The agony of pampering and pillorying

Written by: Vineesh Krishnan
Published: Wednesday, July 21, 2004, 20:30 [IST]
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Inzamam asked a very pertinent question in his column for Hindustan Times. He wanted the pundits and the media to spare a thought for the Pakistan team. Every one was saying India was rusty after a three month sabbatical. His point was, 'Pakistan too is in the same position'.

The Pakistan Senate has again come to haunt the team with its never-ending questions. They have chosen the worst time possible to come out with their queries. This move could result in adverse effects in the psyche of the players and may reflect in their performances. May be it has happened already. While I write this, Sri Lanka has scuttled the Pakistan batting to get them all out for a paltry 122 and Shoaib is bowling with the expression of a desolate vagabond at a recalcitrant Jayasuriya who seems undaunted before the fiery pace.

After all the turmoil and mental agony that Shoaib has gone through, again a victim of the haphazard way Pakistan cricket is run, Shoaib cannot be his normal self again. One can clearly see the fire in his eyes has diminished. His wide toothy smile clearly hides the pain of humiliation he underwent at the hands of his captain and his country's cricket administration.

Although Pakistan mercilessly thrashed minnows Hong Kong and defeated Bangladesh in the first round of the Asia Cup, the effect of all that taunting by the Pak cricket administration, the media and the public is bound to hurt and leave an unhealed wound. In addition, that could have a negative impact on the self-confidence of the team when facing strong opponents like India and Sri Lanka.

If Pakistan was whipped by the media, public and administration, India was pampered by them. Many young players who played in the friendship series are already super stars with fat contracts tucked under their belt. The world media taking the baton from the Indian media has heaped praises upon the Indian team and unofficially ranked them as the No 2 team in the world after Australia though ICC rankings tell a different story.

India came into Asia Cup as favourites and the aura of winners, both of which, they are not familiar with. As the media shouted from the roof top that India looked a bit rusty, India relied on Dravid to defeat UAE and lost to Sri Lanka after another batting collapse and fire-fighting, again by Dravid.

Remember, Pakistan won a Test against India. All the five One-dayers were closely fought ones. They never deserved the fanatic criticism levelled against them. It was a classic example of unhealthy criticism damaging the morale of the persons targeted by it.

Pakistan are still a great team with the talent they possess they can achieve any high pedestals of world cricket. If only they are relieved of the temper tantrums thrown out by everyone back home over a single failure can they bring out their true potential.

I wonder why Indians are rusty after all that training they went through. By now, they should have had overcome their deficiencies and emerged stronger. Instead, some of them appear clueless and are mere shadows of themselves in the last season. Was all those training and brouhaha on fitness just a farce to intimidate opponents and part of the pampering of Indian cricket players?

If what was reported by Tehelka as said by Indian team's fitness trainer Gregory Allan King is true, Indian team is in a mess. The report said that Sourav Ganguly, Sachin Tendulkar, Yuvraj Singh and Zaheer Khan ranked very low in terms of fitness as assessed by King.

May be the Indian team is facing the same problem faced by Pakistanis in a different way. The fear of failure and the aftermath of it must be looming large on their minds. The higher you are, harder you fall. In this regard, Pakistanis, who have come through the worst, must be better of than Indians. That might be the reason why Tendulkar and his skipper are so cautious even against minnows Bangladesh.

India's performances against Pakistan and Sri Lanka in the Asia Cup Super League will hopefully answer my queries. India may continue to have the tag of winners, or revert to being perennial underdogs. Let's wait and see.

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