The Mega event is approaching fast. Let me do a final analysis of the present
Indian team, their strengths, their weaknesses and their chances in the WC.
Shastri (who should've joined the Indian team in Australia on Feb 13)'s
fitness adds to India's chances. He can bowl restrictively if he is confident.
He should've gained confidence on the Aussie tour from his few-but-good
Srikkanth seems to be in a great form. Though his 132 off 96 balls against
Combined Cricket Academy-South Australian team is not something to celebrate
(I don't know the standard of the opponents), it increases the confidence of
his fans because it follows some matchwinning knocks in WSC. He can turn a few
important matches in India's way with his swashbuckling style. When Srikkanth
clicks, middle order will have a lot of overs to go with a good score behind
and it should result in a win in most cases.
What the Indian cricket fans were anxiously waiting to see during the last few
days was whether Kambli would adjust to the Aussie wickets fast or not. Though
one should be careful in not reading much from his 51* in the rain-curtailed
match, it surely adds to Kambli's confidence (and the fans').
Azhar seems to have gained confidence. It is a great sign. However, one should
wait before concluding whether he gained his confidence from the century or
Indian cricketers (most of them) are used to the Aussie wickets and most of
the key players have experience on the NZ wickets (where they play against NZ,
Zimbabwe, WI) too.
The bowlers have gained the all-important confidence. Having played on the
Aussie wickets recently adds to their psychological comfort important for
The most important factor is Tendulkar. He has the ability to turn matches
from one side to the other. He is also proving to be a decent bowler. He is
the man who can give a lot of sleepless nights to the rival captains who must
work out on how to get him out or restrict him. Since I have already said too
much about him in my earlier posts, I will say no more. I'll only ask you to
adjust your seat belts and prepare to travel with Tendulkar on a great ride.
I will not be surprised if he gets 200 in a onedayer (not in this WC, sometime
later, when he peaks). Hick, Jones and Sachin are the only three who can do
it, if at all someone does it.
Points to worry about:
One thing that should worry the Indian cricket fans is that Kapil and
Prabhakar gave away a lot of runs in the WSC matches (e.g. final-2) in the
slog overs. It's a very bad sign. That way, they will lose their matches in
the slog overs of opponents (which SL used to do often). Earlier, India's
frontline bowlers used to do a good job in the slog overs.
Also India's batting in the slog overs is of concern. More often than not,
they are collapsing during that stage. One year back, they had excellent
sloggers (Sachin or Azhar, Kapil). Even the tail enders used to slog well.
Hopefully Kambli can fill up that gap.
Indian batting are more inconsistent than ever. Earlier even if the openers
failed, one-down batsman used to stabilize. Now once the openers fall, the
whole batting line-up is collapsing. Only Tendulkar is showing resistance when
the top-order batsmen fall early. The man who can solve this problem is
Manjrekar. Hope he does it.
The fielding and the running between the wickets are pathetic. Hopefully they
have worked on that problem.
India's problems are mainly psychological or connected with things like
fielding. They can be solved if the tour management cares to. Basically India
has a great talent in both batting and bowling. They are no less than any
other team in terms of talent. They have to get their act together and
approach the game positively. It is more of a psycological problem than of
India have won matches in past in similar situations. It looks like their
morale is on rise of late. Historically the situatuion resembles the one
before India's triumph in 1983. What else can an Indian fan do, except
wishing the team all the best and watching the action with suspense? I would
really like to see Tendulkar hitting Younis (or Akram) for a sixer off the
last ball of the finals and dispel India's psychological weakness against
Pakistan (Or, may be, it should be reserved for another Sharjah tourney :-).
PVR Narasimha Rao