Onus on Indians to perform up to potential
by Partab Ramchand

Event:India in West Indies 2006

DateLine: 2nd June 2006


The beleaguered Indian touring team can take heart from the fact that one day cricket is a different ball game from Test cricket. Only recently in Pakistan the Indians lost the Test series but won the ODI contest. Perhaps the most emphatic proof of this adage is provided by England. In the late 80s and early 90s as the team stumbled from one disaster to another in the Test arena it was also the time when England were runners-up in both the 1987 and 1992 World Cup competitions besides winning two Benson & Hedges tournaments in Australia.


Studying cricketing history can sometimes prove to be an inspiration and that’s exactly what the Indians need at the moment for their morale cannot be high after a rather unexpected reverse. If the events of the ODI series proved anything it is that the best side is one that can provide a happy mingle of youth and experience. The Indians clearly lacked the latter as the Greg Chappell way of thinking is that the team has to plan for the future and for this youth is important. No one says it isn’t but the transition should be done in phases. With the emphasis on young talent experience has been given the go by and this is certainly one of the reasons behind the recent debacle. There is no substitute for experience especially when playing abroad. The most successful Indian team in the Caribbean – the 1971 tourists – was an ideal blend of youth and experience with Sunil Gavaskar and Dilip Sardesai the two most successful batsmen typifying this.


Keeping this in mind it must be said that the presence of VVS Laxman and Anil Kumble is more than welcome. The two players bring class, skill and experience into the side. Both are survivors not just from the last Indian side that toured the Caribbean in 2002 but they were also members of the 1997 squad. On that occasion Laxman was still feeling his way around but Kumble with 19 scalps had a successful series. Four years ago Laxman was the leading batsman with 474 runs. But the five match series was lost by two matches to one mainly because the tour management made the cardinal blunder of going into the Tests with just one spinner opting for a three pronged pace attack. It was a patently ill-advised strategy and it did not work. There is no question of taking on the West Indians with just one spinner in the starting line up and it is imperative that both Kumble and Harbhajan Singh figure as the main attacking bowlers. Indian spin has had a major role to play in the Caribbean right from the time Subash Gupte took 27 wickets in the 1953 series and it right and proper that this mode of attack is always given its due.


With Irfan Pathan, even if he is a bit low on confidence, a certainty the selectors can choose between Sreesanth and Munaf Patel and this should constitute the four main bowlers around whom the attack will revolve with Virender Sehwag and Yuvraj Singh probably providing relief if required. But the main problem seems to be associated with the batting. Will the much-vaunted line-up perform up to potential? On paper a line up that starts with Sehwag and Wasim Jaffer and continues with Dravid, Laxman, Yuvraj, MS Dhoni, Md Kaif (or Suresh Raina) does seem to have the firepower to overcome the challenge posed by Fidel Edwards and company. But that was also the general view on the eve of the ODI series and we all have pretty painful memories of what happened late last month.


The West Indians on their part will be keen to prove that their success in the limited overs contest was not a one off show. History is emphatically with them for they have lost only one of eight series against India. They also have 16 victories against India’s three. The trio of triumphs has been notched up at Port of Spain and this is not among the Test venues this time. Dravid at least has no illusions about the tough task ahead. ``We have the weight of history to battle’’ he said on the eve of the first Test.


Most important the West Indians are experiencing a distinct resurgence under Brian Lara’s benign and shrewd leadership. As the elder statesman of the side for some time now Lara has always been an inspirational figure and in the evening of his career he seems determined to do his utmost to lift the standards of West Indian cricket. He certainly has a team that seems to be an ideal mix of youth and experience. The batting with the skipper, Chris Gayle, Ramnaresh Sarwan, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Runako Morton, Marlon Samuels and Darren Ganga around is in good hands while in Dwayne Bravo they possess a dynamic all rounder. If the weaker link, the bowling, performs as enthusiastically as they did in the ODI series then the continued dominance of the West Indies over India in contests in the Caribbean cannot be ruled out. For the Indians to prevent this they will have to perform up to potential and they can only win the series if they play above it. That’s something the 1971 tourists did and they created history.

(Article: Copyright © 2006 CricketArchive)