A different picture had India played its cards right

Written by: Mamatha Maben
Published: Friday, January 10, 2003, 16:30 [IST]
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Bangalore: In my previous article, I had picked on the media over its participation in Indian cricket. Since the media plays an indirect role I was compelled to touch on that topic. I chose to keep the cricketing aspects aside - not for a moment to mean that they were not responsible, while I deliberated over the media.

I chose it as an introductory piece, which could then be at the backdrop of future analysis.

I must say that Wright and company have brought joy to Indian cricket over the past year or so; there is no doubting that fact. Having said that, they have left more questions unanswered. They have been found wanting in many areas.

For a nation, which wholeheartedly backs this sport as a religion, the returns are absolutely meagre.

We threw away a series in Zimbabwe, which was there for the taking, we failed to beat West Indies and England (away series); two average placed teams at this point in time, and we were smothered in the Kiwi land. So much for Test cricket!

However, the success in the One-day arena was heartening but even there we seem to be floundering off late.

Let me dwell just on the New Zealand series, keeping the freshness of things in mind.

To be fair to the Indians, the prevailing conditions were extreme and severe and quite a few matches were close. It could have gone any away, which would have changed the balance of things. And that is precisely where I would like to throw in my opinion.

I found the Indians to be very rigid in a few areas - I felt, they failed to change their strategy and approach accordingly.

They were dumped in conditions where runs would not be found everywhere and so instead of re-sizing their target and going about things in a more conventional manner they stuck to their guns. As a result, where 180 to 200 would have been a good enough total they ended up being bowled out for 60 or 70 less, which they would have otherwise earned had they occupied the crease. This is where I found them rigid in their approach.

Coming to strategy, I thought Dravid was being played as a wicket-keeper to add flexibility to the balance of the side. It either meant you played the extra bat or the extra bowler according to what the situation warranted.

There was a genuine case for an extra bowler (4th seamer) to be fitted in. A bowler in these conditions would have been more handy than an extra batsman (it doesn't necessarily mean Kaif has to be out). Even if they did not want to budge from that seven batsmen idea, they could have played the seamer instead of the spinner.

At least on two occasions when India was defending a target, the three seamers had done sufficient to get India close to victory. However, we lacked the fourth seamer to finish things off. Given the smallness of the target all the Kiwi lower order did was see off the threat in the seamers.

Once their quota was done it was the spinner and the lesser-known fifth bowler who were unable to sustain the pressure, let alone penetrate, and as a result the New Zealand lower order knocked off the necessary runs.

Even when it came to the batting department they failed to change their strategy. Given the conditions where run-making would be a difficult art they should have sent their best artists on top. There was a very good case for Dravid and the more accomplished technicians to occupy slots at the top of the order. Even there they refused to budge.

I am not saying had these things been done they would have surely won but I am confident it would have given them a better chance of winning; with the kind of stock they had at their disposal.

Apart from gauging the conditions one needs to assess the stock on hand and formulate strategies accordingly.

Though the results make it out to be a drubbing, I feel the Indians were always in with a chance and could have changed the look of things had they played their cards right.


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