacking of Robin Singh and Venkatesh Prasad came out of the blue as the general consensus was that they were doing a good job. Then, of course, that’s what one gets to read or see in the press and it has become difficult to get the real picture these days. Their sacking means that Team India will be in the hands of the head coach Gary Kirsten and his confidante Paddy Upton in the coming series against Australia. The Aussies have regained their supremacy after a near perfect performance in the Champions Trophy and Team India will need to raise the bar a few notches to measure up to Ricky Ponting’s men.

The Australians have a well balanced side and they will be pleased with the way Brett Lee has got back to form. He bowled straight and fast in South Africa even on the slower tracks at the Centurion and with Peter Siddle and Mitchell Johnson to provide support, he will be raring to go in India.

Though the Indians have been harping on their poor bowling and fielding for their recent failures, they need to bat extremely well against the Aussies. At the moment the Indians are a shade too dependant on Sehwag and Yuvraj Singh to carry the attack to the enemy camp and this is where the likes of Suresh Raina need to make their presence felt. Of late, Mahendra Singh Dhoni seems to be weighed down by responsibility and one cannot remember the last time he batted in his innate aggressive fashion. His ploy to work the ball around before launching a final onslaught has been a mixed bag and he will have to realise that the anchor role is better left to Sachin Tendulkar and Gautam Gambhir. The first couple of ODIs will be crucial for India to set the tone and it is better to be ahead against the Aussies rather than get behind in the equation. The bowling and fielding will be put to the test and in the absence of bowling and fielding coach, I for one am curious to see how the Indians will fare on the field against the Aussies who thrive on piling pressure on the opponents.

Gary Kirsten will be left with the task of plugging the huge gaps and with a lot of cricket scheduled at home in the next few months the pressure to perform will be high on both the players and the coach. The Indians have had a whiff of the top slot in the rankings but they need to do a lot of work to get back there again. However, the job on hand is to get cracking against the Aussies and hopefully Kirsten will resist the temptation of looking too far ahead, for instance say the World Cup. We do not want the Kirsten-Upton combo taking the same route as the Chappell-Fraser team did, do we?