State of the Union

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The Indian team has been rejuvenated and is on the cusp of a golden era. It seems to be stepping out from under a gloomy cloud into bright sunshine. Chappell and Dravid, in the midst of euphoric reactions from fans (such as my last post), insist on guarding against complacency and over-confidence, and for good reason. Sterner tests lie ahead. For the team as well as the fair-weather fans. While the Indians have bowled very well in helpful conditions, the Sri Lankans have also been of guilty of throwing their wickets away from time to time. The Indian batting has been hardly tested in half the games. South Africa won’t fold as easily. India not only needs to do very well against the South Africans, but also in other countries to prove that this meteoric rise is not a flash in the pan.

The Sri Lankans, who excel in home conditions unlike any other team, were in a similar position not too long ago. And how they have fallen in the blink of an eye. While their abysmal batting display is the obvious cause of the fiasco, I think there’s one more reason. Atapattu’s captaincy has been uninspiring and, to be blunt, simply horrific. While I can’t comment on his leadership skills, it’s very lucid to me that he lacks the mental aptitude (cricketing acumen, if you will) to make wise decisions on the field. In the 6th ODI, with India chasing 197, the only way he could have won was if he bowled them out. Why then did he decide to take the two optional powerplays within the first 25 overs? He’s done this time and again: exercise powerplays at inopportune times. What’s more, he committed a major faux pas and bowled 6 overs instead of 5 for the 3rd powerplay. While that was, in the end, irrelevant in this game, it could cost them a game in tighter circumstances. His field placings have been reactive rather than proactive, he’s been guilty of taking pressure off the Indians when he should have been capitalizing on it, he has shown that he can’t read a pitch if it were a book written in Sinhala (although he probably had some help in coming to that decision), and his ineptness has been exposed in face of the new ODI rules. The Sri Lankan selectors need to take note of this.

The Indians, meanwhile, are motoring along like a Hummer, featuring a plethora of riches and going right over anything in their path. Most players have put their hand up one time or another during this series, and shown that they deserve their spot in the team. Only the places of Kartik, Yadav and Sreesanth seem under question at this point. India is quickly finding its core nucleus of players and has its eyes firmly set on the prize: the 2007 World Cup. The bowling has been impressive, the batting line has a lot of depth, the fielding standard has gone up considerably, the bench strength is promising, and team spirits are high. Expectations from this team continue to rise, and all signs suggest they are not misplaced.

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9 Responses to “State of the Union”

  1. Amar Says:

    As you pointed out, Pratik, some of the decisions made by Atapattu on the field were head-scratchers and his use of powerplays was horrendous. Also, in a couple of games (especially the 4th one in Pune), the manner in which he used his strike bowler, Murali, was dreadful. As a captain and a batsman, he had a pretty ordinary series.
    Having said that, lets give credit where credit is due. Full marks to Rahul Dravid and the coaching staff for the way in which they neutralized the three big guns (for the most part) of SL — Jayasuriya, Murali, and Vaas. One could argue that besides Saeed Anwar, Jayasuriya has been the biggest thorn for the Indian side in the ODIs (even in tests for that matter). Granted that he is not the same player he once used to be and he might be yesterday’s news, but he has always proved lethal against the Indian side and you can never take him lightly.
    Overall, the confidence of the team has been sky high throughout the series and the results have followed. Never have I seen such cohesiveness amongst the Indian team, apart from a brief stint during the 2003 World Cup. Ravi Shastri astutely described the Indian performance as ruthless in the final ODI, a term rarely associated with the Indian cricket team (especially in a dead rubber).
    However, it is of utmost importance that the team does not let its guard down and continue to strive for excellence. It is vital that they don’t allow complacency to set in as has happened on numerous occasions in previous regimes (read ganguly and Azhar). Lets hope the rookies can cope with the added pressure that comes with success and are able to handle the accolades that are bound to come their way.
    On a separate note, lets not forget to give some of the credit to Ganguly and John Wright. Afterall, it is under that duo that the Indian team really took off after years of mediocrity. The team enjoyed a couple of good years under those two before it began to unravel and things became a bit too monotonous. Lets hope that under the new leadership of Dravid-Chappell, Team India hasn’t peaked a bit too soon like it did in the Ganguly-Wright era.

