ICL: Indian Cricket League

Valuable clues to WC lie in the Caribbean


This is a big tour for a lot of people because anything less than a resounding series win in the one-dayers will be a let down. Rarely has India embarked on a tour with this kind of expectation and it will be interesting to see how the likes of Dhoni and Pathan, Raina and Sreesanth lift themselves. They are up against a very interesting opposition; a team that is formidable on paper but fragile on the ground. This West Indies team can play but only if they believe they can. Belief and its accompanying side-effects are very powerful determinants of performance.

With most teams, talent appears and begins an upward climb. With the West Indies the curve seems to reverse itself; the islands are now full of players who could have been rather than who are. Gayle, Hinds and Samuels should have been leading players by now; the fact that Gayle, with all his inconsistency, is still a key player is in itself an indicator of how little the West Indies have to choose from. Four years ago, India re-ignited the career of Shivnarine Chanderpaul and though he has impressive numbers against his name, they seem insipid in the absence of results. And surely Ramnaresh Sarwan should have been among the top number three players in the world, no more than a couple of rungs below Ponting and Dravid.

So too with the fast bowlers. Tino Best, Jermaine Lawson, Darren Powell, Jerome Taylor and Fidel Edwards are sharp, had a lot of potential but like everyone else seem to be breathing the wrong air. The islands of the Caribbean are gorgeous and a lilting breeze wafts by (assuming of course the hurricanes are elsewhere!) but the air the team seems to breathe carries a defeatist odour to it. There is little you can do with teams that do not have ability but this West Indies team does, only they seem to be hitting the wrong buttons all the time. And so they can be formidable but seem to look upon that as an unexciting option. For them to win a 37-year-old must show the way. It should not be like that even if the player in question is among the greatest to have played the game.

Luckily for India they have two other greats in their midst who are realists; who can be romantic about the game but live in the here-and-now world of international sport. Chappell and Dravid are forming a really good partnership and that isn’t a huge surprise. Both think deeply about the game, they are driven by a desire to succeed and for both, success hasn’t been an inheritance or a divine present. They have worked very hard, they are the closest you will get to scientists in sport.

They will be aware that in this relentless churn in the one-day side, the team is now short of the calming influence of senior players. There are wonderful, exciting cricketers who can pave our tomorrows but they are inexperienced; haven’t yet seen everything the game has to offer. Even Sehwag, himself no more than five years old, has discovered that this game can throw up a trick or two. He will be a better player for his bad patch.

But the shortage of experience means this team grows over-reliant on the captain and India is heading towards a dangerous situation with Dravid. Chappell has tried hard to extinguish the cult of the individual in our cricket but India as a team is now over-reliant on one player like it was with Tendulkar. True there has been the odd match won without him but should an injury strike, it is a bit scary at the moment to think of who will lead the team on a big mission.

Like with the Wright-Ganguly era of quality one-day cricket, the Chappell-Dravid era is built round the wicket-keeper. Dravid allowed Ganguly to play seven batsmen which was his favoured approach. Now Dhoni is allowing Dravid to play five bowlers. Should a Kaarthick or a Patel have to replace Dhoni, India’s strategy will have to shift. You can see that Dravid and Chappell are aware of that with the attempts to get Sehwag and Yuvraj to bowl more. That will be the buffer against an injury to Dhoni and on grounds that will be used for the World Cup it might be a good idea to check out if the reserve bowlers can give the team that extra flexibility.

Source:India Sports

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This entry was posted on Friday, May 19th, 2006 and is filed under General.

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