TEAM INDIA: Are we really “Number 1”?

When we try to recall the origin of cricket, we are brought to England: the Mecca of cricket. This began in 1877 with the first test match being played between Australia and England. Since then, gentlemen’s game has seen the rise and fall of many cricketing super powers. Bradman’s invincible team was a force to match with. But the true dominance in cricket began in late 70’s, with Clive Lloyd’s West Indian boys rocking the world cricket with their performance on the highest stage. Two back to back world cup triumphs and not losing a test series for over 15 years say their success story. But more than statistics waht speaks for them is the manner in which they played. Who can forget the deadly Caribbean bowling lineup consisting of greats like Malcom Marshall, Michael holding, Joel Garner and Andy Roberts? Their mere mention fills the batsmen of that era with fear and pain. Ask Tony Greig, how badly he repents his comment “make them grovel” intended for Caribbean team during their England’s tour which not only received some bouncery and yorkery welcome from West Indies team, but led to their whitewash.

This was the era which unleashed fear in the minds of everyone of those playing against Calypso cricketers. We can’t forget Sunil Gavaskar leaving the batting pitch forced by bodyline bouncers of Windies bowlers. This is a tale of dominance, this is a tale teaching us that one should aim at being ruthless; one should aim at demolishing your opponents and bring them down with such intensity that it takes them ages to recover. Later years might have seen the downfall of Windies team, say thanks to their cricket board’s strategy but now it was the time for resurgence of mighty Australian team in late 90s. Aussie bowlers may not have such fear generating bowling attack as Windies or batsmen of likes of Richards but they still ruled the world cricket. The common thing they shared with West Indies team of 70/80s was the spirit which they played: go for the kill. Hence they adopted a different strategy to conquer the world. Mind games along with some amazing talent (Warne, Mcgrath, Ponting, Waughs, Lee) on display worked for Aussies. Their gutsy declarations, their aggression, their strategy of cashing at opponents weaknesses fetched them this feat.

Their era too seems to have come to an end with India being regarded as the new “World Power” of cricket. It is nothing less than a fairy tale that how Dhoni’s boys clinched world cup and made their way to spot in test ranking. The turnaround began during Saurav Ganguly’s time, which was continued by Rahul and Anil, later on with Dhoni bringing the team on the podium. I don’t think there was any team in the past boasting of such mastery in batting line up. In bowling likes of Harbhajan, Zaheer, Ishant might not be as powerpact as Windies attack of 70s or as skillful as Aussie attack of late 90s but they work well for Team India. Every time the Indian team appears on ground, a record or two is always destined to be broken. Then what is the reason that our number one spot remains in a state of doubt, what is the reason for us being regarded as the best team just on paper? What keeps us behind the past rulers of world cricket? Why can’t the world bow down to us despite the fact that we’ve won so many matches and are performing marvelously for such a long time? Is it just the victories that matter or is it the manner in which they are achieved? Let us go back in the recent past- was Dhoni’s idea of not going for chase in final test against Windies team was a clever move? It’s true that the pitch was difficult but don’t we play at slower and tougher pitches back at home? Atleast they could have stayed on pitch for one more hour and bat at a normal pace. Are we so scared of these Windies bowlers that we cannot take risk of going for a ball chase with 7 wickets in hand? Leave this apart, how often do we see the Indian team with dropped shoulders struggling to knock out the opposition? How often we see gutsy declarations from team India keeping the opposition interested in the match? How often do we see the Indian players cheering for their fielders and bowlers? How often we play like world champions? We have the talent, perhaps best in the world but then why can’t we convert this talent into impressive victories? Mind you, I am not talking of results. What I want to emphasize is, why we can’t win by margins such as 3-0 or 5-0? Why can’t we go out and show this world that this it is the team which is now going to rule the world?!

I guess it’s the lack of intent “to kill”. This talent garnished with aggression and a desire to be ruthless and dominant make a perfect recipe for forcing the world to shiver with the thought of playing against India. Wins matter but victories after demolishing the opponent wins you respect. The Indian team’s journey to the top is made possible because of some real hard work by players and it would be little injustice to the talent the team possesses if we can’t force the opponents to regard us as the best in business. We are lucky to have witnessed the charisma of Sachin and the solidity of Rahul. But what we desire to witness is their names going in the record book as a part of the most powerful cricketing team in the world with none other than Englishmen-the inventors, Caribbeans-the aggressors and Aussies-the prudent acclaiming this fact.

I wish for that day to come very soon. Amen!

Nitesh Kumar

The author is a final year student Electrical Engg. at NIT Hamirpur. He follows cricket and tennis as sports and occasionally writes reviews on movies. He admires Rahul Dravid as his sporting hero.