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Sight Screen

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

11 players do not a team make

When trying to decide whether to lose sleep following the Super Series (the trouble with that being I then have to work, and quite hard at that, next day) or to give the thing a miss, what made up my mind for me was the realization that there was only one team out there.
Australia is a battle honed outfit. Bleeding from the Ashes defeat just now, yes, but sometimes wounds such as those, and the accompanying pain, have the advantage of focussing your mind wonderfully on the job ahead.
Facing them are 11 individuals drawn from around the world, with no binding glue, no common goal, nothing to gain and nothing to lose (does that descriptor remind you of the Indian team, by the way?) -- and you don't craft 'world' teams out of such.
I think I'll pass, guys -- can follow the action, and reaction, on the net and through the comments field in here, and that is good enough for me :-)

13 Comments:

  • Prem ,
    Without the Laxman magic , your friend , John Wright produced a very ordinary performance against Australia.

    Good thing to remember next time , when people credit JW for India's performance against Australia.

    By Blogger wonderloud, at 11:02  

  • I watched the Oz innings. The ROW team was still going thru the forming stage (refer some rediff article of yesterday on team dynamics). JW's touch was there - the huddle happened after wickets. Motivation to excel was evident - sliding stops on the rope were plenty. Cheering, encouraging, good captaincy were evident. So I wouldnt write it off as just 11 indivduals.

    By Blogger Gardhabh, at 11:22  

  • wonderloud: Uh oh. So it is about 'my friend JW'? I mean, you know of many coaches who take 11 players from different parts of the team and in a week, bring them together as a team capable of taking on the world champions of 10-year standing?

    By Blogger Prem Panicker, at 11:25  

  • Prem ,

    Excuses, excuses , excuses.
    Do you know why John Wright was selected as the coach for Rest of the World team. Based on his record as the only coach whose team stood upto the aussies.
    Remember that the selecetion was done before the recent ashes series.
    But the selectors ignored the one player who made JW, the successful coach.
    When you take accolades when the team is winning , you have to take brickbats
    when the going is not good.

    By Blogger wonderloud, at 11:50  

  • wonderloud: Oh sure. By which yardstick, I wonder if the player you refer to, who took accolades when the team was winning, is responsible for the team having slumped to number 7 in the world rankings? Or does that theory only work for some people, and not for all? Amazing theory, when you come to think of it -- you are saying here that one player, repeat, one player, was responsible for all the success that came India's way. Not the coach, not the others. Would you equally say that one player is behind the current failures? That one player should take the blame for India's sequence of, what is it, 14, 15 title defeats? I agree entirely: When you take accolades when the team is winning, you have to take brickbats when the going is not good. The going, friend, is not good, hasn't been for a while, so will you be aiming your brickbats at the one player you suggest was responsible for the good going?

    By Blogger Prem Panicker, at 12:48  

  • Pollock rotated his bowlers quite well but should not have given Flintoff the last over (bolwing himself through instead) and Akhtar the penultimate (giving it to Kallis instead). This should have saved 10 runs, yet in the sum of it all, would have made scant difference to the denoument.

    Prem, I have to disagree with you though about them not playing as a team. Every player in the ICC World XI is a major figure back in their countries, and all of them have been thoroughly humbled by Australia in the past (except Pietersen). Their record, their status, their egos, and one assumes their pride should motivate them to rectify their losing ODI record against Australia. And they had the best around them available to do the job (look at the batting and bowling depth in the team), yet miserably failed.

    Please compare this result with the the ROW teams from the past: Sobers' XI, Grieg's XI and compare the performances. In those games, someone always put their hands up and delivered splendidly. The team gel issues applied equally for those teams, no?

    In the end, it shows the lack of batting greatness in the ICC World XI, overall. The gutsy Sangakkara showed enormous character while batting, and predictably so. Lara and Dravid, the only two who are truly great batsmen faltered. Lara's consistency hasn't been great for a long time. Pietersen is just about starting off the blocks. Kallis' run is amplified by the weaker attacks he had dominated, Sehwag has unfortunately meandered to a sketchy phase in ODIs. Afridi has always been a lottery.

    The great bowlers, Murali and Pollock expectedly did magnificiently, and Vettori was surprisingly the best on show. The weaker Flintoff, Kallis and Akhtar were exposed (Akhtar's selection for ODIs itself being questionable: Vaas certainly deserved his spot).

    For what they've been through, the Australians delivered splendidly. Hussey, Symonds, and Lee scratched around to make sure they at least reached 250 and had something to defend. None of them are great batsmen by a mile, yet it was a lesson in character. Lee's was recently exemplified in the Ashes series, with him invariably batting on the edge and delivering. Let us tip our hats to McGrath: always coming in to bowl to the top of the order, he screws the ratchet on from the first ball. If he had been fit to play in all the Ashes tests, we all know what would have happened.

    I am left with familiar feelings at the end of it all. Many of these batting stars are wired much like the Indians: awesomely talented but not consummate professionals like the Aussies. Australia is simply streets ahead when it comes to ODI philosophy. It was impressive to see them going for the runs (Ponting, Clarke, Katich, Symonds) instead of bolting down and playing to a mediocre total. They know their strategy in and out. And again, superlatives for McGrath are never enough.

