The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Motera wicket may assist neither side
- In the Indian team the gap between seniors and juniors has shrunk. Seniority now is by experience, not age

The moment is finally upon us. India will begin the defence of their home reputation when they take on New Zealand in the first Test in Ahmedabad on Wednesday. Stephen Fleming and his men are on a mission but I doubt whether the Sardar Patel wicket would be of any great assistance to either side.

This wicket has changed its character dramatically since the 1980s. It has been re-laid and its profile has changed. Now it tends to get slower and lower as the game progresses.

It also does not offer any great assistance to spinners. It starts off with a certain bite to bowlers but by the third or fourth day, turns into a sleeping beauty. It will take some effort to enforce a result on this track but then both New Zealand and India have a steely determination. Let me concern myself with the Indian team for the moment. Consistency in winning is the real measure to gauge the progress of any team.

The home series wins against the Australians, Zimbabweans and the West Indians, the away Test wins in Zimbabwe, West Indies, Sri Lanka and England and the one-day series wins in West Indies, the NatWest Trophy in England, joint winners with Sri Lanka in the ICC Champions Trophy and the entry into the final of the World Cup give a proper insight into the ability of the current team. This paradigm shift from the mixed bag of fortunes to more consistent winning ways, has a few telling contributors.

Andrew Leipus: Apart from treating injury, he also tries to educate the players about the nature of the injury. Along with the treatment gadgets, he also carries journals to update himself with the latest developments in physiotherapy.

During the Ahmedabad Test of the ’99 series against New Zealand, I had somehow jarred the disc of my spine while batting. I couldn’t bend or breathe. I was anxious because I would have been called up to bowl the whole of next day.

Andrew straightaway got down to work. I was asked to sleep on my tummy, keep stretching my back every 20 minutes and the treatment continued the whole night. Next day, I was fit.

Adrian le Roux: He introduced the true value of fitness in the team. We were asked to work hard and modify our food habits. Our physical progress was monitored on a fortnightly basis. Any food with visible oil was out. We had to give up on foods we loved most. I, for instance, couldn’t take pizzas or go to McDonalds.

His other significant contribution was to help let the nets and fielding drills go on simultaneously. Earlier, John Wright used to ask us to go for fielding sessions after the nets were over.

But so brilliant was Le Roux with his great ball sense that we could carry on with both simultaneously. It cut down on time and made training more intensive. Le Roux has left a legacy for the team to follow through his successor Gregory King.

Sandy Gordon: He is one person who brought the expression of ‘stay positive’ into cricketing parameters. He educated us on how to cut down on anxiety and visualise our opponent.

Suppose I was to bowl to Saeed Anwar the next day and suffered from anxiety. Sandy would tell us to focus on his weak points and to target them. He also highlighted the importance of equanimity in win or loss. He also stressed on the importance of playing as one — how seniors should involve juniors and everyone contribute to the team’s progress.

All this has helped. In the Indian team, the gap between the seniors and juniors has shrunk. Seniority now is by experience and not age. Seniority means helping the beginners and sharing the experience. It is amazing how much time the Sachin Tendulkars, Rahul Dravids and Sourav Gangulys spend with the juniors. Sachin has also spent a considerable amount of time on my batting. So I would leave my failures for him to answer !!!

There is nothing to stop Mohammed Kaif and Yuvraj Singh to tell the seniors to be agile or pull them up for not applying themselves enough. This sort of open forum has brought the team together. The onus is on the seniors to help a rookie coming from a homogenous state side to a diverse linguistic and regional set-up. It is the blend of youth and experience, plenty of hard work, which has made this team produce good results in the recent past.

The World Cup finals was a pointer that the team is heading in the right direction. However, it has to be kept in mind that there is a fair distance to go yet.

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