'De Ghumake!!' shouts an energetic Shankar Mahadevan, egging the average cricket-crazy Indian to offer his support to the World Cup. A popular News Channel starts a campaign called 'Good Luck India' cheering the 'gods' of Indian Sport towards their 'everestesque' quest. Our much celebrated Bollywood actors stop eating veg, non-veg or even food as a show of support to heroes who overshadow them whenever they take the cricket field. FMCG brands, advertising agencies, broadcasting firms and news channels set their cash registers ringing by capitalizing on the frenzy surrounding India's pursuit for glory. What will happen to all of them when Mahendra Singh Dhoni's men crash out of the World Cup on 24th march in Ahmedabad?
Having followed Indian Cricket for the past fifteen years I was initially surprised when, at the beginning of the World Cup, analysts and experts unanimously chose India as the favourites to lift the coveted trophy. The respect I had for the Gangulys, Gavaskars, Greigs, Manjrekars and Bhogles made me swallow my apprehensions and raise the expectations I had on this 'champion' side. 12th March 2011 brought me, and a hundred crore other people, back to the ground reality. Does India look like a side worthy of the 'favourites' tag?
A batting line up boasting itself to be full of flair and firepower have so far managed to complicate two comfortable chases, flounder a batting power play and commit an absolute harakiri in another power play when they found themselves in a situation very similar to the previous flounder.
A four-man bowling unit which cannot compare itself to any of the top eight teams' respective units or, for that matter, even the less flashy, more disciplined bowling units of associates like Ireland and Bangladesh. Zaheer is good, not threatening, with the New ball and clever, not menacing, with the old one. Munaf and Nehra are bad, but keep proving in each and every game that they can get worse. Harbhajan is just a container unless the pitch is crumbling or opponent is adventurous. Chawla is as clueless as a four year old in a topless bar when it comes to handling pressure. Ashwin seems to be perfecting the art of mixing drinks, maybe in anticipation of a future possible job as a cocktail waiter once his team exits the World cup campaign unceremoniously.
The team's support staff consists of an astute coach, a bowling consultant who is considered to be a perfectionist, an expert physio and some of the best analytical brains of the cricketing world. Yet there is not a semblance of planning when India go on to set a target to the opponent. Would anyone in their right state of mind take up the batting powerplay when two well-set batsmen, capable of piercing the spread out field quite comfortably, are batting with freedom and spirit? When a swashbuckling batsman capable of smashing any spinner in this world out of the ground with consummate ease is available in your team, would you strive to get him to play to his strengths or send him in during the batting powerplay when pacers are bowling? How would it matter to Yusuf Pathan if there are 3 or 30 fielders outside the ring? He is aiming for only one area and there are no fielders there, only spectators. A young talent who thrives on building an innings and holding one end up is being wasted at five down in the batting order when he strides out with hardly five overs remaining in the innings. Does nobody in the famed team of support staff notice these glaring discrepancies that are quite evident even to a juvenile like me? How many more matches do we need to play to 'iron' out the wrinkles in the team and find a 'settled team composition'? What answers will Dhoni give to fans who spend hours and hours of invaluable time following, supporting and shouting their throats hoarse in favour of him and his team?