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Team India may be peaking too early

During the 2003 World Cup, India went through similar motions where they started off powerfully, but faltered at the end, writes Graham Gooch.

india Updated: Apr 16, 2006 13:55 IST

India did in Indore what they have done all through the summer. Youngsters have put up their hands and chasing down a target is now a specialty.

Robin Uthappa's life has been transformed in a day. The likes of Sreesanth and Suresh Raina already have the halo of veterans. They didn't miss a Sehwag or a Kaif; Tendulkar or a Harbhajan; Dhoni or an Ajit Agarkar. Incredible!

India is high on hope. They fancy themselves for the 2007 World Cup. Every single day from now on, would only add to the frenzy. The players could get caught up in it and so could the team management who would have a difficult task in keeping the vision clear.

Do they worry too much about winning in interim period or do they steel themselves for a few temporary losses in order to build up the right momentum heading into the World Cup?

I can assure you it's not an easy ask. I have played in three World Cups and in all of them, we could make it to the finals. Yet we never won it. I feel at times we peaked too early, like the 1992 World Cup when we were clearly a top side and yet flagged in the final two games.

Pakistan, in contrast, had a terrible start but built themselves up steadily for that powerful finish in the end. So did Australia in 1999 World Cup when they started jerkily, even pondered over the unlikely prospect of elimination, before prevailing in the end. India too, during the 2003 World Cup, went through similar motions.

India, so the moral is, shouldn't peak too early. I guess the challenge for them would be to keep winning yet hold the key members of the side in good shape for the big event. It's not an easy balancing act as the oppositions would now look to score psychological points.

They should steel themselves for that inevitable backlash of fans and media in case too many reverses start happening. They should have the perseverance of ants in the single-minded pursuit of their goal.

The issue is live as there is little sign of India forsaking the diet of one-day cricket in the next few months. They take on Pakistan in Abu Dhabi, West Indies in Caribbean before heading for Sri Lanka and then host the world in the Champions Trophy at home in October.

They are present-day gladiators to their millions of fans at home and abroad.

Fortunately, India is blessed with a good pool of players. It can now cover up for injuries, like that of Tendulkar or poor form as the ones of Sehwag and Kaif. Uthappa eased himself into the pool without a fuss.

So many young players have come and instantly made their presence felt that one can't help but admire the passion, talent and the structure which is producing finished articles for India.

Even though an opposition like England--nevera frmidable one at their best and decidedly a ragged one in the absence of key players -- can give a side a bloated opinion of self, India did all that was asked of them.

England on the other hand would be eagerly looking forward to the return of a few trusted ones. Marcus Treschothick and Michael Vaughan must resume their stand at the top of the order. They have been England's best and not the least because they offer the frustrating contrast of right-left combination to the bowlers.

Vaughan, frankly, hasn't quite captured the dominance he showed Down Under at the start of the decade and his matter of knee is no longer the kind one could gloss over. Still, sound of heart and body, Vaughan is an essential member of the side. Andrew Strauss, Kevin Pieterson and Andrew Flintoff could take care of the next few spots.

As far as I can see, England has only two settled names of Steve Harmison and Flintoff in bowling. A lot of positions are up for grabs. Simon Jones is still fragile in matters of fitness. James Anderson, I believe, has been the big gain to have emerged for England from the series.

It was a series which was too lengthy, at least by a couple of games, and certainly too hot towards the close. There are still two games for India to contend with before they could take the breather for a fortnight or so while England would look at the prospect of hosting Sri Lanka and Pakistan at home.

First Published: Apr 16, 2006 13:55 IST