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Where has India gone wrong, and why?

April 18, 2005 12:04 IST
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Did you ever think you would have cause to be grateful for the internecine squabbles within the Sri Lankan cricket establishment?

Fervent thanks are due on that score - if only because those squabbles kept the Lankan board (whoever that is, today) from responding in time to the BCCI's attempt to squeeze some more ODIs into this season, and some more money out of the pockets of fans and advertisers alike.

The last thing this team needs is a few more ODIs prolonging what has been the season from hell. The World Cup finalists, the 'second best team in the world' under the 'most successful captain of all time' has, since the 2004-2005 season began in July 2004, played 23 matches, won 9, and lost 13 (with one game, against Australia, producing no result).

13 losses to 9 wins is not exactly good news - but there is worse. Of the 9 wins, one was against the UAE, one against Kenya, and three against Bangladesh.

If you take out the minnows, India's run in the season just ended is 4 wins, 12 losses (the losses column gets reduced by one - the loss to Bangladesh).

During this period, our scorecard against Sri Lanka is one win and two losses; against England ditto; against Pakistan it is 2 wins and 8 losses.

At the end of it all, what do you get? Two dominant streams of thought that converge into one name - Saurav Ganguly. Mails from cricket fans, and phone calls from friends, these last few days, have centered broadly on two themes:

1. Sourav Ganguly has luck in spades. The ban came at just the right time - India was going to lose the series to Pakistan anyway; thanks to the ban, Ganguly escapes the demerit of being the man at the helm when Inzamam-ul-Haq lifts the trophy; he can now serve out the rest of the ban, and come back as the team's natural leader.

2. Sourav Ganguly's ban is unfair; his being left out of the team is the single reason India lost; India will keep losing as long as we don't acknowledge Ganguly's contributions and bring him back pronto.

Those mails, those calls, unwittingly encapsulate the problem - throughout this season, Indian cricket has not been about the team, but about one individual whose pros and cons are ferociously debated.

Proponents believe that this one man holds the key to a turnaround; opponents as fiercely argue that removing that one person will solve all ills.

Really? Is it all that simple? Does it all boil down to whether we sack, or retain, one player?

India has played 50 ODIs since the World Cup for a less than 50 per cent success rate -- 22 wins, 25 losses, 3 no result's.

In this period, dating back to the World Cup final, India has had to chase scores of 280 or more on 10 occasions. We failed nine times -- the final game of the Pepsi Cup at the Kotla on Sunday was merely the last instance.

In the same period, India has scored 280 or more 12 times since the World Cup - and won 10 of those games.

Does this present the picture of a side that clicks when batting first in perfect batting conditions, but cannot cut it when faced with tough targets in the second session?

Equally startling figures can be thrown up if you look at the individual batsmen and bowlers - who has been consistent and who has not; who has handled pressure and who has not; who has fallen by the wayside and who has improved with time.

When a season ends, temptation begins - for instant analysis; equally instant, off-with-his-head solutions. Thanks to Sri Lanka's inability to visit, though, India is in the happy position of getting breathing space to step back, to think through what has gone wrong, to identify the problems and then, to find solutions that are more far-reaching than applauding, or booing, any one individual.

So what do you think? Where has India gone wrong, and why? (It might help, if these thoughts are a bit more detailed than 'Sack Sourav', 'Bring back Sourav').

Tell us what you think; hopefully, we can then collate your thoughts and try, in time, to make sense of it all.

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