Don’t look back : Sourav Ganguly
Looking back at Indian cricket since the World Cup victory in April last year, I was frankly surprised at what happened in England. I didn’t expect India to lose four Tests in a row, as also the limited-overs games. The results in England made me wary about Australia because I knew Australia at home would be a tough competitor. But what really caught me off-guard was that with such quality players in the team, the same result was repeated in Australia. A lot of people said this was our best chance to beat Australia in their backyard, so why was I wary? It was because I believed that when you lose 4-0 overseas, your confidence takes a huge battering and the result of one series influences the other. The other teams have also become clever against India. They have realised that the best way to stop India is by providing pitches which help the seamers a lot. Every surface in England and Australia had excessive grass covering, and the opposition fast bowlers used it cleverly. Normally in Australia, you expect short stuff from the fast bowlers but this time, under the tutelage of Craig McDermott, they bowled good areas and provided opportunities for the slips. India were caught napping. We had boasted a lot about our batting, which to me was at its peak between 2001 and 2008 in overseas conditions. There is and has been a marked decline in the overseas performances of Virender Sehwag, Rahul Dravid (except in England) and VVS Laxman for some time. The opposition making early inroads put pressure on the middle order. Every time India failed, they didn’t have enough runs on the board. The fact that they crossed 300 only twice illustrates just how much the batting struggled. India’s strength has always been with the bat and once that failed to click, the problems mounted. There has been a lot of talk of players looking jaded both
in England and Australia due to excessive cricket. That is definitely a fact but at the same time, one
must understand that this is the future. There will be little respite, and players will have to learn to deal with it. India didn’t qualify for the final of the Asia Cup after their poor showing in Australia and to be honest, I was not surprised at all. The problem over the last year has been that in conditions that have suited bowlers, the batsmen have struggled to do the hard job. When pitches have been batsmen-friendly, the bowlers have failed to deliver. This might sound simplistic but is very important to a team’s success because tough conditions require characters to stand up and change the course of the game. Much has also been said about the tactics MS Dhoni employed in England, as well as in Australia. Personally, I have felt that at times, Dhoni did become very defensive overseas. This also had to do with there not being enough runs on the board. I have always felt that a captain should be judged by his performance overseas, and Dhoni faltered on two big tours. The fact that he leads in all three formats also made things harder, especially when the team was not winning in testing conditions. The only bright spot has been Virat Kohli, who has gone from strength to strength in this period. He has been duly rewarded with the vice-captaincy of the national one-day team, though I have a feeling that it’s a bit early for him. The selectors will need to be careful as there already are three men in the dressing room that have done the deputy’s job over the past year. With the losses in England, Australia, the Asia Cup and the retirement of Dravid, there are obvious questions about the future of Indian cricket. All good things come to an end, and so has Dravid’s career. Sportsmen can’t carry on forever and however big a champion you are, you will have to go at some stage. Indian cricket has always produced talent, especially in batting, and the selectors will have to give youngsters a long rope. All those involved with the game will need to realise that there can’t be overnight replacements for the likes of Dravid, Sachin and Laxman. Every team goes through a rebuilding phase and now it is India’s turn. This was a generation of cricketers that produced exemplary cricket and lifted Indian cricket’s image overseas. Now, we have to allow young players to settle down and do well. They will have to focus on getting runs in Test cricket, and not worry about replacing a Dravid or a Sachin. I am a firm believer that just as quality cricketers came to the fore after Sunil Gavaskar’s retirement, so new faces will adequately replace the famed middle order
Trackback from your site.