  2. Amar Says:

    On a sidenote regarding the upcoming series against SA: I don’t like the idea of having 4 day-nighters (out of 5) in winter because of the dew factor. Basically, what that means is whoever wins the toss are almost guaranteed to have a bowl first and, more often than not, exploit the wet conditions at night and coast to a win.
    Hopefully, the grounds crew will be able to neutralize the dew factor, although I am a bit sceptical about that. The curator in A’bad said that it wouldn’t come into play but it sure did (of course, not having pathan and harbhajan played a role in the defeat, too).
    All in all, I just hope the toss does not play too big a role in the series (it always plays a bit of a role, which is fine)

  3. Pratik Says:

    I agree. Dew does have seem to have a significant effect on the game. I’ll blog about that soon.

    “Let’s not forget to give some of the credit to Ganguly and John Wright.” What the hell are you talking about? Sure, they lifted Indian cricket out of its doldrums at the turn of the century, but they have already been duly credited for that on numerous occasions. This resurgence has nothing to do with them; the only relation is that it was possible because of their absence. If anything, these guys have been preventing Indian cricket from making further progress for the last year or two. So, let’s not give them any more credit than they deserve.

  4. Raja Says:

    Oh yeah, dropping Jayasuriya may be coming as a relief to Indian cricket fans for the test matches ahead, even though with his current form he may be a liability, there is always a threat of when and if he may explode, there are enough Indian players (Kumble, Zaheer, Agarkar…) who may remember his earlier prowess, and one innings from someone like him can inspire confidence in team mates, though getting him out for less is also gratifying.

  5. Amar Says:

    I didn’t mean that this resurgence is due to them. All I am saying is don’t forget that the “real” resurgence started back in 2001-2002 under Ganguly and Wright. After this series, a lot of people are going to completely forget about Ganguly and the overall contributions he has made to the Indian team, not just with his batting but also his leadership. He hasn’t exactly been a chop liver over his career.
    My point was just that don’t forget about his contributions to the Indian team, which, to be honest, a lot of Indian fair-weather fans seem to have done (after reading various blogs online and the various banners in the stadium during the series). Of course, the current success has nothing to do with him or Wright.

  6. Pratik Says:

    Raj, I don’t remember the last time Jayasuriya was a huge threat to us in a test match. Actually, I don’t remember playing any test matches against SL at all. Guess it’s been a while since we played them. Anyway, Jayasuriya’s test record is ordinary rather than exceptional, and while he does have the ability to play a mercurial inning and lift team spirits, it’s nothing I would worry too much about. I would have been disappointed if I thought he was done some injustice in being dropped from the test squad, because I want India to play the strongest SL side possible (it makes for good cricket and the victory is more savoury). But Jayasuriya’s at the fag end of his career, and I think SL are better off without him.

  7. Amar Says:

    The last time we played tests vs. SL was in 2001 and I believe he scored one century in that 3-test series. But, you’d have to go all the way back to 1997 when he got 330-odd and a 199 in ONE series against India. That was a time when he was a dominant force.
    While I don’t quite believe SL is better off without Jayasuriya in the short run, I do think that an injured Jayasuriya, which is exactly what he is, is a liability for them. He was a shell of himself in the fielding and bowling (and of course, batting) in the recent series against India and I believe it was due to his injured shoulder.

  8. Line & Length » Blog Archive » Rome was not built in a day Says:

    […] During the high of dominating Sri Lanka, Dravid, time and again, reminded everybody that harder times lay ahead and that the real test would come when the team was not doing well.  Both for the team and the fans. […]

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