Calcutta: A decade ago, an incensed Sunil Gavaskar was pushed into commenting that Sachin Tendulkar and Anil Kumble were the “only two Indian cricketers (at that point in time)” who actually got affected by defeats. One could add a few names, but the list will remain very short.
It’s a sad reality. Worse, there’s little to suggest things are going to change.
Late on Wednesday, for example, it was shocking to find Munaf Patel grinning as he came out to take guard (in Durban) with India on 85 for nine, facing one of their most humiliating defeats. The village lad couldn’t have taken the team to 249, but he should at least have cut out that sickening act.
Munaf (who bowled well, no doubt) alone can answer what was so funny, but it’s unlikely that we’ll get anywhere close to the much-talked about “next level” till our cricketers realise it’s a shame to lose so badly.
Tripura’s Samiran Chakraborty is no more, but he’d ticked off Ajay Jadeja for grinning as India were heading towards a big defeat in the 1996-97 season’s first tournament, in Sri Lanka. The then manager acted after The Telegraph asked how could any cricketer be amused by a terrible performance.
It’s not known whether Greg Chappell saw Munaf grin, but predecessor John Wright (supposedly soft) would have promptly told him just what he thought about his behaviour. Like the Australians, we need an internal Code of Conduct and intra-team sanctions.
While the South Africans recovered splendidly from three down for 63, the Indians were content slipping deeper into a hole which was of their making. A bit further and they would have ended in the Indian Ocean, which isn’t far from Kingsmead.
The bounce in Durban, incidentally, can’t be an excuse. At the highest level, every cricketer is expected to handle all conditions. In any case, what has stopped the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) from ensuring that domestic matches are on wickets which test batsmen'
Clearly, it gets down to priorities. Right now, the BCCI wants to finish its one-time president, Jagmohan Dalmiya. Everything else, therefore, has to wait.
Less than a month ago, selection committee chairman Dilip Vengsarkar candidly said there was no “outstanding talent.” It sparked a debate. Today, after months of such poor cricket, the question to be asked is: Is everybody worthy of his place'
We don’t need a debate.
The optimists are hoping for a turnaround, but it’s going to be a surprise (in the ODIs, at least) if Rahul Dravid’s men surprise the South Africans.