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CLOSE-IN: Indian cricket team needs to get temperamentally stronger

IANS | December 01, 2023 11:07 AM

NEW DELHI: Indian cricket fans and followers are still recovering from the team's shocking defeat by Australia in the Cricket World Cup’23. India were outsmarted by the strategies adopted by the Australians. However, the word used by Kevin Pietersen is one that struck a chord. He mentioned the word “temperament”. According to him, India fell short on that account. The more one thinks about it, the more one agrees with his assessment.

India have shown themselves to be a strong contender for the title throughout the Cricket World Cup league stage. It is in the knock-out stage that India has in the last 10 years fallen by the wayside. Several points have been discussed as the reasons for this, from weather to strategy, to the playing conditions, to wrong selection and many more. For India to fail continuously at every opportunity seems to have a much deeper reason than just cricket.

The fear of losing, the pressure to perform and the anxiety to do so, can be attributed to one's temperament. Sachin Tendulkar, the legendary Indian batter, one felt, also fell victim to it. He failed to score in both the World Cup finals in which India was involved, however, he was the top run-getter and lead performer in the matches before.

The Indian team, with millions of followers and with over a hundred thousand cheering them at the stadium in Ahmedabad, succumbed to the nervous pressure that came about once they lost three early wickets.

The only time India had experienced such a situation in the tournament was against Australia in the league stage when they were three wickets down for two runs. The partnership of Virat Kohli and K.L. Rahul with cautious batting got them past the 200-run target that they needed to achieve. Unfortunately, they adopted the same formula to get themselves in a comfortable position in the final, which did not work well in the end. The same pair in the league stage would have played far more freely and without a care.

The dilemma that Indian cricket finds itself in is when to get the young brigade of cricketers into the World Cup stage. The old hands are still ruling the roost at the ICC tournaments. The likes of Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma, K.L. Rahul, Mohammed Shami, and Ravindra Jadeja are still making a mark and they have done exceedingly well in the last ODI World Cup as well.

The next major tournament is the T20 World Cup in June’24. The only time India won this tournament was when a young side was sent to South Africa under a novice captain, Mahendra Singh Dhoni in 2007. India had, prior to that tournament, done well by beating England in the Test series in England in 2007 under the leadership of Rahul Dravid. The old guns in the side decided to take a rest and the youngsters captured the hearts with some scintillating performances.

The time may be right for India to make a worthwhile transformation. A team of fearless youngsters with nothing at stake could be just the tonic to boost Indian cricket. The IPL’24 will be a super platform for India to bring young legs into the fold. One is amazed every time one watches Rinku Singh and the cool temperament he brings onto the huge stage to get his side victorious.

M.S. Dhoni was considered to be the best finisher in T20 cricket, however, Rinku seems to have the same qualities as the master batter. The likes of Yashasvi Jaiswal, Ruturaj Gaekwad and Tilak Varma are a few who have already shown to have the capabilities to play on the big stage.

Unfortunately, the commercial angle will play a major part in Team India’s selection. A side without the top Indian stalwarts would diffuse the value of the ICC tournament being held in the West Indies and the United States of America.

Cricket has become a money spinner and the business of cricket, one feels, has overtaken the sport. The present India versus Australia T20 series is a good example of it. The series is a super financial success with a full house of people at the stadiums in the smaller cities of India. It started just four days after the World Cup final, naturally without many of the top cricket stars. One can say it gives a wonderful platform for the second string of players to showcase themselves, however, it completely diffuses the quality and standard that one wants to display at the top level.

The game of cricket seems to be heading towards dishing out quantity rather than quality. The last 2 matches of this India versus Australia T20 encounter would be equivalent to an ‘A’ side tussle rather than a top-level battle.

The performance of players will have a very low recall or recognition as a bowling side without the likes of Jaspreet Bumrah, Md. Shami, Pat Cummins, Mitchell Stark, Josh Hazelwood and other World Cup stars will not have standing and seriousness to it.

A young Indian side without care for name and reputation would be the ideal solution for India to venture into the T20 WC’24. With a strenuous IPL’24 schedule in April/May ’24, the young legs would be the perfect ploy for India to take a step into the deep end.

Indian cricket has nothing to lose, especially, as one has gotten used to being the second-best in the end. This will be the only solution to the dreaded word Temperament that Indian cricket is now being hounded by. One they need to put to rest forever.

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