Sunday, October 29, 2006

ICC Championship: Indian-Australia: what a convincing loss

Is it the team selection or again the same attitude problem that grips Indian sports, whether it is cricket or hockey.

Thank heavens that no new countries are taking into cricket! Else Indian cricket would have had the same fate as that of Indian Hockey.

The first few overs reminded me of Sanjay Manjrekar's article about Sachin Tendulkar. The article seemed so true to me. Tendulkar definitely has a attitude and confidence problem with the better bowlers. Is he really afraid of another surgery? Tendulkar's wicket might be a great joy for the Australian bowlers but for me it was something that was very soon expected going by the master batsman's approach to the game today.

Next came Dinesh Mongia. I frankly do not know his credits that made him to the team but whatever game I have seen of him, I think there are better batsman for this job in India. It is definitely a selection problem. Parthiv Patel is definitely a better batsman with a better temperament to play pressure games. I can never understand why is he not in the team inspite of his great batting showmanships in the challenger series and previous to that in Australia against the Australians as a opener.

Is the selection process straight-jacketing him as a wicket keeper? Are we ignoring a great batting talent just because he happens to be a wicket keeper and Dhoni is playing his best as a wicket keeper batsman? Rahul Dravid was a wicket keeper too but he came to the team as a batsman and it is for all of us to see what he has contributed to the Indian team.

We had wasted too much time by the time Mongia departed. Kaif was under the pressure of too many failures. What can we expect? We played a very mediocre innings. Whats worrying is the lack of the fighting spirit, the lack of a positive approach to every ball.

Only Sehwag and Dravid showed that positive outlook. Here the coincidence is that Manjrekar was the comentator. He very rightly said during the game when Sehwag and Tendulkar were batting that Sehwag do not bring baggages to the field. He plays his normal game even when he is not been performing lately. Every game is a completely new game for him. And he approaches each new game with the same positive outlook. It somehow seemed to me that Manjrekar was actually talking about Tendulkar and was reminiscing about the truth of his article a month back.

The key to any sport as always is the winning spirit and this takes me back to the Ganguly era... He could somehow bring out the fighting spirit of players like Yuvraj, Kaif, Harbhajan and Irfan Pathan. Look at how they are languishing at the present. They have talent and so they would surely shine once in a while but look at the trend... I dont see the fighting spirit that they had. No way I am suggesting Ganguly should be back.

I really dont have the answers.... and would really want everyone to think that they dont have the answers and so everone should try to discover new answers.

Lets all find the answer. I am sure it wont be difficult. And this answer would lift Indian sports and not only Indian Cricket.

Indian Hockey: In need of a better excuse.

We are tired of listening to the excuse of “choking under last minute pressure” given so vociferously by Mr. Bhaskaran during this year’s world cup in Germany. This excuse I believe is a common feature of all Indian sports. Even in cricket we get to hear this excuse when the team loses.

I think we have to move beyond our common excuses and see what is actually hitting us so bad in hockey. It is such a disgrace that today we are nobody in hockey. And it is shameful to realize that we were considered great when the other countries didn’t take much interest in the game.

Individually we still have great hockey talents in the country. However as a team we fail. And we are going from bad to worse.

I have been a keen follower of all kinds of sports and would like to draw wisdom from football to our hockey failure. The reason why it struck me is that all the football playing nations are picking up hockey really fast. England defeated India in this world cup edition is the testimony to the fact.

What is the one thing that makes a country win in football? It is the playing combination and the support that each player gets from the team. It is basically the rhythm of the game. The reason why Brazil lost this world cup is because they could not get the rhythm of playing as a team right.

Indian Hockey suffers from the same problem. There is no visible field strategy of attacking and passing through to the opponent goal. There is no strategy that enables a support for each player with the ball. If player A has the ball, then there has to be player B and player C or more other players in his support. It should be easy for him to pass the ball to B or C in any circumstances. If he can manage a great dribble and a great pass to someone else in a more potent position, then it is great for him and the team but he should be always given one or two readymade pass opportunities by the team. This will ensure ball possession and more than that it will improve the confidence and attacking abilities of the individual team members. You can only fight hard when you have support in the back.

It goes without saying that the support system should possibly be aligned ahead of ball possession. It depends on the team strategy to place the support. One support can be ahead of the ball possession and the other can be for a back pass.

In my opinion, India is playing the worst hockey today. And it is the lack of vision of the coaches and other hockey mentors that is the reason for such a state. We need to look out of the box, take learnings from all team sports and see why we are failing again and again. We need to very seriously take a viewpoint of playing combination and arrive at a strategy to take the ball through the opponent’s field in a more organized, systematic and documented way. The point to note is that Indians are never good in a team sport. And Cricket is not so much of a team game. There is only batsman or one bowler that is actually playing the game at one time.

We need to become a nation having good team work aptitude. And let’s start with sports.