3 and Out.

After bullying the likes of Afghanistan in the 1st game, and registering a win against the disappointing Saffers, India went on to lay 3 consecutive turds , each bigger than the next. Australia first gave us the jolt, and then the Windies served us a dish called Bouncer Manchurian. By the time we played Sri Lanka, the slim statistical chance of qualifying actually turned into a very possible opportunity till our players decided to bat and bowl ourselves out of the tournament.

The post- mortem and the blame game is going on right now, and various things ranging from IPL, technique, attitude , bellies and preparation coming into questioning.   With so much going on, who’s to blame, and what is the outcome of it all? Here are MTJAG’s opinions. Chime in.

1. India as a team has too much hype and expectation tied to it, and we’re too quick to celebrate temporary success and damn immediate failure.

Want cold, hard facts?  After India’s WC 83 win, we’ve gone to the semi-finals twice (1987, 1996) and the finals once (2003) out of 6 times.  2 out of the 3 came in familiar home turf. The same player was the top scorer for India (and the whole tournament) in both 1996 and 2003 and India’s progress in the tournaments from a batting standpoint was largely due to him.

There have been 6 ICC knock-out tournaments, out of which India reached the finals twice, lost once, and the other rained out. This was in 2000, and 2002.

There has been 3 ICC world T20s so far. India won the first one, and have been knocked out very early in the other 2.

So , with all the above facts, can someone tell me why India is expected to win?  What is it exactly that inspires so much hype about this team?

2. The IPL is sporting entertainment as I had mentioned in another blog – it is more of an equivalent of World Wrestling Entertainment rather than the EPL or other football leagues. Equating IPL success to International success is just plain WRONG.

With 8 teams somewhat evenly matched playing a round-robin format WITH a SF and a Finals at HOME again in a space of 45 odd days with all sorts of marketing gimmicks and hotties thrown in, the IPL can prepare one for time-management , and not technique and temperament.  The important thing to remember about IPL is this : there are always weak links in teams, and teams that win exploits the opponent’s weak links.  The weak links often come in the form of the 4th and 5th bowlers, the shaky middle order and what not. That does not happen when we face an international team.

And who came up with this brilliant theory that IPL helps in building bench strength and improving the national team? JUST HOW?  Have a look at the competitive English Premier League in football, or the La Liga.  How many times has England and Spain won the world cup? Once (and that was England in 1966. Guess where? At home!).

The IPL generates interest, money at the forefront. It’s a sporting entertainment activity fit into the crowded calendar to make more money. In the process – the 1 thing it does is give some exposure to some of the domestic players who would have normally never gotten a chance to play in front of such large crowds with better opposition. Now that – we’ll give it. Every once a while, we’ll have a player shining in the IPL who also goes on to perform on a consistent basis in the grand-daddy of them all (the tests, ODIs, T20 Internationals). That’s more likely because he has the goods, and not because of the IPL.  Wake me up when this is proven otherwise!

3. A combination of hard work, desire, and talent gets you the “W”, and not just talent and reputation.

I hate name calling but I’ve made an allowance for this one. Can we please stop with this  love fest for specific players like Yuvraj Singh and Yusuf Pathan?  I’ve said numerous times that Yuvraj is definitely a batting talent who should be playing a crucial role for India by now in its middle order transition. But let’s admit it, he has absolutely wasted it so far. They seriously need to sit him out for some time, and see if he can get his focus back on the game and not the fluff around it.  His lacklustre attitude and disregard for fitness kills the team spirit like an evil virus, and seriously, we don’t need that kind of junk right now.

Guys like Yusuf Pathan are not that big a  problem , but I don’t quite understand what exactly is it that he has done to be selected. I’m not faulting him at all, but the selectors are to blame on this shocker. First of all, it has been clearly mentioned by them that IPL performances will not be the basis for Team India selection. Okay then… how does Yusuf factor into the team? His Intl T20 average is a lofty 16 , with  a highest score of 33 not out. So he has struck gold in IPL. But please think again, Yusuf is a hit or miss kind of guy.  He will get you 1 incredible innings every 10 games, but fail miserably in the rest. Couple that with some crafty opposition bowlers and some rib cage bowling and Yusuf transforms into a tail-ender.

Many of the players were handily exposed in the last T20 World cup itself against quality bowling – especially of the short-pitched variety. Why has there been no progress? Why are they not doing any homework and making an attempt to improve? Let’s leave aside the likes of Sachin, Dravid and the gang who are known for their relentless pursuit of excellence. Take Ganguly for instance. The first time he came onto the scene, he was shockingly ineffective against leg side bowling. But credit to Dada, he actually worked on it and by the peak of his career, while he didn’t exactly look like Daryl Cullinan with the control of the pull shot, he at least didn’t look incompetent. The prospect of watching the current crop of batsmen tackling the short-pitched delivery is great if you feel like puking your breakfast and lunch out.

There have been many selection follies, but honestly, do you really think that an Uthappa or a Kohli could have made that big a difference? It was a collective FAIL.

4.A team needs a mixture of flair and effectiveness. Even if the flair goes missing, the effectiveness should be there.

Look at the Indian batting line up. We have Gambhir, Raina, MSD, Yuvi, Yusuf, Rohit Sharma.  I can call out Gambhir and Raina who have historically proven to be somewhat effective with a workman-like blue collar attitude at times (strictly at times).  MSD has been trying to evolve into that. Most of them are indeed “flair” players. They either strike or they don’t, and most of the time they DON’T.   You need a couple of folks willing to grind it out and just be absolutely stone-cold, who put their hands up and say – THE SLIDE STOPS HERE.

There are many more issues and problems, but let’s not get into that in this post.  Will this all be addressed? We doubt it. Does it matter? Of course it does, but a victory or 2 will change all that again, and we’ll soon be singing praises of the very folks we are brandishing. Chikka and the selection committee will be fingering themselves for “unearthing” the next gem, while we , the fickle-minded junta, will be going Lady Ga-GA over the next big innings one of these guys hit. All will be forgotten and life goes on.

Just remember one thing, no team has been as consistent as Australia has over the last 15 years.  India has been OK for the last couple of years in the test arena thanks to the hard work and toil put by a select few. The platform has been set  but the journey forward is immense. It requires sweat and toil on and off the pitch , and not just beers in the belly and pictures on page 3.  Till we see a consistent 2-3 year run by India , where our wins % goes above 65-70% , WE ARE NOT VERY GOOD.

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