India's weak points too obvious

Written by: Sunil Vasudeva
Published: Tuesday, October 26, 2004, 20:41 [IST]
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Sourav Ganguly expressing his obvious displeasure at the Nagpur wicket should not be used against him. He's just stating the obvious that the whole cricket world knows; pace is not India's forte. The pitch curator swears that the wicket will take spin towards the end. However, once again we have a pitch that decides the winner of the Test by the coin toss. That's hardly fair to the Indians who are supposed to have tailor-made wickets at home. The curators are yet to understand that home advantage does not mean toss advantage too.

Whenever the Indians travel abroad, their hosts prepare wickets to suit the home team. Why are the Indian pitch curators playing Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde? And that too against the home team! It has come to the point that playing in India is no longer a "home field" advantage for the Indians. It seems like the pitch curators want to see India lose. They derive some sort of sadistic pleasure from that.

There are big differences between the Indian squad and the Aussie squad. The Aussies have the better batting line-up contrary to who is better "on paper". In the pace department, however, Glenn McGrath is rated as "Fast Medium" just like Zaheer Khan. Even though pace-wise Zaheer maybe a shade quicker, McGrath is leagues ahead in accuracy. His ability to pitch the ball on an advantageous spot time and time again is well documented. The Nagpur wicket will be like a dream come true for him. Watch out India!

This is where the clear demarcation line is between India and Australia besides the batting strength. The Indian pacer has the speed but accuracy is found wanting all the time. The Aussie bowler by comparison, like Glenn McGrath, makes up for his lack of speed with a nagging accuracy that even makes Sachin Tendulkar look like a novice. The only bowler in the currently touring Aussie team with real speed right now is Jason Gillespie and he is quite a batsman too as the Indians are quickly finding out.

We can see where the Aussies' priorities lie. They didn't include Brett Lee in the squad to India! None of the Indian pacers can match Brett Lee in terms of speed and variety. Can we imagine India omitting Zaheer Khan, or Irfan Pathan from their line-ups? No Way! If India had a bowler of McGrath's calibre or that of Gillespie they'd probably be rendered useless through overuse but never due to lack of use. It is all about endurance and physical fitness levels that are like a roller-coaster ride for India at present.

Why can't pace be one of India's plus points? Spin already is an asset in the form of Harbhajan Singh and Anil Kumble. Can one imagine what a formidable side India would be with pacers who are in the same bracket as their Aussie counterparts? Then forget the #2 spot, the #1 spot would not be a distant dream but a next door neighbour!

The Indians have it in them to emulate the Aussies. India certainly has the talent or at least I hope so. The MRF pace academy surprisingly has yielded more rewards to overseas pacers than the Indians in whose home they are based! Something is really amiss here. Can the Indian thinktank discover the missing link? Is it with the players or with the selection process? Does India lack talent? That cannot be for the nation has over a billion people. Surely one can find talent there.

In 1985, Sunil Gavaskar, instead of lamenting the lack of pacers used spinners as his strike bowlers in the Benson & Hedges World Championship of Cricket. And those were ODI games! A realm of cricket where spinners are seldom the strike bowlers. If Gavaskar could do it why not Ganguly? What is stopping Ganguly from doing that? Remember, the aforementioned tournament was played in Australia and India triumphed unbeaten!

Would it be of any help to go down memory lane and see what made the Indians click then. How about the 1983 squad that won the World Cup? At that time the foreign media marveled at the Indian fielding skills. Remember Yashpal Sharma's run out of Allan Lamb? Gatting was also out of his crease and Yashpal was closer to the end Gatting was running towards. However, realising that Lamb was the one in ominous touch, Yashpal rifled in a torpedo-like accurate throw to run out Lamb on the other end! What genius! Gatting soon followed the path to the pavilion after his uncomfortable stay at the wicket. That's what turned the match for India to cruise into the finals.

Sometimes it helps to reflect on the past and use the lessons learned for the future. The Indians need to do such reflection and then take positive action and not get lost in yesterday land.

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