After 2nd ODI against Pak
The loss is not what pains me. It happens to the best of them and it will keep happening. What pains is the cowardly approach to the task on hand ... the tails between the legs mentality ... the shame of being represented by those bunch of wimps. One way I am glad the BCCI says the team does not represent the Indian cricket team. At least we can pretend we have nothing to do with them; who knows, the feeling of shame might reduce. Who am I fooling here?
The first test where Pakistan took a draw and the third test where they took a win just lends force to a feeling that has been building up over time. I am not saying this coz of this Pakistan series; just that this series lends weight to the argument. It is just a pattern which has consistently emerged over the past couple of years. Ever since the world cup of 2003, the Indian team has stopped learning; they have stopped their march towards the pinnacle of the cricket world. Under the Ganguly / Wright leadership, we were moving towards being a force. That all stopped with the world cup; we didn't fall back a lot but we didn't move forward an inch.
News is that John Wright is moving on. Some say he wants to spend time with his family and some say he would be applying for the coach's job in South Africa. How I hope it is true; either of the two theories; coz it is evident that John Wright has taught the Indian team whatever he was capable of teaching them. The Indian team has absorbed many a valuable lesson from the Kiwi but now the teacher seems to have nothing else to teach. Hence the same, mundane performance time and again and the same, tired excuses. Enough! Time to shelve the old and bring in the new and John Wright is well past his expiry date. After the first test, Wright talked about "India lacking the killer instinct" ... Yep, that was evident to all of us but we even used to talk about it before Wright became coach. The coach righted many wrongs in the Indian team, taught them a lot, brought along a lot of discipline in the team but as he himself said "They lack the killer instinct" ... maybe he should have said "After 4 years of of my trying, they STILL lack the killer instinct ... I have no clue what to do about it."
Blaming the coach for all ills would not be very kind coz he is not the only ailment for a team filled with promise. From the players point of view, the rot starts right at the top where Ganguly holds onto a spot that I could seriously challenge for, if it is to be decided on merit. I am sure I couldn't score less than what he does. A lucky inside edge or two and I might even outscore him.
Ganguly's test career exists today coz he is the captain of the Indian team (or the BCCI team, whichever). Till the time he is captain, India will always go into a match one batsman down. He can talk about a lean patch and scoring runs in the past and not scoring only in the recent test or two ... he can talk all he wants but it is my opinion that Sourav Ganguly will lose his test spot the day he loses his captaincy. It is my opinion that Sourav Ganguly is no longer capable of batting at the test level. That, however, is different from his being the captain of the test team.
The two are different, and make no mistake about it. As an on field captain, he was never brilliant even when results suggested he was the best. His strength lay as the off field motivator / planner / team - builder for which even his critics would not grudge him his due. It may sound cruel but the task is more or less done. When Ganguly took over the captaincy, there was no cohesion and no direction. It took Ganguly 4 long years to build the team that exists today but today it is he that stops it from aiming higher. He has made the structure of the team and that was the hard job. Today the structure is weakened by a Ganguly who takes up a spot in the eleven. Sounds cruel as I write it but the statement also has a ring of soundness to it.
Many argue it is a matter of form and like Ganguly backed Yuveraj / Sehwag / Bhajji etc, it is time for him to be backed. However, it must be noted that none of Sehwag / Bhajji / Yuveraj were captain of the team and none of them were automatic choices in the team. I have nothing against Ganguly battling the contenders for the spot in the eleven ... May the best man win ... but I have every objection to having a man up top who doesn't get his place on merit. The very principle of the argument is incorrect. Bhajji fought his way back; Yuveraj fought his way back; Sehwag did too; Let Ganguly fight his way back ... who objects?
Ganguly's batting has deteriorated over time and it will take time for him to re-discover his talents. He might never do it. One thing is certain and that is that he will not re-discover those talents while day in and day out, he is thinking about declarations, batting line ups, bowling combinations and so on. So backing him today will be of no use unless u give him the time to improve and that time will come only when he is no longer part of the national team. He may become the Ganguly of old or he may not but one way or other, team India will benefit coz they can play an on-field contributor.
In the first two ODIs, Ganguly has scored miserably but I do not despair for him where ODIs are concerned. He was the best ODI batsman in the team two years back and if not the best, he can still dish it out. In ODIs, I feeling it is more of a matter of getting him the correct batting slot. Simply put, ODI cricket doesn't require the talents that test cricket does and the deterioration of Ganguly's talents thus don't affect him a lot in ODI cricket. You don't require to be "God on the off side" if the simple plan in ur mind is to step out of the crease and tonk them over covers and point.
My assessment of India's test fortunes is simple - John Wright is right. India lacks the killer instinct. That is all separates this team from greatness ... ok, that might sound exaggerated but lets put it this way - that is all that separates it from being a challenger to Australia. We have good results against Australia (not withstanding the home series defeat recently) but simply put - If India and Australia play 10 matches, I would back Australia to win 8-2 every time ... I know India will have its days ... but I also know Australia will have more. It could be 8-2 for India but for that they need that missing ingredient - killer instinct. John Wright as coach and Ganguly as captain cannot provide it.
They say Greg Chappell is the hot contender for the coach's job. True or false, if an Aussie can't succeed in making this team a winner, no one will.
Wanted to post on Dhoni but just don't have time. Many times I want to say - "Man, his play is so ugly ... whether it be his shotmaking or his stance while keeping" ... but used properly, this guy could be our Gilchrist. I am not kidding here ... Gilchrist is much much much more finely tuned but this guy is a raw diamond ... how he is polished now really depends on him and the team management. Hmmm ... actually it requires a Ganguly ... lol ... naah, it requires a sensible man at the head of affairs. Whoever it is must remember one thing - when one has a sword, one should not try to pluck flowers with it ... one should try cutting steel ... Dhoni should be utilized in the way he is most destructive and not be a project for "lets make a batsman out of him ... lets teach him the leg glance ... lets teach him to defend the ball after hitting a four ... lets teach him to keep bat and pad close together". Basically, we need an Aussie to propel the weapon called Dhoni.
Make no mistake ... Dhoni is no complete batsman ... his technique might be worse than Ganguly's and that is saying a lot ... he scored 148 last match and he might edge the first ball to the keeper in the next. But the combination of his decent keeping and his match winning batting ability makes him a winner in my book ... both at the test and ODI level.