Columns - Straight Drive

Where mind is willing; flesh is weak

By Anupam Pratihary
Wednesday, June 17, 2021
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It’s funny how worms tend to crawl out of the can in times of defeat. But what’s not so funny is that often they come out with a purpose. Following India’s defeat in the 2009 World Twenty20 tournament, worms are crawling out again.

It started with Sehwag whom the team lost due to injury just ahead of a major tournament. Now injuries have forced Sachin Tendulkar, Zaheer Khan and Suresh Raina to sit out the forthcoming ODI series in West Indies. Indeed injuries are part of international sporting careers but the frequency with which Indian players are picking up injuries is alarming. 

Indian coach Gary Kirsten believes that niggles and low-intensity matches of the IPL were the contributing factors to India’s disappointing show in the World Twenty20 tournament. He even went a step further to suggest that players of the Indian team should be pulled out of the IPL if the team is scheduled to play a major international tournament or bilateral tour soon after.
 

Yuvraj Singh is stumped by James Foster at Lord's. © AFP
It was rather candid and professional on the part of Kirsten to acknowledge the malaise per se and then offer a suggestion. Having travelled with the team for the last one and half years (joined as coach in Dec 2007), Kirsten has been given the credit for India’s rising, both in performance and stature in international cricket. Players like Gautam Gambhir and Virender Sehwag have acknowledged Kirsten’s role in their improved batting performance ever since he has joined the team.
 
Unlike his predecessor, Kirsten has silently and tirelessly worked with the team and the results are there to be seen, perhaps the only aberration being the World Twenty20 tournament.
 
The question is when the same coach is analyzing the team’s debacle, why is he being gagged? After having travelled with the team for more than a year, isn’t the coach supposed to know what has gone wrong with his team? Shouldn’t the BCCI look into the matter instead of asking the coach to refrain from making any statement?
 
The team under Dhoni’s captaincy is undergoing its first major crisis. The captain was candid when he said that his boys failed as a team. He also admitted that a few players were carrying injuries and that reflected in the team’s indifferent performance.
 

Mahendra Singh Dhoni (L) and Yusuf Pathan walk off after losing to England. © AFP
There is no two ways about the IPL’s incredible success. It surely has emerged as the latest jewel in the BCCI’s crown. However, Kirsten’s remark wasn’t intended to malign the tournament. Instead, it was a sincere effort towards introspection.
 
The Indian team has been travelling constantly for the last six months. First, it was a 5 ODI and one T20 series in Sri Lanka between Jan 28 and Feb 8. It was followed by 2 T20s, 5 ODIs and 3 Test series in New Zealand between Feb 25 and April 7. The Kiwi tour was immediately followed by IPL-2 in South Africa between April 18 and May 24, where most of the Indian players played. And then the team’s England tour for the World Twenty20 championships began on June 1. If that was not enough, now the team is all set to tour West Indies for 4 ODI series.
 
 The fatigue factor was bound to catch up with the boys and it did. Or else how does one explain the abject failure of such a talented Indian team in the World Twenty20 tournament? Obviously, niggles and fatigue had seriously affected the fitness level of our boys. So, where did Kirsten go wrong? The chock-a-block schedule was bound to have its repercussion, so why blame the coach and gag him?
 
A glance at India’s itinerary in the last five years vis-à-vis Australia, South Africa and England shows how much more cricket our boys have been playing in comparison to players of the above mentioned countries.

Australia
  Tests ODIs T20Is Total Int.
2009
4
20
8
32
2008
14
18
2
34
2007
4
34
9
47
2006
10
29
2
41
2005
15
29
2
46
TOTAL
47
130
23
200
 
England
  Tests ODis T20Is Total Int.
2009
7
7
6
20
2008
12
21
3
36
2007
11
34
8
53
2006
14
20
2
36
2005
13
22
1
36
TOTAL
57
104
20
181
 
South Africa
  Tests ODIs T20Is Total Int.
2009
4
10
8
22
2008
15
17
2
34
2007
9
30
8
47
2006
11
24
3
38
2005
11
24
1
36
TOTAL
50
105
22
177
 
India
  Tests ODIs T20Is Total Int.
2009
3
10
7
20
2008
15
29
1
45
2007
10
37
8
55
2006
12
30
1
43
2005
8
27
0
35
TOTAL
48
133
17
198

India’s catastrophic performance begs for introspection. Perhaps, the need of the hour is to ask the coach, physio and trainer to prepare a comprehensive report and address the problems earnestly. Perhaps, the calendar needs a serious consideration. Perhaps, it’s time to draw the line. The ball is in the BCCI’s court. It’s time for the BCCI to play and the boys to take a break. 

Stats: Rajneesh Gupta


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