A decisive cricket defeat in India is like a dengue virus that infects one to all of cricket crazy fans. There was a near riot situation throughout the country when India crashed out of World Cup 2007 owing largely to its ignominious loss to the minnows Bangladesh. The situation was on expected lines when India made an early exit from the ICC World Twenty20 Cricket Championship played at England during June 05-21, 2009 and skipper Mahnendra Singh Dhoni had to apologize to the nation.
India’s campaign for the World T20 Championship did not start on a positive note. Leading from India’s dashing opener Virender Sehwag’s suspected fitness problems the media shot off stories of possible conflict between Dhoni and Sehwag. Dhoni did not help matters by responding to it in a negative way and even parading his entire team in a press conference to prove unity. Finally Sehwag was sent home and India suffered a setback without playing a match yet.
At the league stage India was in the weakest group with only the minnows Bangladesh and Ireland for company. Instead of firing up its time tested batting and bowling line ups Dhoni disturbed both by promoting himself to No.3 thus affecting the confidence of the customary No.3 Suresh Raina. Ravindra Jadeja who proved his all-round abilities in IPL-2 (Indian Premier League, Season 2) was not given a chance. R P Singh, the best bowler in IPL-2, was not played at all and Irfan Pathan who did not do anything special in the last few months became the first change bowler. The quickest pacer Ishant Sharma too did not get the captain’s confidence as opening or first change bowler. India managed to win both matches, but things did not augur well for the Super 8 stage.
At the Super 8 stage India started with a loss to West Indies on June 12. R P Singh was played in this match and Suresh Raina was given his normal No.3 batting position. While Singh bowled effectively Raina failed.
The match against England on June 14 thus became a do or die encounter for both teams. Dhoni won the toss and elected to field first which was totally unlike the Dhoni Positive. It was normal cricket logic that in a crunch pressure match chasing a target was always fraught with dangers. That too, after India strengthened its batting by finally including Ravindra Jadeja in the playing eleven.
England set a target of 154 which was immensely gettable. But all the accumulated negativity from the beginning took its final toll. Raina failed again and Jadeja played for the first time was sent at No.4 ahead of Yuvraj Singh and Dhoni himself. Rest was history.
And the expected reactions and the blame game followed amounting to a national uproar. Dhoni’s defensive approach and tactical mistakes were condemned publicly. Indian Coach Gary Kirsten played the oft-repeated ‘too much cricket’ card by saying that the prolonged schedule of IPL-2 tired the Indian cricketers while seasoned cricket experts maintained all the time that IPL-2 helped so many international cricketers sail over with ease.
Latest reports suggested that five key players, Dhoni, Yuvraj Singh, R P Singh, Zaheer Khan and Sures Raina were technically unfit before the start of the Championship. This puts a strategic question mark over the BCCI (Board of Control for Cricket in India)’s policy of ‘marketable cricket’.
Finally, win or loss is a part and parcel of any sporting event. Why a cricket loss is equated to a national shame in India? Indian fans must learn to accept cricket defeats gracefully. The BCCI must give a pondering thought to the murky issues that remain hidden as long as Team India goes on winning and the same issues rage the moment India suffers a decisive loss.
And, Mahendra Singh Dhoni must keep his positive energy flowing and must understand the intricacies of a pressure match.