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By Partab Ramchand
The lack of killer instinct has almost always been a flaw in the approach of Indian cricketers. A sense of complacency and being all too easily satisfied has been one of the lamentable traits over the years. And even though there has been improvement in this regard of late old habits as they say die hard and vestitages of this flawed approach are seen now and then.
The just concluded ODI series against West Indies is a case in point. Even a second string Indian team seemed to be too strong for a weak home side and by winning the first three matches the visitors put themselves in line for a 5-0 clean sweep. This would have boosted their confidence level for the three-Test series starting on June 20. Instead we had a re-run of the old failing as the Indians seemed to take things lightly in the last two games and the result was that the West Indies by winning both have in fact boosted their morale before the Test series.
These are not happy times for West Indian cricket on and off the field and this was the time for the Indians to display the killer instinct. When your opponent is down, keep him pinned there and do not allow him a second chance, an avenue to get up. That is the essence of the great sides which have kept winning. But however good this Indian squad is it is not a great outfit. Even with the return of Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman and MS Dhoni for the Test series it is not a certainty that the Indians will emerge victorious and repeat the feats notched up by Ajit Wadekar’s team in 1971 and Dravid’s squad five years ago. Despite unhappy events off the field and the West Indies currently occupying the No 7 slot in the ICC rankings there are indications that the home team’s fortunes are on the upswing. After all they just shared a two-Test series with Pakistan and Darren Sammy’s men would like to believe that they can pull off something similar against the Indians even without Chris Gayle in their ranks. For that matter the left handed opener did not play in the series against Pakistan either.
The point I am trying to make out is that the Indians have given the West Indies more than a ray of hope in the Test series thanks to their inability to make a clean sweep of the series which they could well have had they not taken things lightly. Perhaps symbolic of the Indians’ approach were the four dismissals of the captain Suresh Raina in the ODI series. Loose or irresponsible shots restricted his contribution to just 82 runs in five matches. There were other failures too with the bat in S Badrinath, Manoj Tiwari and Shikhar Dhawan leaving too much responsibility on the shoulders of Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma. Indian cricket is fortunate to have these two around - surely the two best young batsmen in the country – and more will undoubtedly be heard of them in future. Rohit unfortunately is not part of the Test squad though I have always maintained that he is solid material for cricket’s traditional format. But of course he has the happy
knack of adjusting his game to all three formats.
Yusuf Pathan is fast outliving his reputation of a utility player. It is time he learnt that he cannot every ball while his bowling is innocuous. Under the circumstances with the rapid strides that Ravichandran Ashwin is making it is better to give the Tamil Nadu off spinner the opportunities to develop as the next utility man. Ashwin is no mug with the bat having got two first class hundreds and a highest score of 38 in his fledgling ODI career.
The Indian bowling was seen in slightly better light with Amit Mishra being the star and Munaf Patel not very far behind. Harbhjajan Singh, Parveen Kumar and Ashwin too had their moments but the over dependence on part time bowlers did not help matters. Kohli, Raina and Yusuf – he is more a part timer these days – besides going for runs did not help very much in the matter of taking wickets. Perhaps the time has come to go in with six batsmen and five bowlers but keeping in mind the safe and conventional thinking of the think tank I don’t see any change from the seven batsmen and four bowler policy with the part timers again given the responsibility of turning their arms over for ten overs.