India's Loss to Bangladesh

and the Third battle of Panipat

Continued from India and the Cricket World Cup

The loss to Bangladesh raised as much storm as the stunning defeat at Panipat in 1761 might have. If the team India was coached by Australian Greg Chappell then the fighting forces of Hindustan were trained by French artillery experts and were led by Maratha Chieftain Sadashiv Bhau, with Vitthal Vinchurkar and Damaji Gaikwad in toe. 

The World Cup debacle took place under the leadership of Marathas again. BCCI is headed by Maratha chieftain Sharad Pawar with another Maratha Dilip Vengsarkar, the chief of selectors. Sachin Tendulkar, who once reminded the all-time great Don Bradman of himself, was an abysmal failure both against Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. 

Tendulkar has averaged 12 against Australian the last five matches, less than 25 in the last five matches against South Africa and 19 in the last five matches against Sri Lanka. He is tarnishing his own pristine record and image. No one now talks of him along with Ricky Ponting, Brian Lara or even Mohammad Yusuf of Pakistan. 

Wrote New Zealand's Richard Hadlee, one of the greatest all-rounders and selector; "Aching muscles, taking longer to get over injuries, lack of desire to train or practice, boredom when playing, lack of enjoyment, having achieved one's goals leaving nothing else to strive for and picking up a pay-packet for the wrong reasons -- all these are sure indicators that it is time to call it quits." 

Ian Chappell, Greg's, equally brilliant elder brother and cricket captain, but not beyond using underhand trick or bowling, also suggested that Tendulkar retire. Lara and Pakistan captain Inzzeman have retired from ODIs. 

Like dissensions in Panipat, there were differences with the coach and among Indian players, with Bengali Saurav refusing to speed up scoring in team’s interest.  In Panipat, it was a battle lost by Marathas than won by Afghans. There were strategic blunders and internal bickering. The Panipat battle was won by young reserve Afghan troops of Ahmed Shah Abdali, as was the match by young enthusiastic Bangladesh lads. 

But Indian players, like politicians, refuse to retire as there is so much money now, Ganguly being the example. And how the regionalism raises its head. When Ganguly was rightly ousted from the team, the whole of Bengal batted for him, including politicians, even in the Parliament. If the politicians had a free hand they might even demand reservations based on caste quota. 

Indian Cricketers

Now a days millionaire Indian cricketers behave like matadors, not realizing that they are more like gladiators and failure means death and financial oblivion. Indian cricketers rarely surprise me. 

But I was surprised that they were beaten by Bangladesh even though they had not done too well in tours of West Indies and South Africa or in the Champions' Trophy .The team had not jelled. Some of the players were trying to get into form against Sri Lanka at home. Injured earlier, Yuvraj Singh did not have enough match practice and ran himself out against Sri Lanka. It was also a mistake to put the future of Indian innings and the team by trying to get Viru Shewag into form against Bangladesh, which had beaten not only India earlier but even humbled the mighty Australia. Sri Lanka were in good nick .This put pressure on Shewag and on the other opener, Robin Uthappa, who could not be sure of his place and feel settled. 

Shewag might have scored the first ever and only Indian triple Test century, but he relies purely on body balance and timing. Wealth from endorsements and age slow one down. Coach John Wright used to say that Sehwag was fearless but family responsibilities bring on anxiety. One wrong slice over the slips, a four or even a six in the past could now cost him and family tens of millions of rupees in lost endorsements. 

Frankly, Dravid is not a great captain, certainly not at par with Ganguly. It was considered a great sacrifice on Dravid's part when he opted to open in Pakistan, when Ganguly's position was in doubt. It appeared basically a team ploy to keep Saurav out of the eleven. If only Saurav had justified his place in the team. But he would make an excellent non-playing captain. 

In many countries politicians happily become ordinary ministers after having been Prime Ministers, but not in caste ridden India. Saurav's return did cause some tensions. Sachin' elevation to Vice Captain was to keep him out if Dravid was disabled. When Saurav was penalized for 4 matches, he should have utilized the time to correct his flaws, which he had to do eventually. But as in Indian politics, a week is a long time. 

