Why

Why

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

INDIA’S T20 AGONY IN WORLD STAGE – SHOULD WE LOOK BEYOND THE TRADITIONAL WAY OF PLAYING THIS FORMAT?


For India, in the end it all came down to the last match. Pity it was not the last match of the tournament. Prior to the match, the situation India was in reminded me those ODI multi-nation tournaments which India played in the 1990s and how they had to squeeze into the finals through mathematics. It was always about net-run rate, it still is.

In 2007 T20 World Cup, India after losing to New Zealand in the Super 8s bounced back well with a victory against England (Yes, the same match where Yuvraj Singh scored those six 6s) and had to face South Africa in the last match. A win would have ensured them a spot in semi-finals and for South Africa; they were playing for the net run-rate. Eventually they didn’t qualify and rest is history. India went on to win the inaugural T20 championships, T20 became the latest craze in India, BCCI cashes on this madness and launches IPL, Dhoni becomes the overnight star and many more can be added to this. Cricket was never the same in India and to a larger extent worldwide.
It has been five years and a week since that victory over Pakistan, and in between then and now three World Cups have already taken place with India failing to be in top four on each occasion. After India’s failure to advance to semi-finals, I wondered - Here is a case which is worrying for a country that by far has the best T20 league in place (IPL).

T20 cricket, when looked purely from cricket’s point of view was one of the best things that happened to cricket. It just made cricket get into an elite and I go on further saying, a sole league where a sport can be played in three dimensions. Additionally, T20 gives a chance to be part of the Olympics programme. Cricket is by far the only sport (compared to other sports) that offers a wide range of action a consumer can ask for - a quick bite, a hearty meal and a buffet spread over five days.

Though T20 was conceived in England, BCCI has been instrumental in making it grand courtesy of Indian Premier League (IPL).  Besides the controversies that are part of any sports league, IPL has made cricket a much calmer sport owing to interactions of international stars. The way it is structured, Indian cricketers – current and upcoming have a lot of benefits. More opportunities to learn new things, unlearn certain things which might prevent you from becoming better and re-learn the basics. So far it has been good, but I asked myself – What effect does it have on the national team? Why have we gone back ever since IPL started?

Can this be the one of the reasons - Indian players not being allowed to play in the abroad leagues? IPL might be a shorter version, but it does give a chance to play in foreign conditions which will come in handy. In the age of professionalism, injuries are just an excuse for mis-management and over commitment is a plane excuse for ignorance.

On contrary, Pakistan has been one of the most consistent performers in T20 World Cup formats. Lost to India by a whisker, won the next edition in 2009; missed the final by a whisker (courtesy of those sixes from Mike Hussey in the last two overs) and now semi-finalists again. Surely there must be something going right besides talent or luck? They do not have a good T20 league, do not have any international cricket at home and yet they are always been in the last four consistently in the last four T20 World Cups. I am not saying they are better than the Indian side, results definitely point in this direction and one cannot fail but notice their immense growth  as a T20 side. They are the only team to be in top four since 2007. The only solace for an Indian fan is the fact that they have yet to win against us in a World Cup match. Gone are those days when a victory against Pakistan was equivalent, in fact better than the World Cup. There are still people who belong to that school of fact – Personally it is great to win against them all the time, but it should not stop just there. Thankfully Indian cricket team knows that. What is it that we are missing? Why are we getting close to resemble the English football team that boasts of a high profile domestic league but produce inconsistent performances  in international tournaments.

M S Dhoni has now captained in four T20 World Cups, a record? Having captained consistently and successfully the Chennai Super Kings in IPL and Champions League, he has not been able to get the most of his national team to be in the top four. Yes, this format is a freak show where anything can happen. But this format is also a highly strategic one where often the best strategies hold you in a good stead. Did India as a team has been missing the point at crucial times in the last three World Cups?

I am not trying to be hard on this team. They have just lost one match in this tournament and still they find themselves in this uneasy situation. Is there a way to analyse this kind of performance? Or should we just blame our ill fate and move on with our lives? After all this is just a sport, isn’t it?
Well, to me this way of looking at it is a big ‘NO’. To a lot of people, sports and cricket in general might be a source of recreation. But this ‘recreation’ is also a profession. As in every other profession, if one fails there is a tendency to shake up things and try to look for alternative solutions to change the pattern. Cricket is no different.

This is where ‘homework’ comes into picture. I have loads of things running in my mind.

·        Is it time to look at the T20 format beyond the traditional means of thinking? Yes, several teams have been doing this consistently now.

·        Should we replace the players and form a new team – different players for different formats? – A lot of teams follow this.

·        Should we have a separate T20 support staff strengthened by analysts who might just think out of the box? – Well, to my knowledge there is not much evidence to suggest teams in cricket are following this.

In T20, just like the players, the support staffs are also in the ‘WIP’ mode. Is it not better to have a different/new set of backhand support that might just make a difference?

It is a point to consider and in a format like T20 such people have no lesser role than say contingency planners in any of the major events or companies. T20 is like a rapid chess game where you need to have a vision or an idea about all the different probabilities in a situation. One should have worked out different ways to tackle a situation, as there is less time (considering over rate issues) for captains to think efficiently.

This struck me hard ever since India lost to Australia. The manner in which we lost should have the think-tank minds ringing. Yes, a bad loss can happen at any time. Players take time to recover; in T20 games since time is crucial the support staff comes in handy. More so, if they are pro-active.
What must be done to nullify such a bad loss? It is all about winning the tournament right?  In such a scenario; could we have thought a better way while playing against Pakistan knowing that net run-rates can make a lot of difference?

Why don’t we start looking this format in a more analytically as different results can pose threats to one’s cause? One cannot expect players to do this; all they can do is prepare and polish their skills. Such analytical information will be a supplement when one gets to team meetings. I see a merit in such thinking and BCCI for instance can start to look at this T20 format differently than the traditional formats where teams do have time to adapt to prevailing conditions.

I had read this quote once – “One of life's most painful moments comes when we must admit that we didn't do our homework, that we are not prepared.” – Does Indian T20 team feel that way?