Monday, January 30, 2012

Failures away from home





Stats


• 3 overseas tour. One to the West Indies, one to England and one to Australia.


• Result: India 1 win, 2 draws, 8 losses played 11 matches (not including tour matches)


• Scores over 300: in 22 innings 2 scores over 300. 347 in the final test in the West Indies and 400 in the second innings at Sydney and highest score in England 300 all out at the Oval.


• In 11 Tests taking 20 wickets Just 4 times.


• 5 Centuries in 22 innings and 4 Centuries by Dravid


• 4 five wicket hauls in 3 series

So as I analyse the failures of some of the Indian performances, and how they can improve, some of the stats tell a story in their own right. It shows that all aspects of the team have had problems: from the batting, to the bowling to the fielding. The standard has dropped significantly since the victory in the World Cup which was seen as one of the great achievements on 2011. So let's have a look at some of the failures in more detail.


Batting:

Now the batting is seen as one of the greatest line-ups of all time. Legends running through that list and averages which should scare any bowling line-up; but getting just 2 scores of over 300 doesn't back up this fact.

So What went wrong? Some people say the preparation was all wrong. This is backed up by seeing their warm-up matches . Even though they won the series 1-0 in the West Indies, they did not play 1 warm-up match before the series had begun. In England, they played one 2 day warm-up match which is not seen as adequate preparation for a tour which has that much importance, along with different conditions. Most analysts say you need at least 2 three- day matches or even 3 three-day matches to get prepared for a series like that. In there tour to Australia, the preparation was evidently inadequate, as they played 1 two-day match and 1 three-day match in the capital- which provided very different conditions to the typical Oz pitches, and it showed the extra bounce and carry which the Indians just struggled to play.

Others say team selection. All three series had some questionable decisions in the overall selection, and in my opinion, during a series the right players were not selected. Many players were coming back from injuries and needed match practise before they toured England. However, they decided to rest them when they had the chance to play the West Indies. It was no surprise that the best player in England was Dravid, who had played the West Indies series and had test cricket behind him before coming to England, and was therefore, match fit. It was a circus at times where players would just go home or not play. The biggest disappointment was that many of these talented young batsman were given very limited chances to prove themselves.



Bowling:

This was another huge disappointment. Traditionally, Indian bowling has not been that strong. However, the standards of bowling were lower than most people expected. During the 2 big series against England and Australia there were 13 centuries and many of them were "Daddy Centuries" (as Graham Gooch) would say, as some of them made scores of excess of 200 Plus with 6 of them reaching double century and above and even a triple century in there as well.

Selection was surprising at times. It did not help the Indian cause one bit by picking players who were unfit or out of form or not match fit. During the England series, bowlers were leaving as fast as their batters. Zaheer leaving after half a session, or bring RP Singh in re-calling him from a holiday, and expecting him to be match fit; or persisting with bowlers who keep failing time after time and not helping their confidence at all.


Fielding- Captaincy: 

I link these together because there were many overlaps in this. The fielding traditionally has also been a tough point for Indians. It's never been a part of their strength, but some of the fielding has been shocking. There is no problem being a bad fielding side, but if you make an effort and giving it your all then that is acceptable; but regularly, that has not been the case. The efforts have been lacking. This has not been helped by the captain, with some of the most negative field placing that I have ever seen. It is understandable if you are 400-3 or 4 and a big partnership is going on, but when these field placings happen at the start of an innings, or when new batsman arrive at the crease- or even when tail enders come out and hit a few shots, and the field goes negative- these are times when you question the tactics and reasoning behind some of the decisions.


Attitude:

the attitude of the players was very poor. This is an area where the Indian team let themselves down badly, as there was a visible lack of focus. . Throughout the three series, when times get tough, you have to show a togetherness and the right way to go about things and on and off the pitch: this has been lacking. A bit of professionalism was not there when they most needed it.

Aging players: This has been a problem for the last year as their major stars were coming to the end of their cricketing life. This made it even more baffling that enough youngsters were not blooded in during the tours to England and Australia, so they can slip in when needed to or learn or have the experience for future tours of these big nations in test cricket. Dravid being 39, Tendulkar being 38, VVS Laxman being 37, Zaheer being 33, Viru being 33- you can see where the problem lies, as these players play in pivotal positions for the national side.


