Cricket: Gone in 45 mins, Team India we still love you to bits

Catastrophe 2019

Ignore the amount of ‘excess cricket; groans you hear from Indian fans across the year; a World Cup exit still remains a catastrophe. For the next three days, social media and mainstream media will erupt with post-mortem analysis, asking for heads, naming and shaming our players. Media stories will leak about X player partying the night before the game, who should be sacked and why Y was not picked. Remember this is still a country where there are mostly watchers when a fellow resident is in trouble on the streets, a country where the dad would always compare his son’s progress with either the ‘cousin staying at Malda’s’ grades or with the neighbouring girl who participated in Indian Idol auditions – As I write, I find angry  message ‘see Australia are recovering from similar score, why couldn’t we??’. In terms of backing our own people, India is still a very much work in progress nation.

Post mortem is always inconclusive

Not just to blame the people, the rampant media actually plays the pied piper in criticism. Yes there are some points worthy of a discussion from India’s loss to New Zealand at Manchester.

– Was it right to ignore Ambati Rayudu and put faith on untested Vijay Shankars and  Rishabh Pants? Rayudu had scored runs earlier in New Zealand too when India had thrashed the Kiwis in their own den 4-1.

– Was it right to drop Mohammed Shami abruptly, despite him being Man of Series in NZ (and surely had a psychological edge over them) and taking 14 wickets off four World Cup 2019 games? Looking at the way Kiwis pace attack bowled at our star batsmen, it now seems probable that our bowlers under-performed vs their fairly struggling batting lineup.

– Was it right to randomly drop Kedar Jadhav and pick Dinesh Karthik instead? Jadhav was dismissed just twice this tournament (averaging around 40) and was our sixth bowler.

– Fourth and perhaps the most key argument is why was Karthik sent ahead of MS Dhoni? DK was always selected as a finisher and not known to have the ability to play 80 balls; ditto for Rishabh Pant or Hardik Pandya. These three essentially batsmen fit to come #6 but were being made to come #4-#5-#6. What was the basis of keeping MSD back so late when it was known Pant, Pandya or DK cannot play a long innings? The counter logic would be that MSD is needed at the back end of the innings for the experience. His presence was the only reason we still believed we could win, as late as the 47th over.

– Fifth point (technical one) ..why would Virat yet again chose to play across the line to a left handed bowler when all he needed was play straight and hang around. A similar shot from him was the reason for dismissal in Champions Trophy 2017. If at end of 10 overs India reach 40/0 or 30/1, we will win 99% of our games. Hence what was the need to play across?

Can KL Rahul be depended on for the tbig games? Was it right to break the wrist spinners (Kul-Cha) duo? Etc etc Many questions can be collated in hindsight.

But the truth remains that from 5/3, neither Rayudu nor Jadhav or MS Dhoni up the order guaranteed us victory. Make no mistake Jadeja’s unexpected bonus runs makes the margin of defeat look smaller; if you cut down his score to his ODI average of 29, it’s difficult to see who could have won it for us. New Zealand won on the day – not over two days but on the day.

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Despite the disappointment, admire the consistency. What Germany is to Football, the current Indian team is to Cricket. Solid assurance consistency to reach semi-finals always.

Where Indian Media can do better

We lost and we lost to 45 mins of bad decisions and .. and.. to a tournament design / format that needs re-looking.

– In that decisive over, with six fielders outside the circle a critical no ball (and free hit) was not given to India.

– Kiwi bowler Lockie Ferguson slyly blocking MS Dhoni before he set off for the second run, should that have got looked?

– Why play a tournament if 75%+ of the games are going to be won by the team batting first .. should we not declare the result after the toss right away?

– Why are playing rules different for playoffs to what was there in the league stages?

– Why was tournament held in a country whose cricket ground drainage system and coverage standards were way below the countries that organise cricket best?

– Why couldn’t ICC take up the IPL gold standard eliminator format – working in place for the last decade?

Perhaps these are the questions the media should be asking more and creating a din. Indian media needs to learn a lot from their English counterparts. In Football World Cup 2010, England had a very ordinary tournament (drawing matches to un-fancied Algeria, USA) and were thrashed 4-1 by Germany in the first knockout stage. But BBC, Sky, Guardian and all their ‘kids’ mostly focused on one incident – where a goal was not given to the English despite the ball crossing the line. So much pressure they built, that in a hurry FIFA (and UEFA) had goal line technology initiated, tested, implemented and put in place for World Cup 2014. The media will do well to fulfill such roles. BCCI rules Cricket and is the prime reason why cricket has only grown in leaps and bounds, the last three decades. You just need to compare the growth of the sport during 60s-80s with 90s-10s to understand who can run a sport in gold standard manner. The Indian media should act as a catalyst for change with knowledge that they have a BCCI who can enforce things.

Our people, our boys, our team

All in all, it’s not a good time to criticize the boys. For close to one plus, they ruled cricket’s quadrennial showpiece event. Whosoever wins World Cup 2019 would have lost as many or more games than India. Topping the group table means nothing now and it’s grossly unfair and frustrating for us fans.

And worse for our boys. The Men in Blue. They are coming back home and we are all just left to reflect on an disheartening game. We have lost the spring in our steps. But we can just be together, and back the team. Our team. 10 overs of bad cricket doesn’t take away the 890 overs of fun they gave us.

The World Cup is over for us and we will restart lives soon but the boys will be sad longer. They are one of us. The ones who always entertain us. Australia, England or New Zealand won’t bother nor entertain us. This is the time to be with our guys. Just as the crowd at Manchester were, yesterday. Even at 5/3 they were cheering each shot by India, as if the score was 200/3. Proud of the Manchester crowd.

Awaiting exciting times

India’s next game is just three weeks away. 1st T20 vs West Indies on 3rd Aug 2019. We know the team’s strengths and the upcoming talent. We have seen them bully Australia, South Africa, New Zealand at the opposition’s den in recent years. We are now excited to see how Pant’s raw aggression blossoms, Shankar’s class prevails or the Agarwals, Shaws, Khaleels come up fast. It’s going to be an exciting year and we all trust this team to win a lot of games; a vast majority of them, in fact.

Till such time let’s be proud of the team and have a smile at the images that floated yesterday. The one which stayed with me was Rohit Sharma pointing to his muscles and suggesting to Jadeja “you have the strength, you can do it”. The image when a relaxed Kohli was doing a dance step or two during New Zealand innings is memorable. Shami’s hat-trick; Rohit’s non stop runs flow; Bumrah’s celebration; Beating Pakistan, Australia, South Africa; All the way to Jadeja’s sword brandishing celebration. And perhaps the most funny one – a meme – Prime Minister Narendra Modi padding up.

Such is our ridiculous level of belief and passion that had PM Modi really strutted out on to the Old Trafford ground to bat, after MS Dhoni’s dismissal, wearing the blue jersey, without a helmet, with that 56 inch chest … a billion Indians would have stood to raucously cheer for him. Loud and clear.

Let’s share that cheer, back to reality, with our men in blue. They return back as the world’s #1 all format team, heads high, proud and slightly disappointed. Virat and team, you guys rock!

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