It’s said a week is a long time in politics. A week could be even longer in cricket. In fact, the last few weeks have begun to seem like ages even as they have changed Indian cricket out of sight. While desperately fiddling with the iPad in Germany hoping to catch the live action on the day of the Champions Trophy final all I could get was the running text on Cricinfo and I knew from the first few overs itself that India was up against it. Back home, my nine-year-old granddaughter was passing on the expert opinion on a roaming call that Kohli should have chosen to bat. And yet Virat Kohli is not to be blamed for the big decision he took that morning at The Oval.
The most recent statistics of CT would have told him that the chase was a good option, particularly so in the early part of English summer when there is always a bit in the surface early for the bowlers. The ICC policy of presenting a bland pitch as a ‘neutral’ surface for Cup games may have neutralised the advantage somewhat. Even so, it was the captain’s decision and he had to lump or like what happened afterwards. Ian Chappell may have had his reservations as he has always been a bat-first man in big games when the chase gets too burdensome on the nerves. But the modern cricketer, accustomed to big chases even in T20 cricket, tends to think differently.
It’s also true how quickly a game can slip away from you at the start if all the cogs are not in sync. A loose ball here, a No-Ball there and suddenly the momentum is with the bat and trying to regain it can be an uphill task. Once the upper hand is taken, it’s never easy to hit back and the opener with the difficult name to pronounce in public really thrived as those without fear and who wish to get hold of an opportunity generally tend to do in a big match. It was uphill all the way from there and with Pakistan being such a competent bowling side it was unlikely to slip with so many runs in the bank. The outcome was a foregone conclusion by the break.
The result had nothing to do with the outcome over the coach. Despite all the silly posturing by the BCCI and team India about there being no differences of opinion between coach and captain, it was always on the cards that the captain would prevail in circumstances in which discord has been known to have come about. Putting out fake disclaimers in such situations invariably make the players seem silly because the leaks about the disquiet within would have first come from a team source. It is a pity Anil Kumble is history so far as coaching Team India is concerned, but then he has also been known to quit a few public jobs like at the NCA and KSCA. The team must move on.
The women’s team boats of a pure 100% record against Pakistan. They did not flinch even after batting somewhat slowly on a difficult pitch like the ones one tends to get in the north of England as in Derbyshire. They were splendid in the field, bowling with the kind of accuracy that produces the best results against the orthodoxy of women’s cricket and the lack of prowess as, say, Serena Williams brings to women’s tennis. When she is free of injury and playing at peak form, Serena could blow a few men off the court and one could say so despite what Jimmy Connors thinks of how Serena rates in a unisex ladder of merit.
Invincible is not, however, a word to be used in sport, at any rate not lightly. Team India had lost to Pakistan before in the CT, but not in other ICC events, which meant that there was no real jinx to speak of. A bit of a humbling experience for everyone, including ‘old wine’ Dhoni, in the Caribbean might serve as a wake-up call for Team India. The 2019 World Cup is a long way away but the time to plan is from now. There are hard decisions to be made and the sooner they are arrived at the better for all concerned. Things have changed in the last few weeks and it would be better to recognise than suffer from sentimental attachments to old personnel and older ideas.