Can Indians do a Mohammad Ali in NatWest?

Written by: Sunil Vasudeva
Published: Thursday, September 2, 2004, 18:20 [IST]
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"Same stuff, different day," is how many use to describe the monotony of their jobs or other undertakings. After the first match of the NatWest Challenge, which, by the way, was nothing of a challenge, saw the Indians capitulate like ninepins once again. Thus, for the Indian cricket team it is, "Same sorry start, different location". I am beginning to wonder if the title of the tourney should be changed to "NatWest Carnage" instead.

Both captains had wishes prior to this match. Vaughan hoped Harmison would come in good and Ganguly hoped his batsmen would. Vaughan's hopes received a resounding answer with Harmison answering his captain's faith through a glorious hat-trick. Ganguly was made to look like a fool (aren't we getting tired of this) by his "famed" batting line-up. He was hoping "they" would come through "shortly". Well Sourav, this NatWest series is only 3 ODIs long, how do you define "shortly"?

Irfan Pathan had a rare failure, Balaji did very well with 2 for 37 from his 10 overs, one of which was a maiden! Anil Kumble cut a sorry figure conceding 57 from 6.2 overs. Nehra was not all that impressive either.

Seems that the Indians are going from the projected #2 spot to the new "minnows" of cricket. Also we saw proof positive, that sans Tendulkar, the Indians are an altogether different outfit. Hopefully he'll recover in time for the Champions Trophy.

Whenever India has produced a star player, instead of using him sensibly, they've overused him. Cases in point; when Kapil Dev first burst on to the cricket scene, he was so injudiciously used that he had to have knee operations. Javagal Srinath met with the same situation having his rotator cuff operated on and he ended up with bad knees too. Anil Kumble broke down from overuse, as did Harbhajan. When is the Indian thinktank going to learn? How many more good players can they afford to have invalided to injuries.

Look for Rahul Dravid to be added to that list soon with his double duties. He is no Adam Gilchrist! If that is the goal of the Indian think tank, it is a move in a very wrong direction. Barry Richards commented on the makeup of the Indian squad that if six batsmen cannot get the job done, seven cannot make a difference. The Indians proved him wrong to some extent in this match. Had it not been for Kaif and Gavaskar (#6 and #7), another critic would have been vindicated. Greg Chappell's "Choker" tag for India being the other that has received a lot of supporting evidence.

In one of my earlier columns, I had stated that England had definitely made more progress than India. I still believe that the Indians have it in them to reverse the trend. However, how often have the Indians rebounded after receiving the first punch? Hey Indians! Remember 1974 in Zaire. George Foreman floored Mohammad Ali early in that famous "Rumble in the Jungle" bout, but Ali came back to win in a resounding fashion. Can the Indians do a "Mohammed Ali" against the English who've now floored them once? India is down for the count but not out yet. Only they can reverse that trend and no amount of counseling, advising, etc. can match will power.

Will India power their way back? If the Indians can rise to the top, it will show that one does not need to be brash and rude to get there ala the Aussies. Make your critics eat their words in ignominy and not in smug satisfaction!

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