The Indian campaign in the CB series is floundering big time after a promising start and the team is in danger of being knocked out at the preliminary stage. It is hard to believe that a squad that won the World Cup some 10 months ago is in danger of finishing third in a three-team competition.
Failures in all departments of the game - batting, bowling and fielding - allied to tactical errors, wrong team selection and a flawed rotation policy have all combined to push India to bottom place in the points table - a position they are likely to occupy at the end of the league stage. But what is affecting the team's morale more than anything else is the distinct feeling that all is not well within the touring squad.
The untimely and controversial utterances of the captain and some other members of the team can only be a hindrance to the main objective of winning the CB series, something the Indians did four years ago when the competition was last held. The team members are speaking in different voices. Now while there could be a difference of opinion on matters of strategy and team composition these issues should be discussed at team meetings and behind closed doors. There is no need to bring these differences out into the open. Unwarranted comments should not be aired in the midst of an important series.
Dhoni may have been forced to follow the rotation policy: Bedi
I remember that on the tour of England in 1974 the captain Ajit Wadekar and a few senior players led by the outspoken Bishen Bedi disagreed on certain issues and when these were made public it affected the team's confidence levels. The youngsters in the touring squad were particularly affected and this did no good for team unity, something that is paramount especially when it is touring. Not surprisingly the team lost all three Tests and in the course of the disastrous campaign were all out for 42 at Lord's - still the lowest Indian total in Test history.
As captain MS Dhoni carries the main responsibility and some of his utterances at press conferences have been, to put it mildly, unacceptable. There was no need to hint of retiring from one format in the midst of a disastrous Test series. It sent wrong signals all around. Again the disrespectful reference about the senior players was uncalled for. Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir too have spoken openly about matters when they should have been more circumspect. In their defence though they could say that they were only clarifying things in the wake of the captain’s comments.
But then there are certain matters that should remain within the team management. By talking openly about strategy and tactics and by contradicting the views of other team members these senior players have clearly given the impression that they are pulling in different directions. Call it rift or infighting or difference of opinion crossing swords in public has not gone down well with the cricketing public. Worse, it is bound to have an adverse impact on the team as a whole particularly the youngsters. A happy team rises to the occasion and plays above their level. An unhappy side does not perform up to their lofty reputation and falters when it matters most.
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When an errant schoolboy goes out of line he is hauled up for indiscipline and ordered to mend his ways or face punishment. It is time the authorities - the administrators or the selectors - tell the team members in no uncertain terms that they should concentrate on improving their cricket and not indulge in any activity that could be detrimental to team morale. Normally the coach or the manager should perform this duty but one is not sure how much power and influence they are able to wield over the senior members.
All is not lost yet. The Indians still have two matches left and if the team members put aside their differences and perform in keeping with their exalted status they can still make it to the best of three finals. The cricketers have the credentials and on paper India is in no way inferior to Australia or Sri Lanka. If the best Indian team is played - even if it means abandoning the controversial rotation policy - they could still spring a surprise. Or is this asking for too much in the present rather unhappy scenario?