“I want to thank everyone for all the cricketing advice given to me over the years and apologize for not accepting most of it! I had a reason for not following it: I did it my way” – Virender Sehwag.
Players like the recently retired Virender Sehwag are the reason a lot of people watch cricket. Players like AB De Villiers and Brendon McCullum are part of the reason cricket is so loved. Care free players who don’t even look like they’re playing cricket. They invent new shots, the Dilscoop, the flamingo and the helicopter. They play outside convention and can make or break a game. However just like with most other sports, if everyone is on the attack there is no one in defence.
India are currently in a crisis, they are a team of Virus. As entertaining as that might be to watch 11 Virender Sehwags running around on the field, it doesn’t make for good cricket. Before the great four retired, India had one of the most incredible teams. It included the likes of Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman. Players who knew when to attack and when to hold back. Players who played to the conditions and to the opposition.
The recent surge in T20 cricket has killed the game. Scores below 180 are considered below par. The pressure on batsmen to score has rocketed and all players are being forced to hit out or get out. That is the way modern cricket is moving. There is very little room for players who resemble the likes of Rahul Dravid. Cheteshwar Pujara has been held back from the ODI and T20 team yet India on several occasions have failed to play out a full 50 overs of cricket. There is no consistency in the team. Each player plays to their strengths. If every batsman in India’s ODI team had a good day, they could easily reach 400. However the opposite is also true. If they all have a bad day…
India have been lucky so far. They have players who are more than talented. More often than not, the matches India win are from some single outstanding performance, not a collective one. With each player playing to win on their own and not looking at the big picture. India’s 3rd ODI against South Africa showed just that. They had done well to limit the visitors to 270. It was still a good score but not unachievable, especially not with India’s line-up.
The hosts got off to a decent start bar Shikhar Dhawan’s attempted release shot to a fairly new ball that was still moving. Rohit Sharma was playing well and Virat Kohli looked in good nick. However it all went downhill once Rohit was removed in the 22nd over. From there, only 80 runs came in 20 overs. MS Dhoni who had promoted himself up the order (ahead of Ajinkya Rahane) and Virat Kohli slowed down the run rate massively believing they would be able to finish it off easily at the end. That resounding belief in their own ability is what got them into trouble. Morne Morkel was bowling fantastically and removed Dhoni. Rahane was once again pushed down the order for no reason to make way for an out of touch Suresh Raina and the next three wickets of Raina, Kohli and Rahane fell to slogs caught at deep midwicket. India fell short by 18 runs.
There was no sense to India’s madness. Dhoni’s promotion to no.4, pushing Rahane down the order, not believing in the team and the team then justifying such disbelief with poor cricket. India will really need to go back to the drawing board for the next ODI in Chennai. Dhoni’s ad-lib tactics are beginning to fail India more often than not.