Makarand Waingankar

Let’s appreciate what this Indian team has achieved

Karnataka : Bengaluru : 29/12/2014 . Author of the book Guts & Glory , Makarand Waingankar during launch of his book at KSCA stadium in Bangalore on December 29, 2014. Photo: Bhagya Prakash K

Karnataka : Bengaluru : 29/12/2014 . Author of the book Guts & Glory , Makarand Waingankar during launch of his book at KSCA stadium in Bangalore on December 29, 2014. Photo: Bhagya Prakash K   | Photo Credit: Bhagya Prakash K

The side may feel that it is unjustly being punished for no wrong

No one likes criticism, especially public rebuke. Alas, the life of a cricketer in India does not include such considerations. Kohli and his team it seems have every right to feel aggrieved.

It wouldn’t be surprising if the captain and the rest of the team are wondering what wrong they did by winning a Test series against the top team in world cricket; a side that has not lost a Test series since2006.

Since October 2007 South Africa had played 32 away Tests and had not lost a single one. The achievement of putting an end to that run in such an emphatic fashion by this Indian side should not be under-estimated.

The team, however, finds itself in a situation of having to explain itself. Such has been the criticism it has received.

Different players are inclined to handle such situations differently. Indian greats Sunil Gavaskar and Bishan Singh Bedi have not shied away from addressing criticisms publicly, then how can a young and dynamic captain of the Indian team be expected to turn away?

We have had many examples of former players and the media going after captains for being reactive. The Chappells flayed former Australian captain Kim Hughes who later broke down during a media conference. England captain Alastair Cook, a docile personality, responded angrily to Shane Warne’s comments.

Kohli’s recent comments, made as part of an interview on the BCCI website, too have drawn many reactions from different quarters. Since when has winning accrued such a taboo in the Indian media? So, let us consider what the criticism has been about. Simply put, the allegation is that Team India stretched the home advantage too far. Intelligent readers can draw out the implications of such an accusation.

Shastri was criticised by sections of the media based only on hearsay and he has shrewdly avoided being dragged into such distractions. Kohli on the other hand has exercised his right to present his case before the public.

Every team around the world tries to make use of home conditions and play to its strengths. When Indian batsmen or bowlers struggle on green tops at the Wanderers or Perth, the pitches are not to blame.

Early this year when Indian medium-pacers bowled poorly on good Australian tracks, they were thrashed. No one blamed the pitches; and rightfully so. The South African team management didn’t criticise the pitch.

Every team needs to find its own way of solving the puzzle.

That’s what makes sports exciting. The answer is always the same but the method is not.

Preparing challenging turners was only part of that method. The team also had to execute plans and get on top of the opposition. The opposition in this case showed poor application throughout the series and did not have the quality or depth in the spinning department to compete.

Eventually, application proved to be the difference between the two teams, as even Indian batsmen struggled but recovered with partnerships at crucial stages. Even the South African management admitted that it simply could not cope with the spinners.

To top it all, the comments made by former players would have hurt. The team would have counted on them for support and understanding. Having to defend a series victory is a challenge to any captain’s credibility.

Kohli has responded and to his credit, he waited till the series ended. He must know from history that critics will always be around. Former captains Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi and M.S. Dhoni made their comments with discretion while Ajit Wadekar was diplomatic. Gavaskar handled his detractors with subtle sarcasm.

The difference now for Kohli is that media has not only expanded in quantity but in terms of platforms as well. While the team may feel that it is unjustly being punished for no wrong, responding too strongly may incur extra public pressure that is unnecessary.

If we recapitulate the 2007 incidents we will find evidence of this. Team India failed to qualify beyond the group stages in the World Cup and the homes of senior cricketers were pelted with stones.

The young captain’s case is aggravated by his on and off field persona which leaves him vulnerable to critics. However, having the guidance of a shrewd Ravi Shastri must surely help him balance that, and enjoy the victory amid the clamour.

Hopefully the rest of us can appreciate what this team has achieved.

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Printable version | Jul 11, 2020 10:20:20 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/columns/makarand-waingankar/analysis-of-indian-cricket-teams-performance/article7997398.ece

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