15 May 2010.
India’s wretched performance in the Caribbean was a rude awakening. Defeat is part of any game but sometimes its manner is so telling that a strong response is required.
For the second time in a few weeks, India has been forced to undergo a period of severe self scrutiny and for a second time it ought to welcome the opportunity.
Make no mistake, it was a doleful display telling of laziness and inadequacy. Plain and simple: half the team is over-rated and a few big names ought to be ditched. It was a performance lacking energy and calibre. India was lame and tame.
The fielding was dreadful, the bowling was wayward and the batting was inept. Only a few players survived the examination. The rest looked like pampered millionaires more interested in sweets than sweat.
And let’s not listen to any idle excuses about pitches or parties. Players are not forced to stay up all night whilst the tracks in the Caribbean were superbly suited to rewarding the genuine. Better to acknowledge the scale of the defeat, examine its causes and seek immediate remedies.
Suresh Raina at the SCG in January 2015. © NAPARAZZI [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)]
An ambitious community does not tolerate the sort of incompetence produced by these supposedly elite players.
To my mind, the existence of IPL lay behind the calamity. Dealing with the ramifications of IPL has taken India into uncharted waters and so far the navigation has been faulty. Actually, the tournament itself is not to blame but rather the players’ responses to the celebrity cult that surrounds it.
Everyone has heard about the parties and the gambling and the adoration. Only the most grounded and experienced players are not caught up in the euphoria.
Impressionable youngsters from impoverished backgrounds are likely to be swept along. So are socialites more interested in glamour than grit. And every excess pushes cricket a little further into the back of the mind. How to wake up early for a run after hitting the sack at dawn? Whither the emerging generation?
Cricketers have never been monks. Over the years many have either backed fillies or chased them, and most have emerged unscathed. Now, though, the parties are lasting longer than the matches. Apparently, too, many of life’s temptations are available to IPL players before stumps have been drawn.
Suddenly a player can be famous, fawned and wealthy before he has encountered the hard truths of the game. He can attend a camp, catch an eye, hit a couple of sixes, send down a few fliers and be offered a fat contract. It’s a fantasy.
Application, listening to masters, learning to play off both feet and landing the ball on a rupee coin hardly seemed to matter. It’s all old hat, isn’t it? And then Shaun Tait marks out his run, or Kevin Pietersen takes guard. It’s always a mistake to neglect the basics.
India’s soft underbelly has been exposed. Nor is it enough to talk in comforting generalities. Yuvraj Singh has been an abysmal fieldsman and sporadic batsmen for years. Certainly he has been plagued by injuries but it’s time to call him to account.
Ravindra Jadeja was a passenger in the field and little better with the leather. Yusuf Pathan prospered so long as the ball was pitched up.
Raina, the exception
Amongst the supposedly emerging batsmen, only Suresh Raina looked fit and fertile. The rest ought to undertake a stringent fitness regime and spend months working hard in the nets.
Nor was the bowling up to scratch. Harbhajan Singh did his utmost but his comrades were all over the place.
India has been blessed with an exceptional group of senior players. Now the time has come to educate their successors.