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India and the winning habit

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Peter Roebuck
Peter Roebuck

Peter Roebuck

Hard decisions must be taken. Sometimes good men must be omitted

As far as limited-overs cricket is concerned, India is on the right track. Rahul Dravid's team has been playing enterprising cricket and also has youth on its side. Not that it pays to look too far ahead. Dravid is right to insist that supporters stop talking about the 2007 World Cup.

A traveller who looks towards the horizon may fall in the next pothole. Instead, the current players must be supported and allowed to gather experience and gain confidence. India has a young side and it is winning. Time will take care of the rest.

Dravid's team reflects its age. Otherwise it could not succeed. Previously, youngsters were deferential and respectful. Then came a new generation with its mobile phones and fashion and music, and slowly the influence spread into cricket.

Why play by the rules? Why not let the hair grow long? Why not reverse sweep? Why not emerge from the backwaters?

India's cricket has captured these changes. Nothing stands still. As T.S. Eliot long ago pointed out, even conservatism must move forward or lose its relevance.

India has moved past the age of post-colonial protest and now lives and breathes as an independent, modern, democratic country. Greg Chappell's appointment was not a step back but an expression of cosmopolitan confidence.

Calm and competitive

Dravid presides in his calm and competitive way over an alert team containing several fresh faces. None of the newcomers has been content to dip a toe in the water and then to speak admiringly about Rahul bhai. To the contrary, they have plunged into the waves and started thrashing about. They are not scared.

India has chosen an interesting blend of players. More than ever, one-day cricket demands a bold spirit and an aggressive outlook. Successful teams dare to take the first risk and retain their excitement about wearing clothes capturing the colours of their country.

Versatility is important. It is not enough to drive a few sixes or bowl a few overs. A variety of services must be offered. Sehwag and Yuvraj made timely contributions with the ball in Kochi.

Heaviness in the field, lumbering between wickets, weary second spells and dull-wittedness cannot be tolerated. Ganguly had become a liability in the field.

Replacements have been found for Nehra, Laxman and Zaheer, admirable cricketers in many ways but too one-dimensional for these purposes. Even Kumble has been forced to give way. Hard decisions must be taken. Sometimes good men must be omitted.

Waves of excitement

Fortunately, the greenhorns have started well and some have sent waves of excitement through the stands. Let us wait a little longer before lavishing praise on boys who have played a couple of memorable innings or sent down a few nerveless spells.

On the other hand, some players have been struggling. Nothing unusual about that. The shorter version does not give the battler time to settle down. In an attempt to break out, the shaky player will risk everything on a wild stroke.

Sehwag and Kaif have been out of sorts but they are the very picture of the modern 50-over player. Sehwag can demolish an attack and bowl tidily in the middle of an innings.

Kaif has often played well in the past, runs superbly between wickets and is a brilliant fielder. Both have parts to play in building a vibrant, fearless Indian side.

Another chap is also worth mentioning, a fellow called Sachin. Don't write him off! Youth is important. Class also has its part to play. India must continue winning in the hope that it becomes a habit.

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