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Indian Cricket: Back to negative tactics? June 28, 2006

Posted by Aniket in Aniket, Cricket.
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Since it’s inception in the 1930s, Indian cricket has always been known for it’s negative tactics. The sole aim was not to lose test matches . A draw was considered to be almost as good as a victory. Indians always played to save the test, right from day one. And if playing abroad, a draw was the equivalent of a victory. After all, how can you expect Indians to win abroad? That would be such an abuse of the hospitality of the host team. Such digression was unacceptable from the ‘gentlemanly’ Indian cricketers. And it was this negativity that took us 20 years to win our first test & 15 more to win our first test abroad.
Indian test captains were always known for their negative approach to the game. Right from Merchant, who introduced this approach to both Bombay & Indian cricket, followed by Hazare, Mankad, Borde, Wadekar, Bedi, Gavaskar, Kapil Dev and a few more. It is no surprise that the last two in this list hold the record for most number of draws as captain. In between, Tiger Pataudi came as a breath of fresh air with his positive attitude towards the game. But normal service was resumed right after his retirement and Indian cricket went back to the boredom of negative cricket. Even 5 match series’ would end 0-0 and 14 tests between India and Pakistan during the 70s and 80s produced no result.
All this seemed to change with the appointment of Sourav Ganguly as the captain of the Indian cricket team. He, along with John Wright, seemed to change the team’s attitude towards cricket. Swashbuckling players like Yuvraj Singh & Virender Sehwag found a place in the test team, something which was unthinkable in the past. Attacking bowlers like Harbhajan Singh got much needed support from the attacking tactics of Ganguly. No wonder that in a 5 year span as captain of India, he led India to more test victories than anyone before him. His outspoken tactics totally changed the face of Indian cricket and overseas test victories in Australia, England, West Indies & Pakistan proved that Indians were no more lions at home and chickens abroad. But his batting deteriorated & soon came the time when the selectors felt that he could contribute no more to Indian cricket and dropped him from the team, leaving the captaincy in the hands of Rahul Dravid. The board also appointed the brash and outspoken Greg Chappell as coach in place of John Wright and it was believed that he would ensure that the aggressive streak brought into the team by Ganguly would not die. Unfortunately it has. And the test series in the Carribean is a sorry reminder of this grim reality.
In the first test, India was on the back foot after conceding a huge lead. But a timely second innings fightback gave the Indians a great chance of victory. However, they failed to bundle out the West Indies’ tail and the match was drawn. They held the upper hand for most of the second test but the weather ensured that the match ended in a draw, though one gets the feeling that if someone like Waugh was captain, he would have seen the weather forecast and might even have declared early. But that didn’t happen and the series was still 0-0 when the third test began. The Windies dominated the 3rd test right from the beginning but a sporting declaration from Brian Lara gave the Indians an attainable target of 392 and a result seemed likely.
The hardest part of such run-chases is getting off to a good start. The Indians had a great start, thanks to a century partnership between Sehwag & Jaffer who took India to lunch with all ten wickets in hand. Sehwag departed immediately after luch but the arrival of Laxman at no. 3 showed that the Indians were going for the win. The arrival of Dravid didn’t slow the innings much and at tea, with India at 200 for 2, a victory seemed probable. The fall of Laxman brought Dhoni to the wicket which showed that the Indians meant business. And a six from Dhoni off the first ball he faced made this clear. But what happened after that was totally incomprehensible to say the least. Dravid withdrew into his shell and left the task of scoring to Dhoni. The singles dried up and the asking rate which was a gettable 6 during Laxman’s stay at the crease suddenly rose to above 7. Then Dhoni was dismissed and the Great Indian Run Chase came to a grinding halt, despite the fact that India’s two best One-day players, Yuvraj & Kaif, were yet to come. India (read Dravid) decided to go in for the draw when the only two possible results were either an Indian victory or a draw. A Windies victory was very unlikely, after all Harbhajan Singh & Kumble are no mugs with the bat and Dravid was still at the crease. But Dravid decided to be satisfied with a draw . What hurt most was not the fact that the match was drawn, indeed a win was never a total certainty, but the Indian approach & the time at which the Indians gave in and settled for a draw. This was just another proof of Dravid’s negative approach to captaincy which was evident throughout the series.
Hard questions have to be asked now. Has India gone back to square one? What has the aggressive and hard-talking Chappell contributed if India still settles for a draw from a winning position? And is Dravid, with his negative mindset, both while batting and captaining, the right choice as captain? Indeed it wouldn’t be too harsh to say that it was his batting that cost us the game. These questions have to be answered right now. We might go on to win the last test & then all this will be forgotten. But these questions will soon arise again, and Indian cricket cannot go ahead without providing a satisfactory answer to them.

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1. Amit - June 29, 2006
2. 123indiaonline.com » Blog Archive » Comeletsjoin.com Cricket Forum :: Search - August 18, 2006

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3. India Sports » indian cricket shop .. - September 1, 2006

[…] Indian Cricket: Back to negative tactics? June 28, 2006 Posted by Aniket in Cricket , Aniket . trackback. Since it s inception in the 1930s, Indian cricket has always been known for it s http://indiasports.123indiaonline.com […]


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