To begin with, I pay my deep condolences to Woolmer’s family and friends. A great cricket coach was lost and this will be a black mark on the World cup forever. Take a bow for your dedication to cricket, Mr. Woolmer.
Coming to the cricket, Ernest Hemingway once famously quoted – “Courage is nothing but grace under pressure”
The opening scene of the movie Musafir says that when one is nearing the end, the whole life will flash infront of the eyes. On March 23, when the death of Indian cricket is nearing, there is no wonder if some fans like me have the life of Indian cricket ,especially the Chappel era , flashing for a moment. The experimentation, the strategies…
There is a reason why it is said that battles are more often than not, won and lost in the mind. When the Indian cricketers stepped out to chase the 255 against SL, it is exactly the courage defined above that they lacked. What they lacked has nothing to do with talent.
The match started promisingly for Indians, the SL were 4 down for not many runs and the run rate also not quite healthy. The eternal trouble for India, Jayasurya went quickly. The experienced Sangakkara and Jayawardene also went cheaply. Enter the Srilanka middle order. In almost all the previews about the worldcup, the only negative in this talented SL side was presumed to be their brittle and inexperienced middle order. So, India had a chance to shut the SL out of the game ? Well, not quite. Or rather, absolutely chanceless. The way Chamara Silva and Dilshan batted, it was a masterclass on how to pull your side out of trouble in the mid innings and set up for a big score. Once the SL innings was over, you got a feeling – Indians have done alright, but still the SL have scored 255 !! Hmm, your opponent is only as good as you allow him to be. Sri lankans did not allow India to shut them out of the game
And when the Indian innings started, you always knew that a similar mid innings construction is always going to be difficult for India in a pressure match. So, the start was very crucial. And we have got an opener who is quite young and the other who has some 10000 odd runs to his name. But, ironically , the senior bastman Ganguly did not take initiative. Probably, he thought that seeing off Vaas is better. We will come to that later, but ironically again, Ganguly fell to Vaas. Shortly after, when the great Sachin fell, you knew the Indians are almost out of the match. Dravid, as always, tried honestly. But, it was beyond him. The wickets at the other end kept falling regularly.
So, what was the problem ? What should be done now ? Oh, we need to criticize the team ! Perhaps, some wise men will suggest “Payment on performance” strategy. Well, that will not work, I am afraid. Can we pause for a moment and get more deep into the problem ? For that, let us have a glance at some thing else too…
The next day, there was this marquee match-up. Australia is no more the invincible team, said many people. Aussies lost the last two series, one an embarrassing Home series to Eng and the other an even embarrassing whitewash to the Kiwis. They are on the decline , screamed a lot of people ! And they are facing SA , the team that is the world No. 1 now and they “snatched” it from the Aussies. Also, SA beat Aussies in their previous series, with that mind boggling run chase of 434.
So, what made SA get to the top ? One of the main strengths is their bowling !! And headed by whom ? The ever reliable Shaun Pollock. And I can assure you almost all other teams would think of “playing him safely”. That is the difference between the mindset of a champion and “any other competitor”. When the situation demands , the champions respond. Aussies just don’t follow the trend. They set the trend. They just don’t accept that something is impossible. They know only one thing – dominate the opposition. Whatever the opposition does, we can do better. And they attacked Pollock. After 10 overs of Aussie innings, with the SA main bowler bleeding runs, Aussie won half the battle !!
India, on the other hand, started rather sedately against SL in pursuit of 255. They might have thought of avoiding wickets to the main strike bowler, Vaas. But, usually when Indians try that , they just score lesser runs against that bowler than possible and keep on losing the same wickets !! Attack is the best way of defense.
Now, coming to this positive attitude aspect again, probably the problem is not just with the Indian cricket team. It is probably with the Indians, as a whole. Maybe, Indians try to put a “What if I fail” tag at the beginning of every task. There are many aspiring entrepreneurs in the country and believe me, a lot of them are talented at that. But, it takes more than just talent at the crunch times. In such a crunch time, or when the situation arises to choose one of the career options, almost 90 % go for a conservative approach. India has got a glorious past, but more and more the people are preferring to be trend followers. It maybe anything, and in any field – career options as discussed earlier, exams , sports … to name a few. I remember succumbing to pressure many times in crucial exams. What if I fail ? !
Coming back to cricket, can there be a better batting lineup, talentwise in the country ? Sachin, Dravid, Ganguly, Yuvraj … well, it is probably true that ours is one of the best batting lineups in the world. If there is no pressure, and it is a big IF, ours is the most destructive batting lineup !! But then, seldom in the world of competition, you face a no-pressure situation in a major challenge.
Probably, this defeat will spur on greater things for Indian cricket. The fear of losing and backlash should now be reduced in the coming generations. India cant fail more than this in cricket. This should make our future generation of cricketers fear no result. “What if we lose” ? The answer for them is -- Nothing, nothing happens even if we lose. India has done that before and was able to bear that too, albeit with a lot of pain. But, let us be more positive this time !!
And what about the world cup now ? Well, I am a cricket lover and hence I will still follow the cup. Aussies may not be the outright favourites as of now – NZ, SL , SA, ENG and WI – all are capable of pulling off the big ones on their day. But then, Aussies are not the world champions without a reason. Hmm, picking Aussies as the favourite team is an easy choice at mind, but a tough one at heart. There is a dialogue in the movie Gladiator. “Some things I do that i like to do, the rest of the things I do that I have to”.
P.S: Apologies if anyone is offended by comments on India as a whole