Who loves the Indian team?

Written by: Sunil Vasudeva
Published: Friday, October 22, 2004, 15:52 [IST]
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The Indian team said it was the umpires who did them in at Bangalore. Although, one can also say the pitch curators did the Indians in by preparing one that would hand the match to the toss winner. If the Indian team felt that nobody loved them then, that's okay because people are involved. But, when the weather plays the same heartbreaking tricks then what? Understandably the Indians are crestfallen.

To add insult to injury, pace sensation Irfan Pathan has been sidelined for the rest of the series due to a side strain. In my previous column when I questioned whether some of the Indian players would break down again, Irfan was the last person I had in mind! It is hardly reassuring to find out that Ashish Nehra is his replacement. He has hardly done anything of repute in Tests as of yet. This is just another case of TINA (There Is No Alternative) replacing a player who can bat and bowl with one who can't do either.

Apparently the pitch at Nagpur is a batting paradise and one cannot envision the Indian bowling attack getting rid of the Aussies twice although the Aussies doing that to the Indians can happen. How often has the Indian batting line-up fallen in unison upon the dismissal of one key player? Had it not been for the rain, I firmly believe the Indians would have squared the series. Alas! That did not happen.

The Indian team can take a leaf out of Imran Khan's quotes. He always lauded Indian cricket when it was deserving of such as well as constructive criticism when warranted. This man rejuvenated his 1992 World Cup squad by his famous "Fight like wounded tigers" motto. India can do the same. They have nothing to lose. Give it all they've got at Nagpur and then continue the fight all the way into Mumbai. Folding up would be the cowardly thing to do.

Chennai was more like 'Chin'nai for the Indians as they got one on the chin via the weather. Hopefully Nagpur won't give the Indians a 'Nag'ative response and Mumbai won't leave the Indians 'Mum'bling about missed chances either. The Indians, however, do have to work harder now. This is where their fitness comes into the real test. The Aussies have almost conquered their final frontier. Can the Indians spoil that pursuit?

One cannot help but feel sorry for the Indians. However, this point counts against them in that they were the ones who should have started with a 'Bang' at Bangalore. Instead, they did such a 'Bang' up job of practically everything under the sun. Rain was also forecasted there which would have been a blessing for the struggling Indians. However, the weather played the cruel card on India and held off, and then did a reverse in Chennai much to the chagrin of the Indians. Would it help to have a reserve day just like in ODIs if a day's play is washed out? In this way, evenly poised matches can produce results rather than a stalemate.

Full points to Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh for their polished performance. Parthiv Patel needs to realise that missed chances can cost a whole game. He is playing a man's game and cannot be a boy behind the stumps and except the youth card to work in his favour all the time. This is Australia they're playing not an ICC associate member squad.

According to latest media reports, Anil Kumble wants to win the series for India. Apart from him, Harbhajan Singh, and Virender Sehwag look like the only ones concerned about the same goal.

So at this juncture, the Aussies have won on all fronts. In Bangalore, two of their batsmen scored centuries to India's none. In Chennai, Sehwag blazes 155 and Australia replied in kind with Damien Martyn. The only players who truly won a battle or two for India are Harbhajan Singh and Anil Kumble. But for those silver linings, the Aussies have pretty much said this to India, "What you do, we can do even better!"

All indications point to the same thing. The Indians are ready to hand over the "final frontier" to the Aussies on a golden platter. For a team that is pampered to the nth degree, they surely can turn out one polished performance. If not, then all the time, effort, and money have gone to sheer waste. How sad if that were proved true in this series! Fortune favours the brave, and that is Australia so far in this series.

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