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DELHI DIARY

 
On A Sticky Wicket

By ABIJIT SHARMA

The chilling winter in Delhi is giving way to warmer days. With fogs stopping to appear in the air, the Indian capital is gradually returning to the normal it has long been associated with.Although political temperatures around the 7 Race Course have not soared yet, with major parties engaged in the hot state battles in the key cow belts, the unceremonious fall of the national cricket team has sparked off a heated debate over the fate of the country’s most popular game.

Some of the members of the Team India that rose to the top of all forms of international cricket – Test, One-Day and the Twenty20 – over the past few years came from Delhi. The swashbuckling opener duo Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir and the stylish middle order willow man, Virat Kohli, made the Delhites proud of their contribution to the national squad. But two successive series whitewash has forced them to have a second thought not only about their boys but about the entire team which has now become a butt of joke and ridicule.

Commenting on the Indian cricket team’s recent form, legendary cricketer Imran Khan recently said, “All I can say is they have played consistently. To loose 8 matches in a row is great consistency!”

Such digs have become common for the Indian team now, thanks to their dismal performance in Australia and, earlier, in England. Social networking sites have seen rampant jokes on the team and bloggers and veterans alike have blasted their poor performance.

“It would be better if the whole team stayed back in Australia rather than come back to India with a shameful face” writes an angry blogger. “When the Indian team is playing, its not about winning or losing. It’s about with what margin the team looses” says another. Referring to the World Cup win last year, another blogger writes, “Our team seems to be in so much of shock after last year’s win that they seem to have forgotten to play cricket!”

Team India’s tour of England last year resulted in the tourist team suffering a humiliating 0-4 series whitewash. The team, which was top-ranked in Test cricket then, was soon dislodged from the top. This was followed by another humiliating 0-4 whitewash Down Under.  

“They look like a bunch of school boys playing rather than a professional team. They were completely outplayed in England and it was no different in Australia”, says cricketing legend Sunil Gavaskar.

The team’s debacle has been attributed to a number of factors. Firstly, the cash-ridden IPL has faced the maximum brunt. Cricketing legends and traditionalists have claimed that players now tend to focus more on the IPL and have given lesser importance to the national duty. Says one blogger, “The Indian team seems to be completely lacking the energy and enthusiasm when playing.  They don’t seem to be bothered with their losses at all”. Another adds, “These players will play only for money. The nation’s pride and love for the game don’t motivate them anymore”. 

However, former Indian skipper Dilip Vegsarkar defends the charges against IPL. He blames the BCCI and its faulty planning for the dismal show. “There is no point playing all four Tests at a stretch. There is not sufficient practice for the players” says the veteran middle order bat. Two other former cricketers Chandu Borde and Bapu Nadkarni agree with Vengsarkar. “The IPL is not to be blamed. The players have refused to learn from their mistakes which are the main reason for their failure” says Borde. The selectors have also faced the heat for reportedly selecting injured players.

Not that the young players have fetched very well but fingers have been pointed towards the big wigs of the team who have failed miserably in both the tours. Rahul Dravid was the only player among the seniors to score a century in England while the upcoming Virat Kohli gave the sole consolation century in Australia could accomplish the feat in Australia.

During the Australia tour even Dravid, famously called ‘The wall’ for his reliable innings, put up a poor performance with a total of 194 runs at an average of 24.25. VVS Laxman and Sehwag’s bats have also failed to do the talking.  Laxman could manage only 155 runs out of 8 innings with an average of 19.37. The biggest disappointment has been Sachin Tendulkar. The 'master blaster’ who is one century short of his 100th ton, has failed to score even a single century in the last 10 months. Skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni hasn’t fared any better. Dhoni, credited for India’s one-day World Cup win last year and earlier the 20Twenty world cup has been slammed for taking poor decisions, failing to motivate the team and for raising own performance. His announcement to retire midway through the Perth Test in Australia attracted sharp criticisms as well. “The timing of the announcement was very wrong. This can lead the squad to fall apart” said former skipper for India, Kapil Dev.

Chief selector K. Srikanth sees the debacles in England and Australia as the team’s collective failure “It was more a failure of batting, fielding and captaincy. It is not the fault of just a single person or a single department” he says.

As the tri-nation ODI series, also involving Sri Lanka, gets underway, the Team India needs to sort out whatever necessary to get up from the rock-bottom they have hit. The Indian team seriously needs to Buckle Up! Only then can they expect to revive the past glory in the country’s most important representative gallery -- the parliament in Delhi.  The 542-member body once used to stop its regular proceedings and stand united to offer standing ovation to the Team over its performance whether at the nearby Ferozeshah Kotala pitch or elsewhere. As of now, however, the Team India is on a sticky wicket.  

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