    The Aussies will win the ODI series for sure. Not because the ICC World XI lacks team spirit, but because they collectively don't measure up to tenaciousness of the Aussie juggernaut. The test is a different ball game altogether, and the ICC World XI should win.

    By Blogger TFFY, at 12:53  

  • Prem ,
    I was not talking about a player alone.
    I was talking about JW getting the credit for stopping the aussies in their tracks, when actually it was because of a few brilliant individual performances from a couple of players.
    And you know who theose players are.
    JW was just lucky that VVSL's once in a lifetime innings happened when he was the coach. If it happened during Madan Lal/Kapil dev's tenure , the media wouldn't have credited the coach as they did with JW.

    For all of JW's stint with the Indian team , the only successes are because of just two individuals. VVSL against Australia and Sachin during WC.
    Take out these two, rest of JW's performance is just mediocre.

    By Blogger wonderloud, at 13:19  

  • Ouch. Why bring JW into this topic? But if you must, what about the series win in Pakistan? Should we credit Sehwag for that?

    If three different individuals performed greatly in three different series, and the general fitness levels were higher, and the coach reportedly took abuse from oversized egos, and maintained a low controvery free profile, and exuded decency and committment wherever he went, and was only seen working hard and talking little in India, isn't that more than enough? Thank god for John Wright that he has moved on from largely thankless India.

    By Blogger TFFY, at 13:33  

  • wonderloud: Sure. VVS I seem to recall had played when Kapil was coach, too. But I take your point -- JW did nothing, couple guys played once in a lifetime innings, nothing to it. Cool.

    I also seem to notice that when the team won, JW never appeared before the media, never took the credit, never put himself forward. When the team lost, he would invariably appear, and take the heat off his captain. So was a bit startled by your comment about him having taken accolades for a win. Anyways, will stay with your take, pal -- that the coach had nothing to do with a four-year period when India began winning Tests abroad, began winning ODIs with more consistency, began showing a new, improved spirit... will happily put it down to a fluke performance by a couple of blokes, no skin off my nose.

    By Blogger Prem Panicker, at 13:59  

  • I disagree with Lara being inconsistent...check out his test form post World Cup. ODI's he has been in and out of the team due to the contract disputes and he has also withdrawn from 1-2 series to concentrate for Test matches. I think its too early to judge World XI from this one match...no question the batting was appalling but I'm sure they will play better in the next matches.

    By Blogger ClannZĂș, at 14:15  

  • I was reading the discussion between Prem and Wonderloud. Here is my thought. When I think of Laxman's Great performance in that second test, India reaching the world cup finals, India taming Australia in Australia, there is one thing I see that is common...At all these junctures, the people, the media and everyone had written off the Indian team. So basically when Laxman went into bat, pretty much everyone assumed the match was over. Even if he had failed no one would have complained that much since India was getting beaten badly. Before the Australian series, everyone predicted India would lose 4-0. In the world cup, after the miserable loss to Australia, everone expected them to do badly. So basically what I am trying to say here is, when no one expects anything, rather expects the worst, all the pressure in the world is off. So the mind is free and these poeple start playing well. We all know what happened in the One day series inAustralia, we all know where the Indian team is currently ranked...my point, The INDIAN batsmen cal only play when there is no expectation. they are not mentally strong to come up with big performances when the expectations are huge. So JW did some good things, but the few successes came mainly because no one expected anything from these players.

    By Blogger Anand Balasubramanian, at 22:58  

  • What a foolish argument - trying to measure a team's performance in a particular era by saying that the coach helped here and didnt help there - JW did an admirable job as a coach - and like all tenures - the WC Final, Aus 04 , Ind- Aus 01 and Pak 04 were the highlights. Rest were flops....but why say that the coach was bad and these highlights were flukes- why such a tunnel visioned argument instead of a holistic one and why go by only the plain obvious and ignore the inconspicous but important intangibles - like bonding as a team , improved team spirit,nurturing of young players,impartiality, objectivity,overseas victories, fielding and the then hitherto unhead of "Team India"?

    By Blogger Dark Nights, at 10:38  

  • Prem ,
    Regarding your point about VVS and Kapil , let me remind you that VVS played a wonderful innings of 167 in Sydney when Kapil was the coach. But unfortunately , the timing didn't help. But luckily for JW , it happened at the right time .
    And talking about India started winning abroad and all that , go and analyze each of those wins. You will find that VVS/Dravid played a crucial role in most of those wins. Lucky for him , JW happened to be the coach when these guys batting was blooming.And I don't think JW did anything special with these two guys. As I said before , he happened to be at the right place at the right time.

    Anand ,
    I fully agree with you regarding Indian team and pressure. They did well in World Cup when everybody lost hopes for them. And when they reached the finals and the expectations started rising , they were back to their regular mode.
    Same pattern against Australia. When they went there and expected to lose badly , they did well. And when they were expected to do well at home against Australia , they were mediocre.

    By Blogger wonderloud, at 11:10  

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