When we win:
Batting: Powerful line up, vast experience, inimitable skill, explosive lower order
Bowling: Skillful swing bowlers, exploited conditions beautifully
Fielding: Competent and reliable while not spectacular
When they lose:
Batting: Top order well past their prime, bad runners between the wickets
Bowling: Lackluster and pedestrian
Fielding: Weak arms, too many slow movers, butterfingers
This is not really a piece in staunch defense of the men in blue but a study in the yo-yo effect the Indian team’s performance has on the the analytical abilities of the revered ex-cricketers with microphones. I’ve always had my indifferent reservations about the validity of comments made by Sunil Gavaskar and Ravi Shastri as opposed to the likes of Richie Benaud or Ian Chappell. To me, it has always sounded like the former pair only stated, repeated and belabored the obvious.
fast-medium bowler overpitches and gets driven through the covers for four
RS/SG: “Oh thats a glorious shot, beautifully driven trough the covers for four. The fielder had no chance….He’s (the batsman) looking to be aggressive here…and thats a good thing”
RB/IC: “It doesn’t matter how much the pitch is seaming if you bowl that length…got the treatment it deserved…lots of gaps in the field and thats four…”
The none-too-subtle difference in the two where our home-grown stalwarts play to the gallery (thats in delirious raptures), to heap praise on what is actually a bowler error to present a delivery that an arthritic 60 year old with a cane could hit.
Considering the almost godly soothsayer reputations that these two enjoy, no wonder that every observer uses their catch-phrases as their sounding board. I’m going to stick my neck out on how two particular cases where they’ve made shallow assessments
Case #1 – The ‘Mahi’ way
Last year, when Dhoni was pounding attacks in India, piling one destructive knock on the other, he was power (the agricultural swings) and style (the brylcreemed hair) combined – an advertisers dream and our answer to Gilchrist (to me its traumatic to even put the names in the same sentence). Messrs RS and SG also announced him as such, proclaiming him as “jjjust what India needed”. I didn’t get it. All I saw was a strong dude with a front foot and huge axe swings. Flintoff and co. have reduced him to awkwardly fending off the backfoot spooning catches within the circle. The dude’s got a good attitude though, so, am guessing he’ll work on his game before Australia.
Case #2 – 11 Yuvrajs in the field would eliminate India’s fielding woes
As per RS/SG, the weak links in India’s fielding are Ganguly, Munaf, Powar and RP Singh and that Dravid screws up by not having them inside the ring and placing Yuvraj on the boundary. Sure, those names might be examples of the ‘anti-Rhodes’ (something like how the devil is the anti-christ, or isn’t he?), some basics that the experts seem to’ve ignored. Good fielding consists of 2 things, both equally important a) stopping the ball and b) getting it back to stumps in the shortest possible time. The best fielders, think Ponting and Collingwood, rarely dive! Because they’re quick enough to get to the ball. Observe how Y Singh can’t seem to stop anything without ending up sliding along the ground, compare that to the English captain. Secondly, Ponting and co always (read always) come up with the ball in their dominant hand and fire in the throw (which hits the stumps more often than not). Y Singh parries the ball much like a goalkeeper, so the batsmen end up getting the single anyway. Runs saved? Zero. The fact that he lets loose a vicious throw (which never hits) even if the batsman is past the crease and about to the face the next ball is an aside and just an irritating Indian habit.
Bottomline, we have no exceptional fielders, barring Agarkar, who , I think is the best Indian outfielder of all time (sounds surprising doesn’t it, considering the firm of RS/SG haven’t said so!). But a disregard for fielding as a discipline at the grassroots is what results in the likes of Munaf wandering cluelessly about the outfield and the team being embarrassed time and time again.
England, the team that traditionally made us look good in the shorter version, just upped the ante. A 5-2 English win would help Indian cricket more than a 4-3 Indian win. Time to wake up and smell the grass-stained trousers.