Solution:

Despite all the negatives that the Indian team have gone through, there is a way out of this- but the process should start now. We must have a phasing-out period for all the older players to bring in youngsters. There are many youngsters around the likes of Rohit Sharma, Rahul Sharma, Pujara, Tiwary, Kohli, Ashwin, Yadev, Aaron and many others. As we saw, someone like a Kohli has grown in stature in a big series like he had against Australia, they must be brought in while they are young, fresh and most importantly- while the senior players can guide them through in the next 1-2 years. That experience can be priceless for the improvement of Indian cricket.

We have seen a real struggle with fielding by these senior players, but the shining lights have been the youngsters -every time they play together, the standard instantly improves. During the 2 England ODI series home and away, we had a influx of young players and what was notable that the enthusiasm, the energy, the drive, and the passion. This could not only help the young players having this experience, but it might even drive on the more experience players, thereby creating a more level playing field where competition is the major spur.

The planning of series has to be well-thought-out, with meaningful and relevant matches which actually gets players who need fitness tests to have a good run through, players who need match-fitness, and players to get use to conditions when they tour outside Asia. It is important to take all matches seriously, and treat them as any other match, rather than see it as warm-up. So if you come to England or Australia- at least 2 three-day matches is needed

Captaincy has been a real problem for MS in the test game. No one can doubt his ability in the shorter format, but he has to make a serious decision about tests- either he should step down as captain, or make a detailed plan and be a more positive captain. Whoever is captain, they need to have a more positive mindset and go for wickets rather than containment. He needs to help the bowlers and the fielders. It gives a more positive message to the bowler that he believes in him and the whole team's mindset would be better and clearer.

I believe also that young players should go out to play domestic cricket outside Asia. County cricket would probably work out best for a number of reasons: firstly, a year of county cricket can help with technique, footwork, play against the moving or swinging ball; and secondly, its a proven method, as many players in the past from all countries have said how important its been playing county cricket. You are also playing against decent bowlers and batsman, and have to get used to the conditions quicker when going abroad, because of the experience.

In the long term, I also feel that producing different sorts of pitches back home would improve the bowlers skills and produce better and varied bowlers. If you prepare pitches which have a bit more bounce or a bit more pace, or bit more carry- it would test players on the domestic circuit. Then batsman can get used to play against the moving ball. This would aid medium to fast bowlers, when there is a little bit of assistance in the pitch. This is usually the case abroad, so if you start from the domestic circuit, it helps prepare them when they move up the ranks. They could also prepare more challenging pitches for the youth teams of under 21s and under 19s so that the cultural is there. It would prepare and produce more seam bowlers and get better-prepared batsman. You can still have the spinning decks, and flattest decks, but a bit of variety would do no harm.

Finally, I might suggest that selection has to be more smart and thorough. We know that India has some of the best domestic circuits about, but many of the complaints has been that they never get a chance. An example is that the most successful Ranji Trophy team is Rajasthan winning the last 2 competitions. However, not one of those players play for the Indian team even though they have clearly have good young cricketers: some deserve a chance to be in the squad. They must reward players for doing well in their domestic circuit. They must have the opportunity if they play well in these competitions, instead of just opting to be IPL players. Some may and can get through, but your premier competition should be the Ranji Trophy and players should be picked based of form; if you are looking for new players to come into the Indian team.

So my view is that there is a opportunity for India, despite all there failures. The biggest failure they made was not recognising the problem after the England series, and adopting a similar line-up but with all the superstars. This series has starkly pointed out that the time to act was now, before it's too late. There are tough decisions to be made, but they have to be made now for the long term good of India. There are players out there, and they must utilise those talents while they have them at their disposal, and use the experienced players are guides to help them. A good example is Kohli- sticking by him, they have shown him faith- This spectacularly paid off, with his talent and promise reaping dividends by the final test in Australia. However, failure to react now could have a big consequences for the future as smaller crowds which come to see test cricket , income from the longer version of the game will decline, and sponsorship will fall with it; and the stars of tomorrow will never be given a proper chance to show their worth.

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