The Indian cricket fan is among the craziest you can come across the planet. One day he is your greatest support, a few matches later he could be cursing everyone from the BCCI, to the team manager and the entire team.
Unlike cricket fans elsewhere, Indian and Pakistani cricket fans are known for their deep emotions around the game. We are now seeing an outburst of such emotions following India’s humiliating defeat to New Zealand in the one-off World Test Championship match played in England.
There is no doubt that India gifted the match to Kiwis by their irresponsible batting – it is the batting that failed – not the bowlers and the fielders. This is a batting lineup that is remarkable, but it rarely fires as a team when needed. Usually, one department lets us down. Indian batsmen may have all the world records, but the fact is that most individual performances have never won us the game.
Ours is not a problem of skill or talent; we have plenty of it as the IPL has revealed. Our problem is temperament. If you look at the great teams of the yesteryear, one aspect is very clear: they were consistent performers as a team. The batting, bowling and fielding of legendary teams such as those led by Clive LLoyd, Gary Kirsten and Ricky Ponting all fired at the same time, that too consistently for years. They had only one focus: win the match and they had no other diversions that took away the focus. Our team rarely does; and when we do it is during mostly insignificant contests.
The overarching sanguine temperament of Indian teams right from the start has been a slow ascending curve, marked by periodic dips and highs. There are times when we have had teams with the right temperament; the most illustrious being Kapil Dev’s team that won the 1975 World Cup and put India on the cricketing map as a major player.
In Kapil’s team everyone was his own man, and yet nobody’s man. That was a team of some say, talented and first-class-cricketing scoundrels who fought tooth and nail for victory, recognition and fame. The win in 1975 was conjured by their desire to win. Before the advent of big bucks in cricket, it was largely fame and national pride that drove our players.
Today it is quite a circus. We even have players who are talented cricketers, but at the same time they are also models, corporate influences and businessmen rolled into one. They are not as focused as needed to be champions. You distinctly find that the greatest teams – batsmen, bowlers, fielders, all-rounders – had one common thread. They were primarily obsessed with the game; that is what they lived for.
Lack of such focus like anything else you do regularly carries itself into the cricket field. That lack deprives players of the killer instinct, the desire to win, the desire to contest furiously for victory. How many times have we seen our batsmen and bowlers both collapse for no cricketing reason except lack of temperament? More times than one can remember. This time it is no different.
You can replace as many players as you like, as some are demanding, but unless the incoming are not inculcated the temperament to win, we will only be going round in circles.