In some ways Sachin is like Bjorn Borg of Tennis, an outstanding player but unable to handle personal matters and would face post retirement blues. On the cricket battlefield masses and sponsors want performance. Commitments and dedication alone won't do. There are thousands of young dedicated Indians waiting in the wings. 

Some High tides in Indian cricket

After the 1983 World Cup triumph India won comfortably the champions Trophy in Australia. In January 1985 India was playing against Pakistan in Sharjah and before going to the airport to take a flight to Bucharest via Karachi I listened to the commentary in late Vijay Tripathi's room in PMO. It was an unflattering score of hundred something but there was hope. When the door of Indian Airlines opened at Karachi and I stepped out, from the ladders bottom below, my host Consul General G Parthasarathy said loudly, all out for 87.

The Indian team did surprise me during Australia’s tour of India in 2003, especially in the turnaround test in Calcutta. With the cohesion and the momentum forged under Saurav, team India did very well in the tests series in Australia too, which I followed over the internet from Brussels. Saurav himself scored a brilliant century (nothing like that has followed since then) in the first Test when as usual India had almost collapsed. On the whole everyone rose to the occasion, especially in batting and did splendidly well. But for some doubtful umpiring decision to give a resounding farewell to Australian captain Steve Waugh we ought to have won. Saurav, with his strong personality transformed a regional Indian team into Saurav team. Still he was amiss in insisting on having Bengal mate Deepankar Dasgupta and mascot Parthiv Patel in the team. 

The victorious matadors on return home, got married, made pots of money and basked in adulation. But the team was still hungry with new find Irfan Pathan and Balaji and carried on their momentum in the series in an overawed Pakistan. All that Pakistan coach Javed Miandad would do in ODIs was to signal from the dressing room to the last Pakistan batsman to hit a six, which he once did in Sharjah. With their coffers full following the Indian visit, Pakistan could afford a foreign coach and did rather well except for the latest fiasco. It is from the money from Indian matches that Bangladesh could also afford a foreign coach. 

When the team India returned home from Pakistan, the gladiators collected all the kudos, bachelors got married, put on weight and tried to live on their reputation. Under Chappell's coaching, the youngsters were enthused and the team did well but the old matadors would not be disciplined. The Zimbabwe visit resulted in a totally out of form Ganguly being rightly deprived of the captaincy. But it ignited Bengali nationalism in full. Zahir Khan went on a ‘study tour 'of English counties and returned a better bowler. The team did well at home but in the last West Indies visit and since then the performance was uninspiring. 

Money remains the motivation

With sustained economic growth and increasing wealth everyone is coming over to India for a slice of the pie. Seeing religion like passion for cricket in India and sensing the despair over cricket defeat and potential for making hay by filling the void FIFA President Sepp Blatter on the first ever visit by a President said "We want to wake up the sleeping giant. In the 1960s, the national team was good, but India has probably lost its way." Western investors or the British on a weapons sale pitch always repeat this never failing mantra of a great power on a people hungry for greatness." 

A few years ago, suddenly, the international fashion industry entered the bludgeoning Indian cosmetic market by selecting a few Indian beauties at international contests. As if Indian women suddenly became beautiful (One from Nigeria too, the largest and richest nation in Africa. It is another matter that the concept of beauty in Nigeria is for bosomy and bottomy ones). It was just an opportunity for fashion corporate interests to cash in. 

India now has former Test cricketers from all over the world pouring into India at the drop of a hat, for well-paid commentaries and writing columns, many ghost written by Indians. Just cashing on brand names. They have all come to love India, for its money. Mr. Geoff Boycott, perhaps the most boring killjoy opening batsman, is often in India .To earn popularity he named Saurav, the Prince, but in his heydays would not even deign visiting India with MCC teams. Nowhere else were visiting cricketers treated better than in India even then, but for Mr. Geoff Boycott, there was perhaps not enough Moolah. To partake in the sudden popularity of MS Dhoni, even wily Commando Gen Musharraf dipped in by publicly admiring his long locks. But after his totally abysmal performance, public is now attacking his villa with a swimming pool et al... As if Solomon has lost his locks. 

