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Slow Rise, Rapid Fall


By Gaurang
January 21 2012

Except for a brief period in the early to mid seventies, on the backs of the Indian spin quartet and the batting genius of Sunil Gavaskar and Gundappa Viswanath, India were until starting with the early years of this decade tigers at home, pussycats abroad.  They have once again reverted to form. 

The glorious achievements starting with Kandy 2002 and including Port of Spain, Headingly, Adelaide, Multan, Rawalpindi, Jamaica, Johannesburg, Nottingham, Perth, Galle, Hamilton, Colombo, Centurion, and Jamaica again in 2011, now have been washed away in the ignominy of 7 straight Test match defeats overseas.

What took a decade of blood, sweat and tears to achieve has come crashing down in the space of hardly 6 months or so. 

What caused this precepitious fall?  It is a combination of factors, but the biggest one among them would have to be the unnatural prolongation of the career of India's famed middle order batsmen.  When Mahendra Singh Dhoni was handed the Test captaincy on a permanent basis after the retirement of Anil Kumble, India had begun the process of retiring its senior batsmen.  The first to go was Sourav Ganguly, the architect of the slow rise of Indian Test cricket, since the start of the decade, but clearly on the decline as a batsman, though statistically, he was no worse than some who survived.  At the time, one felt, fine, India had a plan to replace the aging greats with infusion of fresh batting talent, so if a batting legend had to go so be it.

But that plan to replace never happened.  Rahul Dravid who suffered a lean patch following Ganguly's departure, somehow weathered the downturn and emerged as a Test specialist, retiring from the shorter version of the game.  VVS Laxman whose game is not really suited to the pyjama version, was also made a Test specialist.  Sachin Tendulkar, whose remarkable appetite for runs never seems to be satisfied, volunarily took "Sanyas" from ODIs except a chosen few, to concentrate on Test matches.  For a while that formula worked wonders, as India continued to win series and matches at home and overseas. 

Like the giant Banyan trees of legend, these legends of batting, thus unwittingly prevented many saplings of Test batting to grow.  In the one open spot where the Banyan tree of Test batting called Ganguly was removed, several saplings were planted, but none thrived.  Yuvraj Singh and Suresh Raina flourished briefly to raise hopes, but they both soon found the soil of Test cricket too harsh, and instead chose to flourish in the easier dirt of ODIs and IPL Twenty20 cricket. 

When Ganguly took over as captain in 2000 India too had it's entrenched Banyan trees then, players such as Dilip Vengsarkar, Sanjay Manjrekar, Novjot Sidhu, Sadgopan Ramesh, Vinod Kambli etc. who were all slowly cleared and a new crop was planted including Ganguly himself, but also Dravid, Laxman, and Sehwag.  Only the young but vibrant Evergreen called Tendulkar was left standing. 

When Dhoni took over, he did not touch any of the entrenched Batting banyans.  Unlike Ganguly, his forte was not in picking talented youngsters and nurturing them, but managing the veterans and others to work together as a fighting unit.  Now however, it is time for a drastic removal of deadwood, no matter how massive and impressive the tree may have grown.  The lack of a serious culling at this juncture would be highly damaging to the future of Indian Test cricket.

There were other factors no doubt, such as the complacency induced by the easy money and fawning adulation following the World Cup win of 2012.  The IPL riches are also a factor, though the success of young David Warner of Australia shows that it depends a lot on how a player lets the riches impact them.  Finally the removal of the Constant Gardner known as Gary Kirsten, as well as the general neglect of saplings which could be nurtured into potential future Banyan trees of batting by the BCCI which abandoned the India A tours right after Sharad Pawar took over from Jagmohan Dalmiya, all contributed to India's current woes.

For the sake of Indian fans one hopes the huge forest fire now ravaging the batting Banyans of Indian cricket clears the ground for some strong young saplings to take seed and restart the cycle which hopefully will once again lead to a return to the top in Test cricket for India

 

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21 Jan, 2012 00:25 Report
Indian Cricket Fever (IP Logged)
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Slow Rise, Rapid Fall
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Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 2012:02:05:01:43:52 by Birbal.

