One on the up, the other spiralling down
It has been fun being in Australia for the last few days and observing first hand the emergence of another good Australian cricket team. At the same time it has been quite disturbing to see the once proud Indian team decimated for the second time in the space of a few months, when playing away from the subcontinent.
There is no doubt that the baggy green is back as a major threat on the international stage. The current Australian team is a lot better than the one that drew the test series and won the one-day series against the Proteas on South African soil early during the South African season. They will give the Proteas a run for their money when the tour takes place in Australia early next summer.
Credit for that must go to one man and that is new captain Michael Clarke. Clarke has been in sensational form with the bat. He has led from the front in that discipline to the extent that he dominated the Indians completely and set a wonderful example for his own team.
Tactically he has been very good as well. He has also stamped his authority on the team through displaying a strong character and a no-nonsense approach. Clarke has a refreshing captaincy style. He doesn’t offer excuses and takes justified criticism on the chin. This sends a very good message to the rest of the team.
Along with Clarke’s impressive leadership, the most important factor for Australia has been the improvement in the pace attack. The Australian team have developed a simple but very effective bowling strategy. They bowl a full length and make the batsmen play. All their bowlers get up to the 140km/h mark.
The pace attack has youth and experience as well as plenty of depth – so much so that Cricket Australia has a rotation policy in place to keep the bowlers fresh. The Aussies also have a much better work ethic in place at the moment and their enthusiasm has been infectious.
In stark contrast, the Indian team needs an overhaul in every department. This was already evident in England last year. Nothing was done after that humiliation and it is not surprising that the same happened again. They are living proof of the fact that a coaching style of babysitting the egos of the senior players worked for a while on home soil but is not working any more.
There are some good young Indian players in the wings. They should be introduced into the national team with a coaching structure that will instill a good work ethic and strong discipline. Initially this won’t be an easy task because the Indian players have become used to doing what they want when they want due to the freedom and latitude they have been allowed over a number of years.
However if things don’t change in this respect, Indian cricket will continue on a downward spiral. This will be a pity because the cricketing world needs a strong Indian team.
The selection policy has to change as well. There is a reluctance to move on the icon players in the Indian set-up. Most of them are past their sell-by date. The stage is fast approaching where radical changes have to be made. The longer the selectors delay the inevitable, the longer it will take to build a new unit with a new approach going forward.
Making tough decisions takes courage and requires a strong convenor of selectors. Managing the exit of established players has become a huge problem for the Indian selection panel.
There is a thought in some quarters that as long as the Indian team performs at home, there is no cause for concern. This is a narrow-minded approach and not one that befits the current world champions.
In professional sport, fortunes fluctuate. Once complacency sets in, the demise of an individual or a team is just around the corner. In India’s case their fall from grace has already happened. Can they come back? I am not so sure of that. Maybe not for a while –particularly away from their own beloved conditions.