Monday, February 3, 2014

Indians. Abroad. Woeful.

When I was a little kid, my mother would be very skeptical to send me out to the market to buy bread, ketch-up or ice-cream. I was an extremely naughty child who could hold the best to ransom within the confines of my home. But I would get cheated more often than not at the hands of some street smart shopkeepers who would either hand me a torn note or an item nearing its expiration date (or worse sometimes, items already expired). Thus venturing out of my house would make me doubt my own abilities as I remembered the scars of my previous scolding by my parents after returning home duped.

The Indian Cricket team must experience the exact same torrent of feelings that I used to go through whilst I was still a child. While the team can blank the very best on its own grounds the same group gets blanked out collectively when they venture outside of India. The scars of 0-4 losses to Australia and England in tests are something that even the Indian cricket team fans carry till date. Recently the Indian side lost 0-2 in the 3 match ODI series in South Africa and 0-1 in the 2 match test series. We have now lost 0-4 in the 5 match ODI series to New Zealand.

The opening pair of Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma, both of whom look a million dollars while playing in India, look more like out of circulation currency whilst taking guard abroad. They plant their front foot forward and play through the line of the ball which hardly bounces above the knee in India but are left groping and hopping overseas where the ball swings both ways and rears up at their face. They were so slow with their opening partnerships in New Zealand, it was almost like watching a terminally ill patient die a slow painful death.

Virat Kohli and Mahendra Singh Dhoni along with Ajinkya Rahane seem to me to be the only batsmen in this current lineup who can stand up to the fast bowlers in a foreign country. They have reasonably sound technique against the short ball and they all play the ball late which is always a pre-requisite whilst batting in testing conditions. There is the classy Cheteshwar Pujara, off course, who must be a regular considering our woeful batting order but he has been left out to accommodate Suresh Raina, another slogger who is unable to handle even an iota of pace and bounce let alone seam and swing.

The bowlers tell a story which is eerily similar to that which our batsmen seem to narrate. While pacers like Mohd. Shami, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Varun Aaron all have the pace and the skill to deliver testing spells they are all still very much a work in progress as they are all in the nascent stages of their career. They have all shown us glimpses, both in South Africa as well as in New Zealand that they have pace and can move the ball too. They must be persisted with and given maximum chances so that they can flower into useful resources in the near future.

Ashwin, so successful on the Indian dustbowls is regularly grinded into the dust himself when bowling abroad. He is neither able to keep the run scoring in check nor does he seem capable of picking up wickets. Why is he being persisted with, so regularly, does not make any real sense to me? Is it because he plays for the same IPL team as Dhoni is anyone’s guess!! Ishant is another bowler who seems to have more bad days than good and is still being played while we have better options warming the bench. While I can am all for giving players a long enough rope as chopping and changing can do no good to the team but the player in question must show the willingness to learn from his past mistakes and make efforts to overcome his shortcomings. Some players in this current team lack that zeal and seem oblivious to the fact that they must get better or else risk losing their place.

MSD has to take a call on players like Raina, Ishant and Ashwin and must be ready to drop them if they do not perform. We have better replacements for all these players in Pujara, Aaron/Yadav and Ojha/Mishra who must also be given time to prove themselves. He must be a little positive with his field placing during the middle over’s of an ODI with an intent on picking up wickets. India seem too happy to spread out the field in this phase and give the opposition easy singles and twos only to see the opposition blast in the last 10-15 overs and post a mammoth score. The opening batsmen must score briskly and whence they have consumed overs with a low scoring rate they must try to bat out till the end and make up for the slow score. Rotating the strike is very important so that a bowler is not able to work on a single batsman and plan him out. The bowlers must keep things simple and must keep attacking even in the middle overs by looking to get the opposition batsmen out. Containing does not work as with wickets in hand our bowlers are sitting duck.

As I grew up my fear of going to the markets, alone, subsided. I learnt how to deal with people who were keen to get the better of me. Yes, I am still duped sometimes but such incidents are now far and few in between. It’s high time that India gave a better account of them while playing away from home. They are no longer kids. Yes, they will not win every match, but they must try not to lose every match. That, in itself, will be a big achievement for starters!!

I am looking forward to the upcoming test series between India and New Zealand to see if they have learnt their lessons. What are your predictions? I am holding mine close to my hearts this time around!!


Vishal Kataria said...

Well written post!

In a parallel universe, the Indian cricket team will be invincible abroad but will lose all matches at home ;)

Vinay Leo R. said...

Indians.Abroad.Useless = Understatement.

Thankfully, your post makes an excellent statement. They have a year to improve drastically. Else we can kiss the World Cup goodbye :P

DS said...

@ Vishal Kataria

Haha! Yes, true!!

DS said...

@ Leo

Yeah, Unless they improve drastically, especially mentally, I guess we can kiss the WC goodbye.
If we are performing against the Kiwi team like this, I shudder what SA or Australia will do to this bunch come 2015!

Karthik L said...

Good analysis. Nice to see you back on the blog.