close-in: bowled over

The fascination with cricket has various reasons for it. The unpredictable nature and the uncertainty of a result is one factor. However, what excites one is that it is a one ball game for a batsman. Just one ball can determine his fate, even though he may have the ability and skills to do well if he were to be given another chance. In every other sport, there is a chance to recover. The great Don Bradman after scoring a century in the 1st innings also fell prey to this phenomenon. In the second innings of his farewell Test match, he got out on the second ball he faced for a duck. The greatest of all batsmen was humbled by the game. Nothing in cricket can be taken for granted and as our legendry cricketer, Vijay Merchant, so astutely put it, “the game is not over until the last ball is bowled.”

The final 20-20 encounter between India and New Zealand at Thiruvananthapuram on November 7, culminated in the final over. The approach and confidence that the Indian players showed throughout the New Zealand chase displayed how Indian cricket has progressed mentally as a team. The New Zealand batsmen rather than trying to win the match were so psyched by the Indian team that panic showed in their thought process and actions. They appeared to be brain dead.

India has now started winning matches in the same way in which the earlier Australian, English and West Indian sides did. The present Indian side, apart from feeding off each other’s success, are already a few notches above their opponents even before the start of the match.

On occasions, there have been times when India has lost, but that is normally because of an outstanding performance by an individual opponent rather than the team.

India’s win against New Zealand in both the limited over series, especially as both of them went on to the decider stage, should give the side massive confidence. Winnings games such as these is what stands out when one is faced with a dire situation which needs one to believe in being victorious.

The Indian team is now placed as the fourth ranked side in the world in the ICC ranking, but they are just a point away from the leaders, Pakistan. A series win against the Sri Lankan side before the New Year will put them in the top spot in the 20-20 format as well. The challenge will be to retain it when they play an overseas series against South Africa later.

Virat Kohli as a captain is showing aggression, innovation and emotion. He wants success and is not shy to show it. In the last match against New Zealand, in an eight overs contest, he had a slip in place when Yazuvendra Chahal the leg spinner, was bowling the important 6th over for India as his final over. This showed Kohli’s positive attitude, rather than going for safety, he was willing to take a risk to get a wicket. It was this approach that contributed to India’s success. Thereafter, in the press conference, he showed what he stood for as a captain. Kohli once and for all brought up the issue as regards MS Dhoni. He highlighted the usefulness of having a player such as the cool collective former captain in his team.

The wonderful quality that Kohli showcases as a leader is the maturity in utilising the skills, experience and mind of the most successful cricket captain that India has ever had. To accept and give him the responsibility of arranging the field and consulting with him on decisions on the field is truly remarkable. Most leaders of the Corporate world would find it demeaning to not only have a former leader in their fold but to seek his help as well. This shows how focussed Kohli is towards making the Indian side the very best in the world in every format of the game. One now understands as to why Kohli opted so strongly for Ravi Shastri, as he too is a no nonsense individual with the same aggressive characteristics.

India is lucky to have three well experienced and cricket brains in Shastri, Kohli and Dhoni and the three Indian musketeers should take the Indian team to glorious heights that would be remembered for time to come.

In Indian domestic cricket, Mumbai (Bombay earlier) has been a side that has won matches even before the first ball has been bowled. A very similar development has gradually become the DNA of the present Indian side. With the history of wins behind Mumbai, although every side aspired to beat them they failed to do so because of just one essential factor, mental strength. The Mumbai side is presently playing their 500th match. A truly remarkable achievement for a side that has produced over 70 Indian International players.

In the meanwhile, Indian cricket needs to imbibe technology to strengthen every aspect of the game and of themselves. The yo-yo test is good to evaluate their stamina, speed and fitness but the most important is still the eyesight. Somehow, improving it was never an issue as one presumes a sportsman should possess a good hand eye co-ordination. I came across a modern program related to improving one’s visual system. The processing mechanism of the vision to the brain can be enhanced. One wished that this sort of technology was available in the earlier times, as now with specific exercises one can sharpen one’s vision with proper training.

Virat Kohli, with a sharper vision would be quite unstoppable. The Indian team’s management needs to look at these new avenues to make Indian cricket an even greater force to reckon with. Well done India!

(Yajurvindra Singh is a former India cricketer)

Yajurvindra Singh