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It's time for Men in Blue to rock

If India are off-key against Eng, they might as well kiss goodbye their chance at ICC cup, writes Kadambari Murali.

india Updated: Oct 15, 2006 12:40 IST

This, now, is where India need to begin their redemption song. There is no question about that.

If they are off-key in Sunday's tie against England — who, despite the names of Kevin Pietersen and Andrew Flintoff in their roster, have become somewhat of a joke because of their depressing one-day form — they might as well kiss goodbye their chances at the Champions Trophy.

After all, even if this is home and an advantage, up next are the West Indies and then Australia.

Let’s be real here. Whatever the undoubted talent and latent promise within the team, it's the results that matter. Greg Chappell recently said, ‘what is past is past’, referring to the string of erratic performances the Indians have come up with from the start of their Caribbean summer, but if he and his think-tank do not quickly settle, their past will soon catch up with their future. And that string will twist into a Gordian knot — one impossible to untie.

Whatever the official version on the 'we-are-one-happy-family' front we hear, there is much too much talk of a team on the edge, of simmering discontent within the ranks and the sour aftertaste of a dream gone awry. That talk cannot be completely dismissed — the evidence to the contrary is far too strong, but the rot can be stemmed and the dream (or vision as Chappell would say) brought back on track. It has to start on Sunday.

Every indication ahead of this game is that Virender Sehwag's banishment down the order will end. If it does, India would hope that that would kick-start their journey back from the bottom.

But while this match may be about Sehwag, it will certainly also be about Irfan Pathan, if he plays. At the moment, while he has been concentrated on at nets, it is still unclear as to whether India would risk going with him.

Indian cricket’s child of the sun has moved into the shadows, apparently in the throes of some private nightmare that no one has access to. By all reports, Pathan has been given advice by everyone who can give advice and some who can’t. It may be no wonder then that he seems confused, even dazed! But on a serious note, there is little indication that a rescue has been effected — Sunday might tell.

It will also be a telling time for a handful of others. Dravid needs to work out the balance between his captaincy and his deserved status as the world’s most dependable bat. Yuvraj has had too prolonged a lay-off from last season's wonderful form, Kaif needs to justify holding his place in the side as does Suresh Raina, who many feel has been baby-sitted enough.

The one thing India would be grateful for, though, would be the return of Sachin Tendulkar, seemingly whole of body and mind. Though, in Kuala Lumpur, Tendulkar seemed to swing from an uncustomary edgy nervousness to painstaking determination, the bottomline was that he stood there. Almost majestic in his isolation, even while all around him was crumbling.

There is, perhaps, a twisted irony in the fact that Tendulkar, time and immeasurable time again, has been called to arms with no one by his side. In the last couple of years, though, with his being in and out of the team through injury, his performance, by his own lordly standards, certainly dipped, a clutch of others rose to collectively do for India what he has so often done alone.

But again now, when he shows evidence of that imperious touch of old, the rest seem to have flown too high, too fast and had their wings singed. If India's current lackadaisical form continues, then of course, Tendulkar might be on familiar ground --- another lone battle. The unfortunate part is that whether he wins the battle or not, India would need a full-fledged attack to win the war.

First Published: Oct 15, 2006 00:00 IST