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'Phoren phobia' no excuse, just play Sachin’s way

The present system does not test the ability of players and allows ordinary cricketers to produce extraordinary performances, writes Amrit mathur.
Hindustan Times | By Amrit mathur
UPDATED ON JAN 09, 2008 11:52 AM IST

The reasons why India's top players crack under pressure and underperform abroad is an eternal mystery. There are many theories that offer explanations but none fully unravel the baffling phenomena.

And just as the Indus Valley script continues to defy scholars, after it was discovered about 75 years ago, there is no convincing jawaab about the consistent flop show of the Indian team on the overseas circuit. Just look at one damning stat: India have won only four matches in 75 years of Test cricket in England.

Earlier, one could understand the failure. Then players were unfamiliar with foreign conditions as overseas tours were infrequent. Given this, players brought up on low, slow pitches appeared visibly scared of quick bowling and, as they backed off in fear, the square leg umpire stood a few steps back.

Besides cricket, in those days, off-field factors also came into play as the entire experience of going abroad, staying in hotels and working within an alien environment, was a strain.

English was an issue, so was the food and the use of elevators and escalators. No wonder it was said the Indian team was always on the backfoot — more wickets were lost in the dressing room than in the middle.

But this was in the past, now these reasons don't hold. Lack of knowledge about foreign conditions is a non-issue. Indian players play more international cricket than matches at home, they know more about Lord's than Ludhiana and are equally familiar with Delhi's Kotla and Durban's Kingsmead.

The general phoren phobia has long disappeared. Indian players travel so much they defeat any frequent flyer airline programme. The terrors of English language have disappeared, roti/daal/tandoori chicken is available everywhere. Mobiles/internet/laptops/DVD's ensure players stay connected and are never far from home, India and Hindi films.

Nobody is scared of fast bowling, and there is no extra bhaav for Ponting or Lara because Indian legends Kumble/Dravid/Tendulkar are equally big dadas.

So, why does India still fail to deliver, why such poor results? Domestic pitches and a weak first-class structure are certainly to blame, runs in Ranji are generous gift cheques presented by friendly attacks.

The present system does not test the ability of players and allows ordinary cricketers to produce extraordinary

Despite this, is there some other critical element missing in Indian cricket?

Could this failing point to a larger Indian weakness that extends beyond cricket, of lacking intensity and the ruthless edge which is so necessary for excelling?

If Indian cricket is still wrapped in yesterday’s mindset and its players lack self-belief it is a pity.

Contemporary Ind ia has no such baggage, on the contrary, whether in happening Bangalore or sleepy Benaras, the young lot plays life from the front foot. Perhaps it is time for the top order of Indian cricket to adopt Sachin's game plan and play khul ke.

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