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The curse of success by Srinivas Kanchibhotla
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March 22, 2006
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The curse of success

The game of see-saw continues. One goes up while the other comes down and vice versa. As a corollary, the higher one side goes up, the absolute bottom the other has to hit. Stability is never an option and consistency is just a figment of imagination with a touch of illusion. A couple of seasons ago before the start of the series with Sri Lanka at home, the one day team was in shambles. Ever since the dream run ended after the World Cup campaign 2003, and the long break that followed it, the one day team never quite got back in its winning grove, with one defeat closing in on the heels of another, in tournament after tournament and series after series. The turn around happened only after hitting the rock bottom (literally, in the ICC one day rankings), three years later. But now that the fortunes of the one day side seem to have turned for the better, following the spectacular victories over Sri Lanka and Pakistan and respectable victory over South Africa, and the team has started its ascent back to the post World Cup days, it is the other side that has become a matter of major concern. It has been a real long time (or was there ever such a period before?), since both sides complimented/complemented each other in victories, egging on the other for further perfection.

Not long ago, with a formidable batting line up and a respectable contingent in the bowling department, the Indian test side was considered to be one of the premier teams, next only to the perennial favorites. After the just concluded series, it looks like the magic dust of the test team has rubbed off on the one day side and the misery dust of the one day team, on the test side. First it was Australia that conquered its final frontier, then it was South Africa to perform the last rites and now it is England to rub the nose in the dust - and surprisingly, all this happened on the home soil, where the local batsmen were supposed to pile on runs, records and partnerships, while the native bowlers (read spinners) were supposed to pillage, plunder and wreak havoc on the opposition, in friendly conditions. A few years down the lane, the record of the tied rubber in the just concluded series wouldn't say much about the Indian capitulation, English domination and the resulting humiliation. It just shows that one side has won one and the other had equaled it in the following test. Sadly, it does not retain details about how England had played its heart out, in every session of every test, and if it were truly a showdown of grit and determination between both the side, the rubber should in fact had read 2-0 in favor of England.

If not anything, stubbornness characterizes the English team. When the team toured before last under the captaincy of Nasir Hussain, pundits predicted a complete brown-wash of the team that boasted of debutants and minnows. Not only did England eke out a 1-0 loss, which was still a lot respectable for its standards, but went ahead and drew the one day series with the same pups and debutants. The absolute refusal to budge to the conditions, the humidity, the crowd, the dust-bowls, and the complete determination to salvage its pride, even at the cost of derision for seemingly negative tactics (which led to Tendulkar getting stumped for the first time in his career), held an encore performance with the current team, again with the same minnows and debutants. With the major players, batsmen and bowlers included, leaving the stage for some reason or another, what looked like a pitiful situation, even for the opposing team to deliver the deadly blows and the sucker punches, turned into quite a spirited play and a tied rubber doesn't do complete justice to a team that played out its skin, claiming each wicket that was richly deserved and making each run that was rightfully theirs. Is it just a coincidence that Flintoff figured majorly in the last 2 tours and the same Mumbai playing a fitting host to his crowning achievements (which includes antics not only with the bat and the ball, but also Tarzan like bare-chest thumping and wild yodelling)

And then there is the Indian team...Would it be relieved that the test with the tests is over and that it could get back to the shorter version of the game, where it seems to have made huge strides in? Would it take a collective sigh of relief that it need not bat for days together (not that it had been doing that very effectively, in the first place) that tests its technique, patience, perseverance and importantly, its resolve? Would it take comfort in the fact that the wild heaves with the bat in unnecessary situations, the adventurous playing styles in unwarranted times, would pay richer dividends in the condensed version of the game than it did in the test series? Would it make a concerted move, now that the era of Tendulkars and Gangulys seems to fade further and further into thick haze, towards rebuilding the test team in the same way it did with the one day team, however long it takes? As long as Indian cricket seems to see-saw between the fortunes of the one day side and the test team, conventional wisdom dictates that it is better to at least be a master in one than try be a jack in every one, as the next World Cup draws nearer with each passing day. And until that fateful day in the Carribean, the home fans need to brace themselves for a couple more disappointments with the test results, first when touring the West Indies and next, when dropping in South Africa on their way back home. Now, if only, Indian Cricket realizes that it need not play the see-saw game to start with...

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