Sunday, February 27, 2011

Team India, dismantled and analyzed

Update: Dhoni said this in his post-match interview, but I was seething after the game so didn't stick around to watch it. Listening to the water while walking around the shore aimlessly cooled me down and let me reflect on the games to come. India has one thing going for it: its batting. A batting effort can only go so far to hide the inefficacy of the other 2 departments: bowling and fielding. Being unable to defend 338 runs sends a message to both India's batsmen and the opponents. The batsmen psyche themselves into taking undue risks because they know they have to score a lot of runs at better than a run-a-ball - an unsustainable feat even for the likes of Sachin and Viru. The opponents believe that they are always in the game regardless of the enormity of their target; if England could do it, so can they. Both messages are detrimental to India's chances of holding the Cup aloft. The captain, team (bowlers, I am talking to you), coach and selectors best get their heads together and devise a plan. Or, kiss the Cup goodbye.

V Sehwag
- Nothing to add about Viru. He sticks to his game-plan, which is a rarity in this motley crue of cricketers.
SR Tendulkar
- For some reason, his centuries are almost always in vain. India loses because hubris sets in after a huge score has been posted on the board. He walks out with his head held high, gives it his best, and walks off with his head - and ours - held higher.
G Gambhir
- Great foil to the aggression of Sehwag. Only thing he needs to work on is his fielding.
Yuvraj Singh
- Mercurial. Inconsistent. Sublime and ridiculous. The mood of the team derives from his mood, so he needs to be upbeat, always!
MS Dhoni
- Winningest Indian captain, so can't really call him out for his decisions, but his bowling changes today were rubbish.
YK Pathan
- All-rounder and great fielder, so the only thing I'd ask off him is to work on his bowling in the death. He tends to bowl short and stray on the leg-side. As a bowling strategy, this isn't really one to write home about.
V Kohli
- Touted as the best fielder on the Indian team, but hasn't lived up to this billing. Needs to lose the sunglasses, hunker down, and inspire his teammates with his dives and jumps on the field. A treat to watch as a batsman, but in today's game, that isn't enough.
Harbhajan Singh
- The 2nd Indian spearhead. Bhajji bhai, you need to reach out to the junior bowlers in a manner they can digest, and dispel wisdom on how to deal with batsmen that aim to dominate. Piyush Chawla really needs this guidance.
Zaheer Khan
- The spearhead. The thinker's bowler. Enough said.
PP Chawla
- Has turned in a run of mediocre performances but he takes wickets. Tends to be inconsistent, too short, and bowls the wrong line. To let tail-enders hit 2 sixes off your last bowler, the 49th of a massive run chase, is plain unacceptable. You need to aspire to the greatness of Shane Warne, not the mediocrity of the last bowler you replaced on the Indian squad.
MM Patel
- Refer notes for Piyush Chawla. Good in sparks, but there aren't enough sparks to warrant praise.
Suresh Raina
- 12th man, young kid who isn't doing his due diligence to merit inclusion in the playing 11. When you're a substitute, you need to pull back runs, latch on to impossible catches, and make the 11 uncertain of their position on the team. With you waiting in the wings and playing the way you are, there is no fear in any of the 11 that their position is in jeopardy.

To summarize:
- Inconsistent performances need to be penalized.
- Bowling is sub-par, but there are simple things that can address the issues. First thing to do: have a plan. Second: stick to the plan. And don't forget, bowling short and/or bowling on middle and leg is a bad idea regardless of the conditions.
- Hubris is entrenched; it needs to be eviscerated. There is no place for hubris in modern sports. You're not the anointed champions; you can earn the right to be called champions, but nothing is ordained.