A large number of young Indians, even from small towns, because of tremendous amount of money as rewards, are being attracted into cricket, with full support from their families, especially mothers. Thus spreading the net for selecting boys from larger numbers in a population of over one billion. The number of boys who have dedicated themselves to the hard task of fast bowlers is commendable and the results are there to see. At no time in the past was there such a glut of fast bowlers. In fact if one falters then twice that many youngsters are ready to fill the breach. But the problems are the immovable batsmen.

Indian diet and genes

In early 1990s in Ankara, I invited for lunch a young Indian Davis cup player, whose father was top world ranked player in another game and asked him why India did not do well in Tennis or other sports. He replied that perhaps there was something in the Western genes which made them superior physically. While waiting for some consular problem to be resolved, another Indian Davis cup player told me in Paris in 1970s why Vijay Amritraj, who was considered as good as Jimmy Connors and Byon Borg did not realize his potential. Because in spite of all the talent Amritraj was just not prepared to go through the grind of 10hours practice day in and day out as most Westerners do. 

It is said that Srinath, the best medium fast bowler after Kapil Dev was vegetarian. When he asked for tips from a Pakistani veteran he was advised to first add chicken to his diet for strength and stamina if he wanted to be a fast bowler. Look at Indians' diet, the poor ones barely exist. Among the middle and rich classes the diet is not conducive to good health and stamina. Except for some 'outcasts' and tribals, and Rajputs, majority of the Indians have been vegetarians for millennia. Potatoes, chilies, tomatoes, were introduced by invaders. Protein rich Soya, healthy Sun flower oil are recent additions. Apart from wheat and rice, what did average Indian live on, useless protein less vegetables, lauki and tori and some beans and lentils for proteins, over centuries and centuries? The genetic results, physically dwarfed specimens are there for all to see. In games like Rugby we dare not even participate, not even our army teams, bastions of physical fitness.

The nouvo-riche with rich diets and not enough exercise are becoming prone to cardiac and other diseases. Before ample number of Indians can afford healthy food and acquire sporting habits, we must select people, who have lived on a meat diet of whatever kind and those living active hard lives. Kenyans from certain hilly areas are doing exceptionally well in middle and long-distance runs .So are the Ethiopians. But we would have leaders of creamy layers thrusting their boys if coaching academies are established. 

Some Observations

In Indian political tradition BCCI head Pawar announced 'drastic measures' to set things right, including committees. When things go wrong in a ministry or in district, in spite of the politicians being mostly responsible, the civil servants end up as scapegoats and are punished. The blame has been passed on to others by BCCI. Ajit Wadekar, under whose captaincy came first ever Indian cricket wins abroad in West Indies and England was right when he suggested that Pawar must resign.

But the myth of ministerial responsibility, if it were ever true, expired long ago. Indian sports authorities have been taken over by politicians (followed by policemen) and used for political and economic gains and have suffered. It is a sub-continental disease, politicians messing up sports, in Pakistan, it is the generals. For all his faults it was a businessman Dalmiya who by increasing cricket revenues attracted enormous talent for the game in India and strengthened BCCI's leverage against white dominated ICC.

Another major problem in India’s culture and religion is stress on individuality. For example individual religious salvation unlike say in Islam, Buddhism or Sikh religion, where generally the emphasis is on community approach. Or in music where like in the West the orchestra never took roots. Another example is research papers produced by Indians. A survey of research articles some years ago showed joint authorship as follows: India (3.6%), UK (20.4%), and USA (44%). Single authorship, India (65.50), USA (35.6%).Therefore, in team events, Indians do not do well. They might do quite well in individual games like Tennis or Badminton or individually in Cricket. 

Speculative by nature Indians look for a miracle- a short-cut, hence the popularity of a chance game, like Cricket specially ODIs. Indian players become experts in drop shots in Tennis and Badminton or bowl deceptive googly. It is well established that if one works hard, 10-12 hours a day to build up stamina, strength, ability and mental resilience, after 8/10 years, one can reach World level in Tennis or Badminton but barring Krishnans and Amritraj brothers in Tennis and in Badminton, players and athletes of world standard rarely emerge from the Indian soil. 

