CLOSE-IN: Cricket makes heroes into zeroes – it is all a state of mind (IANS column)
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The uncertainties of cricket have led to one of the T20 and white ball stars, Suryakumar Yadav, SKY, as he is popularly called, for his innovative and unconventional stroke play, have the ignominy of scoring three first-ball ducks in a row. Surya has the talent and skill to break out of this bad patch, as have many great players in the past. The Indian Premier League (IPL) will be just the right platform for him to get back into top gear and bury his failed performances against Australia for good.
One of India’s most tenacious cricketers, Mohinder Amarnath, went through a similar sequence of no scores as Suryakumar has recently been through. Jimmy, as Mohinder is popularly known, fought his way through this slump and went on to become one of the top batters in world cricket. He was the Man of the Match in both the semis and finals of India’s historic World Cup triumph in 1983.
SKY needs to have a tete-a-tete with Mohinder, as a word of advice from India’s most courageous and fighting cricketer would help him immensely to get over any mental dilemma that may have arisen.
Cricket can be a cruel game and the Indian cricket team too became a victim of it. India, looked to have got on to an even keel when they were up 2-0 against the powerful Australian side in the Test series. India looked head and shoulders above their opponents, especially in conditions which were ideally suited for them.
Australia showed how nothing in cricket can be taken for granted. Under the captaincy of Steve Smith, having taken over from Pat Cummins who had to return home on a family matter, the team got a second wind of breath. They won the next Test match and drew the last. Even then, one was not fully convinced as to whether the Australians could sustain the onslaught of a star-studded Indian outfit.
The three ODIs were important for both sides because of the World Cup to be held in India later in the year. India showed their prowess by beating Australia in their first encounter. This they just managed, even though they were chasing a small total.
The defeats, thereafter, and losing the ODI series 2-1 to Australia has put a question mark on where India truly stands at present. The Indian side seems to flourish when the going is good, however, they seem to mentally crumble when they are put into a tight spot. This has been their problem for the last 10 years and is the prime reason why they have not won a major championship. The Indian side fails to recover when the chips are down.
The last ODI loss in Chennai was a good example of an Indian team, that looks like one full of individuals rather than one which thinks holistically about reaching their goal as a team. Responsibility is the word that seems to have escaped most of them, as many did get set and got out playing shots that would have made even a school coach reprimand one’s brood.
Maybe, the thought of the upcoming IPL was uppermost in their minds and more important than ensuring that the present World’s top ODI cricket side, Australia, is sent home with plenty to think about. This, unfortunately, did not happen and Australia, beaming with confidence, feel they have the armoury and sufficient knowledge to do well in India. Confidence has engulfed them and this will carry them through with a very positive mindset when they meet India in the World Test Championship on June 7 at the Oval in London.
In the meanwhile, the Women’s Premier League (WPL), has been well-received and successful. This is fabulous for India’s women cricketers. However, the pressure of franchise-based cricket has taken a toll on most of them. Having the burden of financial responsibility on their shoulders and the calculation of runs or wickets taken, vis-a-vis one’s purchase value has led to disappointing performances from many of the Indian stars.
The WPL has been a very successful platform for several foreign players who seem to enjoy playing in it. Why many of the Indian cricketers have failed is something for one to seriously ponder. Either they were overwhelmed by the aura that surrounded them or were not mentally prepared.
The WPL will, over time, be the ideal setting to unearth India’s talented women cricketers and it is a matter of time before one will see Indian cricketers taking centerstage. However, the inaugural one has shown several areas of Indian women’s cricket that needs attention. Fitness and fielding are definitely ones that need to be seriously looked at, for improvement.
The final of the WPL at the Mecca of Indian cricket the Cricket Club of India (CCI) at the famous Brabourne Stadium on March 26 should be another historical moment etched into the walls of India’s foremost cricket club. An Indian cricketer getting the player of the match would be just what the doctor ordered.
The famous line of one of the legendary Indian cricket commentators and a permanent resident of the CCI, Bobby Ta”yarkhan, comes to min”, “Do you get me, Steve?”
(Yajurvindra Singh is a former India cricketer. The views expressed are personal)
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