It’s official now, the Indian cricket team is now the new West Indies; a baton which the latter was refusing to share after a decade spent in shambolic displays, internal politics, bickering and searching for excuses.
A team reaches this stage when fans know a win can only emerge due to the brilliance of one or at most, a couple of players (Like Yuvraj did in last two T20s), huge slice of luck or an absolute meek surrender by the opponents (England in first innings at Ahmedabad Test). No other permutation or combination can fetch a win. Hence, fans reach a stage when they start deriving pleasure out of close defeats, one-off performances, observing any shining light which resembles close to hope and rewinding videos of past glories.
When Eoin Morgan and Shoaib Malik hit those last gasp sixes, Indian fans were generally left satisfied at having seen their billionaires give some sort of fight. In the post match show, debutant Bhuvneshwar Kumar was already being talked up as a prospect for Test matches – sending down his four T20 overs at roughly 132 kmph.
At least during the recent Test defeats, we heard bytes of anger, revelations by Jimmy Amarnath and suggestions for changes by experts. But, by now, it’s all peace. India’s Test record in the past 18 months stands as the worst I have endured as a follower (for close to three decades).
The nation that owns IPL, barely won 50% of its T20 matches during the said period. To top it off, the current ODI world champions won 65% of their ODI games. The figures include wins over WI, home sweep over England and wins in the now routine bilateral (to the point of almost friendly) series happening now and then with cash strapped SL.
While as a fan, the period has been agonizing, the players’ quotes have kept us in good humour.
Skipper MS Dhoni said after the Test series loss that the “Crisis was nowhere close to WC 2007 loss”, signifying that things can still go worse and there wasn’t any need to panic. I got a feeling of the calmness of an 80 year old sitting outside his village haveli, cross legged on a jute strapped bed, puffing hookah over sunset and sighing…. “I have seen worse!”
Soon after the T20 loss at Bangalore (to Pakistan), the captain leading a nation of billion plus fans said, “If we had scored 10-12 runs more, we would have won the game”, a line meant to console the fans that India played a good game. Did they?
A side packed with 9 batsmen (yes Jadeja and Bhuvaneshwar play as all-rounders) scored only 133. On a home track, against a team which had just landed, had little time to acclimatise and in a hostile environment. Just 133!
On the day, barring Rahane’s blitz and debutant swing bowler Bhuvneshwar Kumar’s spell, no one contributed to the cause. And frankly, the latter was a surprise package, without whom the home team would have been walloped with much to spare.
Yet, the captain or team management have effectively hidden the woes of the batting line-up and keep selecting the same billionaires. Earlier in December, it was widely reported in the media that the team management has lodged a complaint with BCCI over Gautam Gambhir’s recent selfish displays – running out partners (in Test matches, yes, run out in Test matches!) and playing to stay not out instead of shielding tail-enders (at Mumbai).
No one has bothered to drop him. Hence, he responded in the four T20s with an aggregate score of 97. Not bad. But he accumulated them over 96 balls, i.e. batting at a strike rate marginally more than 100. Whereas as an opener, playing powerplay overs, he should be hitting 130+! A criteria he fulfils for his IPL team.
This strike rate for an opener, who gets a chance to face the maximum number of deliveries, is simply unacceptable. But Gambhir doesn’t care, he is making the runs so that he can’t be dropped and when the question of replacing skipper MSD surfaces, he will appear as the only experienced player who can hold on to his place.
His quote at start of the Test series was equally ridiculous when he said “We (him and Sehwag) still average 53 as a pair in Tests”. Well, somebody needed to remind him that in the past 18 months, he and Viru averaged nearly half of 53, i.e. 28. And even this 28 is massively boosted by pummelling West Indies and New Zealand at home!
Around the same time, Sehwag declared that he “needs to bat responsibly and bat the entire innings”. Laughable! I mean, isn’t that the reason why he has been picked ahead of millions, to play for millions and earn millions? What is there to announce then? It’s the same as us service class people deciding to announce one day, “today I will work hard entire day and earn my salary!”.
Sehwag finished the Test series with an average of 36 – relatively, it looks decent; by home standards, abysmally low. It looks far worse when you note that R. Ashwin finished with an average of 60.
Ashwin though couldn’t hold onto his place for the first T20 vs Pakistan, supposedly as part of team strategy. A strategy which sees Ravindra Jadeja walk in as an all-rounder and end his quota of overs at a rate of 11 runs per over on a track where our much maligned pacers gave away between 5-7 runs per over.
During the game, Ashwin gave his own sound byte when he said, “Even Fernando Torres has to sit out for Chelsea”. It resembled what he typically bowls twice per over – a down the leg-side “whack-me-out-of-the-park” ball.
Fernando Torres is part of a national team which is now being debated upon if it’s the best football team ever. Torres also has two Club Champions League trophies in his CV, but has been dropped at times, lately, due to inconsistent form.
R. Ashwin meanwhile, is part of a team that has won 2 IPL titles and may be considered the best IPL team ever so far. He has one historic world cup in his CV, where he made 2 appearances in 8 matches for his team. The lopsided, unfair, stupid comparison ends there.
Torres is still considered a good striker with dwindling abilities. Ashwin, at best is a C grade bowler, a better than C grade batsman and an absolute E grade fielder. The fielding part is important as Ashwin plies his trade in an era when majority are C to A grade fielders. It indicates he must have been really lazy in his growing years. One needs special efforts to be that bad too!
He would have been more honest saying that he was dropped as in the two T20s vs England, despite being the team’s leading strike bowler, he finished with economy rate of 9, while a part-timer Yuvraj finished with 4.50! But alas, he didn’t. Losers are never known to accept the truth.
This piece would be incomplete without the mention of the “pitches” in players’ quotes! It started when Gambhir and Virat ranted at England and Australia, respectively. Quotes, which suggested India were forced to bat on 1970s at Sabina Park like green tops vs 200 kmph bowlers. And when England and Australia tour India, we would welcome them with rank turners.
Before every home Test, MSD took his clamour for pitches to new levels, and also with his excuses for defeats. Luckily, the results stayed consistent.
And luckily, Sachin Tendulkar didn’t stoop down to such a level to give irrational, unfunny and out of place quotes. The only winner from a team of losers retired (from ODIs) with some grace intact.
Meanwhile, the close defeats will continue to satisfy fans even more.
Here’s wishing you all a prosperous and healthy 2013. Don’t expect much from the “losers in blue”.
Looking forward for Shikhar Dhawan's captaincy! - Yuvraj Singh in an exclusive Interview with SK