2011

No Pain, No Gain

courtesy: ESPNcricinfo

At the time of writing, India are getting quite a beating from Cook’s men at the Oval. The rapid disintegration of the players in the last three tests has been painful to watch; actually, scratch that…I have stayed off from watching most of the days’ play since the Ageas Bowl test. As Devanshu pointed out in a brilliant article recently, the emotional toll that my team’s performance exacts on me can be draining in defeat as exhilarating as it is in victory. After all, I still have not fully recovered from the 0-8 memories of 2011.

Talking about 2011, going from the highs of a home World Cup win to the nadir of whitewashes in England and Australia really tested my loyalty and support for the team. The only other performance that brought me similar grief was the 1999 whitewash down under. At least, then it was expected by all and sundry, as a weak team (barring SRT) wilted under the dominance of the mighty Aussies. The 2011 England tour, on the other hand, consisted of a phalanx of experienced veterans who were supposed to defend the number 1 ranking in style. Instead, the team went down with a flurry of injuries and contagious loss of form, as England steamrolled the tourists. As crushing as it was, I consoled myself saying that it was all bad luck. Then came the tour down under.

The Aussies seemed ripe for the taking; yet a fully fit Indian team continued it’s disastrous run overseas. That tour signaled the end of Rahul Dravid and further down the road, VVS Laxman. India were forced into the transitional period, kicking and screaming.

Fast forward to now. The Indian team picked for the England series did not boast of many high profile names like the previous tour; but given the travails of the English team and the promising performances in the previous two overseas tours, there was reason for cautious optimism. Indeed, the Lord’s test raised hopes that a corner had been turned with regards to tactics, skill and guts. Instead, the following three tests has been a sobering reminder, that there is a long way to go for this team to mature into a strong test side capable of challenging the best sides on a consistent basis.

That brings me to the point of the article; there is hope. Yes, the manner of the defeats in the last few games has been very dispiriting, to put it mildly; but as @srinivyasan pointed out, this team is on the upward curve of their careers. Players like Pujara, Kohli and Rahane will only get better. The likes of Bhuvneshwar, Ishant (yes!) and Aaron promise good signs for the future. Vijay has shown that he has the discipline to succeed overseas. While there is a question mark on the likes of Dhawan, Jadeja and Ashwin, they have age on their side. Short-term pain might have to be tolerated before the long-term gain comes to fruit.

The captain likes to talk about the importance of process over results. So far, neither the process nor the results has gone India’s way; but Dhoni himself has offered a template (courtesy, his bat) on how to keep fighting and trusting on one’s own strengths. If his players can imbibe those qualities, these present-day shambles might just kickstart a revival for this team.

 

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My 2011 wishlist for International Cricket

I had a terrible year...how about you guys?

 

Its the end of a fascinating year in cricket  – a year which included among many others, a maiden World T20 title for England, a thrilling end to Murali’s career, Laxman’s numerous houdini acts, the spot-fixing saga in England, Bangladesh whitewashing New Zealand in ODIs, Modi’s crash and burn, Sachin breaking barriers in ODIs and Tests, the declining fortunes of the Aussies, and of course, the Ashes retained by England. I can only hope for another year like that in 2011:

  • Khawaja scores a breath-taking ton in a losing cause against England at Sydney, as Collingwood scores a gritty double century to prolong his career.
  • Zaheer grabs a 10 wicket haul and Sehwag scores a double century to seal a historic series victory in South Africa, despite the best efforts of Amla and  Steyn.
  • Pakistan and New Zealand take part in a thrilling ODI series, at the end of which, Ijaz Butt starts off on a rant, as to how it is all a big conspiracy to defraud Pakistan cricket, when someone reminds him that Pakistan have won.
  • The World Cup final is contested between India and England, which ends in a dramatic tie, after valiant performances by the unlikely duo of Strauss and Jadeja.
  • IPL 4 is won by Ganguly-led Kochi, after a whirlwind knock by Clarke (yes, Michael!) just pushes them over the line against Lara’s Pune (Clarke vs Lara, get it?).
  • England and India take part in a run-filled Test series featuring marathon batting knocks by Cook, Trott, Dravid and Harbhajan.
  • West Indies and Pakistan take part in a Test series, which is filled with countless mentions of how Darren Bravo’s stroke-play reminds one of Brian Lara, and how Amir’s return to international cricket is a disgrace to the beautiful game (cricket, in this instance!)
  • New Zealand skipper, chief selector, part-time cricket board chief – Dan Vettori, blasts the media, after taking umbrage to the remark that he was a poor man’s Shakib Al Hasan, at the end of another whitewash against Bangladesh even as coach Wright longs for another stint with India.
  • Zimbabwe invite Sri Lanka to take part in their domestic competition, after Sangakarra is left fuming at the lack of games for his team. Sri Lanka accept the invitation and travel to Zimbabwe, upon which the entire season is washed out due to rain, leading to the skipper’s remarks that it was the “worst first class season of my life”.
  • Things move fast in South Africa where Hashim Amla takes over the reins after De Villiers decides to take a break, to spend more time developing his music career. Paul Harris is the leading wicket taker of the year, after batsmen throw their wickets away attempting to slog him, after bearing the brunt of Steyn and Morkel.
  • India’s tour of Australia is mired in controversy, after new Aussie skipper Watson accuses India of deliberately destroying Johnson’s career by smashing him all around the park with scant respect. It completely overshadows career defining performances by Pujara, Unadkat, Ferguson and Beer.
  • Finally, the leading run scorer and wicket taker of the year are, Ian Bell and some fast bowler Pakistan unearthed at the beginning of 2011.

Have a good 2011, everybody!