India's rise built on competition

Published: Thursday, November 3, 2005, 15:16 [IST]
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Colombo:It is time to now take a serious note of India. It was all too easy in Nagpur and Mohali but this was the first real challenge they faced in the series.

They did not panic or change their approach in the third cricket one-dayer in Jaipur. They came out swinging and showed the surge of belief, which is running through their veins.

It is too early but a seriously good team is in the making now. Batting is flexible and is being groomed to adapt to different situations and different slots. Opposition can struggle to plan in advance. Bowling and fielding are both on the mend. India’s rise has taken the world by surprise.

I feel it has happened because they have built competitions for spots. When a senior pro like Sourav Ganguly cannot find a place, and he would soon I am sure, it brings the hunger back in the team. There is no other magic in this transformation. This is exactly what we ignored in Sri Lanka in recent years.

In mid-90s, we followed the same route and men like Sanath Jayasuriya, Mahela Jayawardene and Chaminda Vaas in due course first became the integral part and then lynchpin of the team.

The likes of Dilshan and Russel Arnold were brought in by the old gang. But past few years have been an antithesis to this theory.

The past administration could not look beyond its nose and wanted wins at all costs. They dumped the long-term planning. We didn’t prepare alternatives for our seniors and are now stuck in the mire. India has done it in three months, we can also do the same if we follow their lead.

I believe this theory will get its logical extension when the duo of Rahul Dravid and Greg Chappell choose to rotate the seniors once the series has been sealed, probably in Pune itself. There is talk of resting Sachin Tendulkar and I am in support of it.

Tendulkar needs to be looked after properly. A thoroughbred must only run in Derby. You can ask for his services for everyday routine. Such a theory will keep throwing alternatives and jostling for spots. Anyone who gets the place would approach it with hunger.

Mahendra Singh Dhoni is not a slogger, he has proper defence. The same as it was with Ramesh Kaluwitharana in the 90s. He backs himself both in executing strokes, recall those sixes over long-on with fielders placed for mishits, as well as in shifting gears according to situation.

It speaks of a selfless approach. He would still have been a hero after his hundred. But he looked at the bigger goal for the team. Cramp or no cramp, he soldiered on. Such men have invaluable impact in the dressing room.

I am disappointed with a few of our tactics. The bowling and fielding have been unimaginative and routine. The attempt in the field should always be to create doubts in batsmen’s mind.

In our times, we used to do it by staying put in dressing room and rummaging through those long hours of video of day’s play. It helped us plan against the opposition batsmen and bowlers. Now technology has improved by leaps and bounds. A click can summon a full dossier on a batsman or bowler. But it is proving of little use.

Ideally, a one-day team should have six dependable batsmen, three allrounders and three good fast bowlers who can work well in tandem. Even though Ferveez Mahroof has been taken to cleaners, I support him.

We need bowling allrounders and Mahroof has the making. At the moment he is being defeated by placid pitches and extraordinary Indian openers in Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag.

It is not as if Sri Lanka has shown no progress. They put up a good total on the board and it came because the two best batsmen of the side — Kumara Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene — fired. But if the team is honest they would admit these two alone have been leading the batting charge in recent months. Others need to pull their weight.

This Indian side can only be subdued by 11 charged and committed men, marauding like a hungry pack of wolves. Otherwise, I suspect a 7-0 drubbing, so much has Sri Lanka fallen behind in the present series.

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