Don't make Team India infallibles

Written by: Sunil Vasudeva
Published: Monday, November 22, 2004, 14:11 [IST]
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Beginning with the final frontier convincingly going to the Aussies and then the technical knock out at Eden Gardens from Pakistan, the Indian team is going from upset to upset. This in turn is making many an Indian fan upset over the whole matter.

It is understandable that many are annoyed at the Indian team's recent performance (or lack of it) because of the fact that the Indian players get the best of everything while in training. Also, the way the media in India has idolised these players, putting them on pedestals via the forklift of endless flattery no matter how they perform. To add fuel to that fire are advertisements ad nauseum on the TV screens depicting the Indian cricket players as infallible rather than mortal. Is it any wonder then as to why the shock when these same players are overwhelmingly defeated from match to match?

The en-masse disappointments will stop only when the Indian cricket players are treated like mortals, capable of failing every now and then. When the Aussies were skittled out for a meager 93 runs in the last Test at Mumbai, we never heard reports of people taking it to the streets in Australia. True, they had already sealed the series by then. All the same, there is no knee jerk reaction from the fans there. This is because the Australian players, albeit number one in both forms of the game, are never depicted by the media there as infallible super humans.

While the pressure to perform is also there for the Aussies, it is not so excruciatingly burdensome like the one on Team India. May be a good start then would be to portray the Indian players as ones apt to make mistakes once in a while. True, Team India has done itself no favours by many a spineless batting essay compounded by the bowlers spraying the ball all over and the fielders unable to stem the run deluge. We need to realise, however, that they were playing the strongest team in the world. Now we fully know why Australia is billed as highest-ranked team at present.

What can be a big help to Team India is to have wickets of all kinds to practice on - fast ones, uneven bounce ones, viciously spinning ones and so on. This way during the training phase (which should be longer than just a few weeks or months prior to a tour) the batsmen get the experience of batting on every surface and the bowlers get their confidence boosted by pitches that cooperate with their bowling style and for those no acclimatised to such, the time to adjust and increase their chances to succeed. This way the pitch curators can do what they want, Team India will rise to all occasions. Another thing that Team India must do is that even in a hiatus between tours, rather than running from location to location making advertising mega-bucks, why not practice, practice, practice? Is cricket just a form of recreation for them or is it truly in their blood? That is why, Irfan Pathan won so many admirers because during long breaks between tours, he was seen going back to the MRF foundation to hone his skills. Here is a humble youngster who does not think that he is a "know it all" as far as bowling is concerned. Will the seniors in the team emulate Pathan's willingness to learn? Or are they really "know it all" players? If they are, then why the repeated failures? That in itself is testimony aplenty that they are not paragons in their forte yet.

Just as the Indian cricket team have their die-hard detractors, recently they have received commendation and support from many. Merv Hughes went on record to say that in his eyes, India is the number two team in Test cricket. Also, Imran Khan and Wasim Akram sent many comforting messages to Team India. Above all and by no means least, when was the last time Australia were dismissed for under a 100 runs chasing a target of slightly over a 100 runs? Isn't that an accomplishment worthy of an honourable mention?

The media should stop exalting the Indian players to pedestals that portray them as infallible. The advertisers should stop running to them as well to advertise everything under the sun. It is nice to see that some are already following this trend by having the Aussies under their studio lights. Treat the players not as ones who reside in unapproachable limelight. Make earning the Indian cap just as tough as getting the baggy green ala Australia. For that to be accomplished, the structure of Indian cricket should be made competitive with competitive pitches that bring out the best in the batsmen and bowlers and not one at the cost of the other. The fruitage of such efforts will be there for all to see. It will only be a matter of time and as the adage goes "Time Heals All Wounds", and in Team India's case even make them not so defeat prone.

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