Lessons to be learnt

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India’s hot-air balloon, rising dramatically over the last few months, has been popped by none other than the Windies. As we come crashing down to the ground, it’s time to reflect on what went wrong. I think we’ve basically forgotten the lessons that turned our ODI performances around in the first place. It’s time to get back to the basics.

1) Fielding: When Chappell first came on, that was one of the biggest improvements you noticed on the field rightaway. Players were making great stops, return throws were spot on and they were hitting the stumps 4 times out of 5 when they had a shy at the stumps. All of them, not just one or two players. Compare that to the dismal display in this series. Today, from 30 feet away with all stumps visible, Raina tried to knock down the stumps and missed. That’s fine. What was not was that he bounced the ball, and it went right over the stumps. When you bounce the ball, it has to travel more distance, and is slowed down quite a bit when it bounces. A non-professional like me knows that, so I’m surprised that Raina, one of the better fielders in the team, did that. What I am afraid of though is that nobody might have caught it, and they’ll keep on continuing to do that. Another aspect of fielding is fitness. After the initial efforts when Chappell came on board, it seems not much has been done in this area. Players need to be pushed beyond their current fitness levels.

2) Extras: We need to get them under control. Spinners bowling wides is not acceptable. Same thing for no balls. We have to try and minimize them. We did that against other teams earlier in the season. Bowlers need to regain that control.

3) Run-outs: Losing crucial wickets to run outs, especially when the player is just not alert, or being lazy, or trying to avoid being hit by the ball, is inexcusable. Get it right.

4) Tactics: Innovation, like in the real world, can go a long way in the sport. We certainly have the room to play, what with all the new rules. Experimentation shouldn’t end at playing with batting order. When defending a small target, try not taking the last powerplay until the 45th over. This could also be very effective when defending huge totals. In a game that’s obviously being won, send in Agarkar or Harbhajan to practice some biffing. Signalling to the wicket-keeper if you’re about to bowl a slower ball or down leg-side (suggested by Dean Jones) is a great idea. Make the tail-enders take their batting seriously, and have them practice slogging. During the early overs, it’s okay to go over the top. In fact, you want to. That’s the whole bloody point. Forget about trying to thread the needle. Sehwag is especially culpable because he understands this concept, and likes to hit in the air, but he hits it at a slightly above-head height. That’s catchable, and he’s often gotten out that way. Also, if you’re hitting it in the air, put a little extra effort into it. Convert those fours that land within two feet of the rope to sixes. Those runs addup. Sehwag can easily do this if only he gives it a little more loft.

If we can do these things, and pick the best team (that means no Powar), there’s nothing in the world that can stop us.

Did I miss any problems?

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4 Responses to “Lessons to be learnt”

  1. sukhi Says:

    Yes, you missed a point – well its more a bit of a disagreement with your last point –

    That at one point, experimentation has to, just has to, stop. And there are some positions that one cannot just gamble on. The opening slot being one.

    Dravid should *NOT* open because he (and lately Yuvraj as well) is needed to hold fort for the better part of the innings. He’s just too bloody valuable.

    That we’ve not tried a specialist opener or other newer batsmen – compare the number of batsmen we’ve tried v/s the number of bowlers – is a big negative.

    Sachin’s being out due to injury, of late, has overshadowed the time he actually is with the team. So preparing for a decent ODI opener is needed.

  2. Pratik Says:

    The experimentation can stop when we’ve become the best team in the world. Until then, it is necessary. Actually, even then it is necessary if we want to continue to evolve and improve. It’s more a question of what kind of experimentation.

    Uthappa’s not a specialist opener? Anyway, with ODIs, I’m not sure if having a specialist opener is that important. After all, Sehwag was never a specialist opener until he played international cricket.

  3. Amar Says:

    I agree with Pratik that we need to continue experimenting. In fact, that is the ONLY way nowadays that you can consistently win in ODIs. However, Sukhi, I do agree about your point of Dravid NOT opening. Read my comments in the previous posts.
    Pratik, I’d say, complacency is also a HUGE problem, especially for a young team like India. It is easy to become complacent when most of the young players in the team haven’t tasted a series defeat (until now of course). Also, the problem of FOCUS, especially in away tours, can be a huge problem for Indian cricketers. The idea of clubbing, drinking, and womanizing, especially when the media scrutiny is nowhere near like back in India, is extremely enticing for young players, and that can lose you matches. It’s the same old problem of “wine, wealth, and women” for professional sports players. Ajay Jadeja, Mohd. Azar, and Vinod Kambli were the biggest culprits of this on away tours.
    And this is where the team is missing Sachin’s influence in the dressing room. Sachin, Rahul Dravid, and Anil Kumble are not just great players and leaders ON the field, but they are good people with exceptional leadership qualities OFF the field.

  4. sukhi Says:

    Experimentation is different from evolving.

    How many times has the specialist opener been given a chance to open?

    One can understand a few times when say Pathan or someone else is bumped up the order to see how they fare, if and when they’re required to open/pinch-hit etc.,

    But what is the core of this team? The core of the bowling is pretty much fixed isnt it, what’s the core of the batting – just Dravid, Yuvraj and Sehwag – with two of them being the top order? We’re just building a slightly better version of what the NZ batting team used to be. (maybe still is? havnt followed it much)

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