West Indies Turn The Tables In One Dayers
Time For India To Up The Tempo
By S Zeyaur Rahman

With two matches gone in the seven match one day series, the Indian team is presented with an interesting scenario, one they were certainly not prepared for. The visitors have a 2-0 lead, having won contests at Jamshedpur and Nagpur rather convincingly. Let's have a look as to why the results have upset all the calculations and predictions.

A bit of background is certainly necessary to get a clear understanding of the situation. As we all know that the West Indian team is no more a force to reckon with. Since the mid 90s they have been going steadily downhill, a couple of unexpected good results notwithstanding. The cornerstone of most of these victories has been the one man army called Brian Lara and he is absent from the line up due to an injury.

On an average, India's performance graph has been on the up in the past few months. They made a fight of the test series in the Caribbean and even managed to share the honours in England. The process culminated with a 2-0 home victory over the West Indies. It is a very true indictment of the credibility of our home series if no one is willing to sit up and take notice of our exploits in domestic environs. In the last decade we have managed to beat every single country at home, but remained barren abroad.

It is in the shorter version of the game that India has emerged very strongly and we might be the only team with an ability to pose some serious challenge to the hegemony of the Kangaroos in the World Cup. The series win in the West Indies was crucial but the watershed was the momentous victory in the triangular finals at Lord's. The bandwagon rolled on in the ICC Knockout Trophy, where we had o split the honours with the Lankans, but it was clearly evident as to who deserved the trophy.

It was no wonder that the pundits were unanimous in their expectations that India would stream roll the West Indies in the one day series. Talks of doctored pitches etc notwithstanding, India won the test series 2-0 very convincingly. India's awesome record at home in one dayers plus the raging current form gave credibility to rumours about another brownwash and a scoreline of 7-0.

What has gone wrong then? A team which had been performing as world beaters all around the globe is caving in to a very mediocre side at home. The ramifications of the result could be many and are crucial to India's World Cup campaign.

We must analyse some very uncomfortable questions and find out the right answers before it is too late.

A) Is the law of averages catching up with us? Having won some close contests, is it our turn to lose some?

B) Has India already peaked and is sliding down?

C) Worse still, has the winning habit disappeared as soon as it came?

D) Has complacency crept in our game?

E) Or the good old Tendulkar factor, which plagued India for a major part of the late 90s, still a deciding one?

There is no shame in losing closely contested games. It becomes problematic when you start caving in every time pressure is applied. Indians have been notorious for losing mental games and the nine consecutive final losses underlined the point in a revealing fashion. Thanks to the young Turks like Yuvraj, Sehwag and Kaif, we appeared to have overcome the malady. I would dread the scenario of returning to the habit of choking when it matters the most.

It would be really unfortunate if the ICC Trophy was the peaking of India. No doubt that was a brilliant performance, but nothing could be more ill timed if we are to go downhill from there. With only three months to go to the World Cup I wonder if India will recover in time and generate another renaissance. But I believe that the two defeats should be an exception and we should be witnessing India bouncing back.

The winning habit is a very crucial factor. Nothing succeeds like success and all winning captains know that. The addiction to victory is one of the major reasons for Australia's phenomenal success rate, where there is a desperation to win every time. It is as if the body and mind demands a victory, as if it were a basic necessity. We heard Ganguly complaining after Nagpur debacle.

Complacency is one grey area which I can identify as the main cause of defeat in the two games. Riding high on success and even easier victories in the test series did instil a sense of false security in the Indians. Experiments and innovations are good but too much of it points towards a trivialisation of the contest. India is guilty of trying too many things at the same time. The moves regarding Agarkar and Harbhajan indicate and indict the Indian think tank of taking the opposition lightly, treating them as guinea pigs, as if the series were a fully controlled experiment. With a 0-2 deficit I'm sure that we would revert to more sensible strategies rather than wild gambles.

The biggest gain for India in the past few months was the fact that Tendulkar was indispensable. It was a major mental block for India to lose the game as soon as they lost Tendulkar. Even now we are so used to see Sachin single handed shaping victories that the poor man in accused of under performing, when the fact is that the others have finally realised their roles and left Tendulkar to play his role. Right now we are witnessing the Sehwag-Kaif boom. But let me tell you, the Sachin-is-indispensable logic will be right back in contention if India manages to lose the series. It would be really an unfortunate development if India goes into the World Cup with that mentality.

All in all it is a timely wake up call for India. They must pick up the strings together and nip the decadent tendencies in the bud. Luckily it is a home series and odds favour us overwhelmingly still. Once we do that it can only add to our confidence, which will do a world of good in the more important battles to come.


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