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India can’t handle anything beyond what suits them

India will always be an enigma, as a nation and as a cricket team. We will be on top the world on one day, down in the dumps on the other.

Written by Jaideep Ghosh | New Delhi |
January 15, 2016 7:23:09 am
Indian cricket team, India cricket team, Team India, India cricket, MS Dhoni, Virat Kohli, Cricket News, Cricket MS Dhoni – unbeatable for long, quite beatable now? (Source: AP)

One often wonders what, or who, is the biggest enigma in Indian cricket.

Is it the team as a whole, which seems to turn into a tower of granite – unbeatable and commanding – at home to putty abroad, losing almost everything?

Is it Rohit Sharma? An absolute time bomb in limited-overs cricket, but an equal disaster in Tests.

Is it Ravichandran Ashwin, the ‘best’ spinner in the world? Or is he a square turner bully?

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Ravindra Jadeja is unplayable at home. Very playable and in fact welcomed by rival batsmen away.

Or is it Mahendra Singh Dhoni? Unbeatable for so long, quite beatable now?

I guess it’s a combination of all of this. After all, what fun would it be if the whole thing was predictable and boring?

Amazing how things change with the Indian team. Not too long ago, we were the best thing on God’s earth, having hammered the South Africans with such conviction!

Not too long before that, we were being taken to the cleaners by the same South Africans, who went up to way above 400 runs to sign off a one-day international series, preceded by the T20 matches.

Prior to that, we had beaten Sri Lanka in their backyard to win an elusive away Test series.

And now, we are in Australia, and have lost a match we had thought was in the bag for about an innings and a bit.

Yes I know. You all are experts on the chronology of the sport, so its a good time to stop and come to the point.

The point is simple really – India can’t handle anything beyond what suits them to the T.

Remember the scrap Ravi Shastri had after the Mumbai ODI, going after the curator for creating a batting paradise? Or even before that?

The sum total of that outrage were the tracks for the Tests that were quite the dustbowls that we have grown up on, turning square from Day One.

Sure, the South Africans made a right hash of negotiating the Indian bowlers, but there was never any doubt that India would win on these pitches.

So began the argument – whether it was right or wrong to provide such tracks and get ‘home’ advantage.

There were points in favour and against. It sure didn’t make for a good battle plan to provide tearaway bouncing tracks (although it’s a near-impossibility in India anyway) to a bowling that included, at that moment, Steyn, Philander, Morkel and Rabada.

But that didn’t mean you play on a broken piece of real estate where the cricket ball became a crazy ball.
That contention riled Shastri too, as it did skipper Virat Kohli. “Are we given turning tracks in South Africa or Australia?”

Fair enough.

But do tell, was the WACA pitch provided for the first ODI Down Under anywhere near the fast, bouncy stuff we were apprehending?

It was a sleeping beauty, make no mistake. Rohit Sharma and Kohli showed it out to be what it was.

So that left India defending 309. If my memory serves me correct, out of 55 instances till then, that a team defended a 300-plus score, only five were lost.

It looked like things were going that way here too, especially since Barinder Sran’s dream debut saw the home side two down in less than five overs.

Then it was all over. Steve Smith and George Bailey made the Indian bowling look like a joke as the hosts just walked through them.

Sran did great. But the rest of the bowlers provided exactly what we are saying – they are nowhere on a flat track, in Australia or here.

When Ashwin was bowling in Kanpur, Nagpur or Delhi, he looked like a shark, playing with its prey. Every over was an assault, a promise of a wicket.

Jadeja was hitting the woodwork every time he came on to bowl. The South Africans were clueless.

At Perth, both got carted around with aplomb. Ashwin’s wickets came way too late to be of any real use.

So the ‘best’ and his protégé were taken apart with no trouble. Nothing like ‘home conditions’ to get the best out of these bowlers, right?

The Australians, on their part, obviously think that the Big Bash League, which is approaching the business end. So their bowling, at best, is the B team, with Josh Hazlewood suddenly being the number one bowler.

Not too difficult to score 300 against this attack on a flat track, with Mitchell Starc out injured and even Nathan Lyon being left out.

But what India offered was crème de la crème, at least in the spin department. Wouldn’t have hurt to have Mohammed Shami in working order or Ishant Sharma being fielded. But that might not have made too much difference.

We will always be an enigma, as a nation and as a cricket team. We will be on top the world on one day, down in the dumps on the other.

But it would really help if our bowlers are provided with enough challenges at home in order to make them viable abroad.

Otherwise, we can stay happy as home tigers, as we have for decades.

Where’s the fun in that?

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