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22 Jan, 2012 04:34 Report
Birbal (IP Logged)
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Re: Slow Rise, Rapid Fall
If India lose in Adelaide I think it will be the worst overseas performance of the team in India's entire Test HISTORY...

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22 Jan, 2012 13:46 Report
Spirit of Cricket (IP Logged)
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Re: Slow Rise, Rapid Fall
Some nice metaphors there, and a great article.

Although Tendulkar should stay, Dravid and Laxman should go.

I feel Dhoni has shown a lack of leadership, not just in England and Australia but in general.

I feel Gambhir would make a better captain. See his recent fighting comments about how India should not be embarrassed to prepare rank turners, given how eng and aus are unembarassed to leave unusual amounts of grass on the pitch.

We need a better leader, in addition to dropping a couple of the veterans, and cultivate some of the younger talents. While they may not be prodigious talents like the previous generation, they need to be given an extended run.

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23 Jan, 2012 12:48 Report
Max (IP Logged)
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Re: Slow Rise, Rapid Fall
Excellent article...apt title as well. The main reason for the rapid fall is the decline of our ageing batting lineup. India's batting is officially the worst in the world right now, just about on par with Bangladesh. Sad state of affairs for a country that has prided itself on batting strength. If all the veterans are not retired or dropped even after these disastrous results, then I am done with Indian cricket. Will watch only after Dravid, Tendulkar, Laxman, maybe even Sehwag are not a part of the Test team. Sure the big 3 have achieved great deeds, (for which they have gotten more than enough appreciation from fans), but they have also now overstayed their welcome and should do the right thing to make way for the new generation.



India - World Cup winners 2011!!!
Champions Trophy winners 2013!!!
Congrats to Indian team and all Indian fans!

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23 Jan, 2012 16:44 Report
Birbal (IP Logged)
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Re: Slow Rise, Rapid Fall
Noticed that Cr@pinfo's Bal wrote a very similar article...AFTER this one was published...smiling smiley

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24 Jan, 2012 04:34 Report
shilpa (IP Logged)
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Re: Slow Rise, Rapid Fall
somebody should write about the Meteoric decline of Dhoni

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24 Jan, 2012 09:59 Report
round rock (IP Logged)
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Re: Slow Rise, Rapid Fall
the fall came little early than i anticipated. i was expecting we will be in this phase during the transition from seniors to youngsters. this debacle has hastened the need to rebuild ASAP. doesnt matter even if we lose next 10 tests abroad, lets build the team. we cant go worse than this anyways

excellent article gaurang !!!!

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24 Jan, 2012 19:12 Report
Birbal (IP Logged)
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Re: Slow Rise, Rapid Fall
The lack of planning for the future, especially in batting is haunting Indian Test cricket...

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24 Jan, 2012 21:03 Report
MNightShyamalan (IP Logged)
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Re: Slow Rise, Rapid Fall
The signs have been there for a long time. Even though we were winning, we were struggling to put up scores in excess of 300 for the past 3 years. I'm guessing here but I remember seeing a very telling statistic that India have managed to cross 300 only 4 times in the last 20 tests (~2.5 yrs).

If that's not a red flag that our batting is on the decline, then I don't know what is. BCCI is the most unprofessional organization in the world. We were lucky to have dedicated players who succeeded despite the system. Not because of it.

No foresight, no planning, nothing. It's not even "let's wait and see", its more a case of "we could care less about test cricket as long as our pockets are filled by Indian masala pee ell".

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24 Jan, 2012 21:28 Report
Martian (IP Logged)
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Re: Slow Rise, Rapid Fall
spot on...

It is also like, let them come to India and we will show !!

I don't think we can win on spinning tracks in India easily like earlier because others have better spinners than India.

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25 Jan, 2012 00:52 Report
Birbal (IP Logged)
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Re: Slow Rise, Rapid Fall
Also others are willing to FIGHT...not lay down and die...

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5 Feb, 2012 01:45 Report
Birbal (IP Logged)
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Re: Slow Rise, Rapid Fall
Meanwhile England are going the same way....smiling smiley

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