“Those Five Days at Nagpur” are all What They Have

“Those Five Days at Nagpur” are all What They Have

I was longing to write an ode to the great Ricky Ponting after his final test match appearance at Perth but when there’s something wrong at your own home, you ought not to ponder upon legends from abroad. Never mind Ricky, I am just one of your million fans from around the world and don’t you worry mate, I would always hold in high regard your rich contribution to cricket but let both of us together first, hope for the unthinkable at Nagpur: a Team India victory. The trend that started right after Dhoni lifted the World Cup at Mumbai saw us losing 8 straight test matches on foreign soil. While many voiced then, about giving the same treatment back to visitors when they play on tailor-made Indian soil, the excruciating fact is that the very “Institution of Test Cricket” in India has been left battered and bruised with the shocking capitulation in front of the Englishmen.
Dhoni do you have answers??
With Dhoni and his men having their wishes fulfilled in terms of the pitch offered in Mumbai, it was hugely expected that Team India will impose a crushing defeat on England having already got the better of them in Ahmedabad. The incidents that have taken place since then do not deserve a mention but we must accept the harsh reality that not a single lesson has been learnt from the 8-0 drubbing handed out to us while we toured England and Australia. The basic premise of our defeat was said to be constituted by unfriendly and excessively hostile pitches. However, what we have failed to realize is that we are dangerously brooding upon a self-realization of being jinxed by unfavorable pitches every now and then, whenever we venture outside the nation. Ironing out flaws with technique, temperament and application is definitely not on the minds of Indian players. Then, comes the ointment to pacify all the angst among people of India, we prepare spinning tracks attuned to our strengths where visitors will very soon bite the dust. This is what basically the cricket especially Test Cricket in India has been thriving upon; we want to win at any costs even if it means we focus more upon the pitches rather than upon the right set of players and their development as masters of their respective skill sets. You hand a lollipop to a kid but you don’t teach him how to relish it as he is expected to know that. Similarly, you hand home-made conditions to the Indian team but if they don’t know how to play, it is a problem concerned more with the very roots of the cricketing culture in India. 
Enough of the mud-slinging all around and enough of Mr. Dhoni’s oft repeated verbal defiance dealing with leading the team when it is at its lowest ebb. Good to ears when Mr. Dhoni speaks like a warrior but please, spare us these statements, it is time you let your bat do the talking and take a leaf out of Alastair Cook’s book, “Leading from the Front”. There have been changes for the fourth test but they seem more to just carry with them the tag of “change”. There can be numerous theories justifying the inclusion of Jadeja, Dinda and Piyush Chawla in place of Yuvraj, Zaheer and Bhajji respectively. There can also be disapproval of these replacements but it’s time now for the captain and the coach to sit down with the selected players, to infuse a new sense of accountability in their performances, to make them realize that the Nagpur Test is in many ways a “do-or-die” battle for squaring the series 2-2, for restoring some kind of pride. When this series started many talked about how India could rise in the ICC rankings by trouncing England, however, India can at best hope of hanging on to their previous spot by eking out a victory at Nagpur.
Time to get talking Mr. Fletcher
The England Team on the other hand, made all the right noises in the lead up to the test matches at Mumbai and Kolkata after losing the lung-opener at Ahmedabad by 9 wickets. There were no over-the-top media interactions or reactions, just a calm sense of going about their basics and working on their adaptability to the spinning Indian tracks. They showed Team India the spirit that must be built and the adjustments that must be made in the aftermath of a morale-lowering defeat. While Team India wilted away abroad, losing test after test, England never let anything deter them from rising above their spin demons in Ahmedabad. It would be an understatement to say that had the Indian team been in England’s position after Ahmedabad, they would surely have been 3-0 down by this time. Their spinners, both Monty and Swann, taught us how to extract the maximum from an already obliging pitch. Their numero uno pacer, Jimmy Anderson showed our very own Zaheer Khan the tricks of reverse swing, the tricks which ironically had been passed over to Anderson courtesy Zaheer himself.
Nevertheless, “Ye India ka Cricket Hai” and it only takes a match to turn around things. Don’t be surprised when you find a purposeful Team India take the field at Nagpur. They just need to shrug off all their mental demons, the pressure of a billion expectations so that they can express themselves on the field to the best of their ability. When on paper a side can appear menacing for all oppositions, it is high time this side showed their menacing streak in reality. All of their numerous failures both at home and abroad would be forgotten once they come up with a stupendous showing at Nagpur. With very less time to go for the test match, Dhoni and his men have to believe that they can take on any side in the world and come out trumps in that battle.
While the batsmen must aim at putting a heavy price on their wickets so that there is no decimation once a set batsman falls, the bowlers mustn’t be afraid to attack consistently. There is a faint hope for India given the slight discomfiture or stutter England faced while chasing a modest target of 41 in Kolkata when Indian spinners bowled with bite to reduce them to 8/3. Had the target been greater than 100 or 120, India could have fancied their chances but only if there had been some more runs in the first innings. However, tomorrow is a new dawn and India must seriously hope to erase all their bitter memories of back-to-back losses at home with a new resolve. This team has to show the courage and gumption to fight its way through prolonged adversity.
For me, it is undoubtedly the duo of MSD and Master Blaster, who hold the key to inspire the ODI World Champions, the former world no. 1 in tests, to a big victory with some exceptional performance. It is time both of them performed true to their reputations. However, there can always be a new kid on the block who could steal the thunder from under the noses of the Dhonis, Sehwags and Tendulkars with a path-breaking display. But come what may, only an Indian victory will suffice and “Those Five Days at Nagpur” are all what Dhoni & Co. have.
Who’ll be Team India’s man for a crisis?
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