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It is progress....DAMN IT!!! by Srinivas Kanchibhotla
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20th April 2005
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It is progress....DAMN IT!!!

We are definitely heading in the right direction. The last time our friends across the border met us on the 22 yard strip in the shorter version of the game way back in 1987, we were mauled, masticated and literally man-handled by Imran and his henchmen, who handed us a humiliating 6-1 loss (the lone victory in Hyderabad was on a technicality, thanks to a goof by the Abdul Qadir), while taking a 1-0 victory in the longer version of the game back home, making the drubbing a complete and a comprehensive one. 18 years later, when the compositions of the team have changed considerably, and the current Indian team no longer reeled under the resounding echo of the Miandad's willow from last ball six at Sharjah, progress has certainly been made in both versions of the game. We didn't let the visitors take home the rubber, we made them share. We didn't let ourselves to be belittled this time, like it happened 18 years ago. It was 4-2 and not 7-1. We are getting there. What does it matter if it is one very painful inch at a time? How does it matter if it takes 18 years segments to accumulate victories one at a time. In 72 or 108 more years, we can reverse the 4-2 to a 2-4 and the ignominious 7-1 to a 1-7 and hand it back to the visitors. Patience, as the wise man once called it, is a virtue. And the average spectator has loads of it.

We can all rue over the woeful form of the master blaster, the imaginative captain, and all ones who were once hailed as the future of Indian cricket as the main reasons behind treating the visitors with so much respect and extending them great hospitality. What once looked, just a couple of years ago at the end of the world cup and the tours of Australia and Pakistan, as the glorious moments in Indian cricket, when the entire machinery was working as a well-oiled unit, appears to be jaded, tired and completely broken down. Though it is quite simple to blame it on the continual collapse of the famed batting line-up as whoever the captain of the day points out in the mundane pre- and post-match interviews, a closer observation of the pattern of the losses at home, particularly in the one-day series, would reveal a breakdown of, not just the batting order, but the bowling structure and not to miss out the pitch designs. With exception of the Aussies, the law of averages catches up with all mortal beings. The dream run which started around the same time when Wright took over and Ganguly, Dravid, Tendulkar, Sehwag, Laxman, Yuvraj and Kaif found their forms at just the right time, continued well over 4 years. Whatever shortcomings and lapses were perceived in the bowling department got swept under the mountains of runs scored by all the blazing guns. After riding the wave to it's full crest till the point of completion of the Pakistan tour, the team got to a position where it had never been in its entire history before. Contrastingly, the fall from grace from such a point would be as much painful and as much distraught to an average viewer. And the results showed it all.

Till just a few years ago, scoring 300 runs in a one-day game was a blue moon phenomenon, that would happen only when the mightiest play against the minnows. At the end of the last one day game at Kotla, India shares the honors with Sri Lanka, as the only two teams who have conceded more 300 scores than any other country, including Bangladesh and Kenya. Add that to the fact that it has been 4 years since we won the one-day series at home. Again, all the fingers point to the hapless bowlers, who toil all day long in sweltering heats, and more importantly, ON DEAD PITCHES, trying to reign back explosive openers and middle-order builders. That it has produced more 300 scores this time than any before, that it has happened before during the West Indies tour (where we lost 4-3) in another run glut series, leads us to believe that the blame should not completely be laid on the bowlers, who could not contain the opposition, and the batsmen, who could not cover for the bowlers on a consistent basis. In a blinding greed to produce one spectacular score after another and thereby bring more crowds into the seats and more eyes in front of the sets, the board in association with the curators, has been choking the golden goose from the last few years. And to express such a serious concern and an utter disbelief, when the team just could not catch up with the run-o-meter on a regular basis, is but self-styled hypocrisy.

It is well acknowledged fact that bowling was never our key strength. On the flip side, it is a given fact that batting alone could not rescue any team day after day, match after match. When the dust settles, and the long sessions of introspection commence, not only should the team be held accountable, but also the administration, including the board, local authorities and the curators, should equally be held responsible for the current mess. And until someone, sitting in the air-conditioned rooms, takes a hard stance, bringing back some sanity to the proceedings, insisting on resuscitating the dying pitch conditions in the country, we continue to make steady progress in 18 year segments. It is true, some progress is better than no progress at all!

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