Unfortunately in India, most of those who impute motives to others are themselves having their own agenda though they may try to give the impression of being the only ones concerned with the welfare of Indian cricket. The non-performance of the test team, particularly the young players will no doubt give a handle to talk about for those who have their own axes to grind. It may well be prudent to see the deeds of the senior players before trying to blame the youngsters and not just on this tour but also on previous tours of Australia.
The fact of the matter is that of all international tours the one to Australia is the toughest cricket-wise. The Aussies are tough customers anywhere but more so on their home soil. They were smarting from their defeat by the Indians when they toured last and since they had set their sights on beating all the teams of the sub-continent and found themselves thwarted in their efforts by a tremendous Indian performance. They were determined not just to beat India but to beat them by a greater margin than the one they were beaten in India.
Steve Waugh's team also is looking to be rated alongwith the great Australian teams of the past. They have won all six of the tests played this summer in Australia and will now, after the one-day series, travel to New Zealand to try and continue their test match-winning sequence there too.
Although the clash with England is the one the Aussies get excited about in recent times, it is their battles with their southern neighbours that pumps them up considerably. New Zealand has long resented the way the Australians have sent second teams and were still winning and it really has been in the last decade or so that they are sending their full-strength sides to Kiwiland. The way the New Zealanders have played in the last year has been terrific and they will not be pushovers.
There is a new resolve in the team and the way they came back to beat the West Indies is an indication of the mental toughness that has come into their cricket. It is that which Indian cricket needs more than anything else, for how often have we seen the Indian player giving the signals that he feels he is out of place at that level even if he has the game to be competitive. We are brought up to respect our seniors but unfortunately that respect is more often than not carried on to the field of play and so some juniors are so much in awe of the players of the opposition that they tend to forget that they have to beat them instead of just watching them.
Seeing some of the Indians, one got the impression that some of them were so taken by the fact that they were on the same field as some of the Aussie stars that they forgot they were there to make life difficult for them. The verbal aggression of the Australians also contributed to a feeling of inadequacy that transmitted into their game and so they played way below their potential. Not in a long time have so many top batsmen failed together as happened in the current series.
The Indians also suffered from the lack of an all-rounder who could balance the team, for invariably the team was lopsided either being top light or top heavy. In the last test, they opted to pick Bharadwaj in the hope that he would be able to give the batting a bit of depth and bowl if the pitch assisted spin. Going into a test match against a side that has a top class pace attack was asking for trouble and they got it and then found their hopes of a contribution from Bharadwaj belied.
The dilemma before the selectors now is whether to go back to the past or to look to the future and decide who has more to offer and what would serve Indian cricket's interest as different from a decision taken to ensure continuation on the panel. The most important thing is that whatever decision is taken, the conscience must be clear that it was taken in the interest of the game and Indian cricket. Make no mistake, any selection will never satisfy everybody as can be seen from the letters appearing in the papers in Australia which suggest that some feel that the Australian cricket team is a gravy train for New South Wales cricketers, looking at the number of players from the state in the current team. This in spite of the fact that Australia is winning everything under the sun. Australia is a sport-loving country and cricket, though followed widely, is not the passion as it is in India so it is understandable that selection arouses so much heat and dust in our country.
And before anybody talks of team spirit, the Scott Muller incident also shows that even a winning team can have disgruntled elements and it is not necessary for everybody to see eye-to-eye so long as they are giving their best on the field. If the year 1999 was bad the new century has not started well either, but hopefully it won't get worse than this..or is that hoping for too much?
Professional Management Group