Krishnans and Padukone were masters of the touch-game i.e. drop shots and deception. Deception is sanctioned even in divine manifestation. Rama hiding behind a tree to kill Bali or lies about the setting Sun to kill Jaydrath or false death of Ashwatthama (horse) in Mahabharata. 

One cannot blame the Indian climate entirely, as some tend to do, since the climate of Indonesia; Thailand is no less innervating than of India, but Indonesians, Thais and Malaysians keep on producing one world champion after another in the game of their choice, Badminton. They beat Indians in most other sports too like football. Look at our abysmal record. Poverty cannot bathe sole reason either. Why cannot we produce world-cup footballers as do the slums of Brazil, Argentina, and other nations in Latin America?

What really focuses and still fascinates the Indian mind is the 1983 win. Faced by a hostile West Indies attack India were dismissed for 183. Butt was an astonishing catch by skipper Kapil Dev who sprinted back 20 yards to latch onto the skier from the marauding blade of the great Viv Richards. It turned the game around and the famed West Indies batting machine inexplicably failed by 43 runs. Earlier India got a real scare when it was five wickets down for just 17 runs on board against lowly Zimbabwe. But an inspired Kapil innings of 175 saved the day.  On the way Australia thrashed India by over 180 runs. Great believers in Astrology, the masses believe that miracles would and could occur again. 

Greg Chappell "if you want to be like Australia, you can't run your cricket like Zimbabwe."

For being a good coach you need other qualifications than just being good in that sport. Generally when India or Pakistan appoint retired stars as coaches, they owe allegiance to a region or are beholden to those who helped them in their career. They also have their favorites among the current crop of players. Politicians pressurize them. Generally they are unable to enforce discipline. Only a stern man like Greg can. If Kapil were made the coach, the players would say Bhraji (elder brother), let us drink beer-sheer and enjoy Murga (chicken). We will do the fielding practice tomorrow. They might take Sunil Gavaskar to Srikhand party or Bengali delicacies at Eden Gardens. 

Caste system has penetrated all walks of life including the game, in a modified way. Top batsmen and bowlers would not improve their fielding as if they are high caste Brahmins and Kshatriyas would not do Shudra's (untouchables) work. Hindustan had no revolution and remains profession –born- into oriented. Even in time of perils, only the warrior classes were expected to fight the enemies .The Indian society did not evolve that all take all responsibilities. 

In politics, in many countries, say Turkey, politicians who have been Prime Ministers agree to become ministers in changing coalitions. Not In India. Once a Brahmin, the highest in hierarchy, always a Brahmin. The inappropriate Indian electoral system from a small island has only strengthened the pernicious caste system which along with regional and state loyalties has acquired a stranglehold in running of sports, both in training and selection. As in other matters Muslims suffer from similar caste prejudices in Pakistan, made worse by so called Ashraffs vs. the converts. Former captains in Pakistani teams create problems there, made worse by Generals, who never shed their uniforms.

In classic Indian hockey we had a fixed 1,2,3 and 5 system, which the Western put paid to when more of them took to the game. In football positions are exchangeable. This of course demands fitness and stamina. In Indian cricket all-rounders have come up more by chance than a belief in tying everything. In school days the students would be classed as sportsmen or scholars. You could not excel in both. Sports need intelligence and resilience apart from stamina and skill at higher levels. Without brains you can go up only up to a point. For decades top policemen in Punjab recruited barely literate youngsters as Assistant Sub-inspectors, put them to playing hockey only. They did well for themselves and India too, till Europeans and Australia took to the game seriously and applied their all-round training skills, making Indian tricolor fly at hockey meets now a days a rare thing.

Only Foreign coaches have insisted on physical fitness, improved fielding and firmness in dealing with gladiators past their prime. Tendulkar is an exception being treated like God. In Australia with his recent poor performance he would have been shown the door as was Ganguly. In 1950s and 60sopening batsman Pankaj Roy was Bengals' permanent representative in the Indian XI. After 5 poor scores he would score a fifty and continue for another series. Ganguly's return created tensions. The methods introduced by Chappell were making some inroads into insidious south Asian disease. A foreign coach with strong personality is a must to overcome the disease.  


More by :  K. Gajendra Singh

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