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India need to learn from their Caribbean T20 debacle

Trevor Chesterfield

Updated: May 12, 2010, 4:39 PM IST
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It should surprise no one the way the Asian tectonic plates of the game have shifted this past month, how strong will be the aftershock repercussions throughout the subcontinent.

What with the ripple effect of the seismic jolts that have hit India over yet another chaotic ICC World T20 exercise, this one in the Caribbean, there will be a serious need to rethink selection policy and strategy for the year ahead. Time for a clean out and get rid of the superfluous players.

Appalling fielding performances and failed batting strategies apart, the bowling game plan has also left the MS Dhoni team and its bowling coach Eric Simons searching for answers amid the debris of what is a level 10 on the game's scale of defeats.

Warning signs they were under prepared were all too obvious but ignored. And with the World Cup less than 10 months down the road, the urgent reconstruction work needed has to be efficient and create stability if Team India are to be a success at their own party.

While Sri Lanka are also aware of the need to create a solid opening partnerships, and rebuild in an area where there is no longer place for sentiment, Indian selectors need to concentrate on the future and build a solid foundation designed to bring success and win an ICC trophy. What is needed are fresh faces and fresh energy, and as this takes time, whether the selection mafia are up to such urgent rebuilding depends on how they decide to structure their long-term planning with the senior coach Gary Kirsten.

At least Kris Srikkanth's panels have started a refurbishment programme of sorts with a side for a triangular in Zimbabwe that shows signs of building towards the 50/50 format. Yet when placing a headline on my Carte Blanch column of April 28 boldly proclaiming how "Team India looking for a T20 miracle in Caribbean" it wasn't a case of being clairvoyant or even a mind-reader, but judging the pre-series decisions regarding the team along with injuries and absent members.

It is a matter of how the facts surrounding the team's lack of preparation presented themselves that need analysing: no practice games left Dhoni with a side flawed in strategies and this in a system noted for its inconsistent selection foibles. The defeats, as unpleasant as they are to stomach, explain there has been no forward planning for this tournament. It is as though time stood still for a year.

With Virender Sehwag missing through a shoulder injury and Sachin Tendulkar retired from the T20 circus, it is hard to swallow such Dhoni post-match comments after losing to by five wickets to Sri Lanka in St Lucia that the best 15 players available were in the Caribbean. Dinesh Karthik continues to take up space and there is no one who can compensate for the absence of Sehwag.

And Yuvraj Singh, the man New Zealand's Brendon McCullum said would set the 'tournament ablaze' is one of the culprits of the defeats. As it is, the victory over a lethargic South Africa was on the back of the Suresh Raina century and this barely camouflaged the cracks already in the system and that any decent seismic jolt would further fractured an already flimsy edifice.

The bouncy surface in Bridgetown didn't just undermine a shaky India. Sri Lanka as well as the West Indies (at Gros Islet, St Lucia) were flattened by the Australian juggernaut, as were other sides rocketed by the pace of a team eager to win the one ICC trophy they don't yet have their name on.

While the slow pitch at the lush, colourful St Lucia venue suited both India and Sri Lanka, the Australians are wholly adaptable to any conditions. It is called professionalism, which India seems to be lacking at present.

Just a reminder though, Australia, as did England, last year had their thoughts deflected by the more serious challenge of a looming series for The Ashes; for Ricky Ponting's side it was how were they going to retain the famous urn; for a reshaped England, how to recover them. For both sides, as Ponting admitted, ICC World T20 event was an 'unnecessary diversion'. Not a popular view perhaps, but it explains the 'fresh faces and fresh energy' approach seen by both sides this tournament.

Australians don't see this as a "Waltzing Matilda cruise". To them it is a serious business, as is the case for England, with Kevin Pietersen dashing home to perform fatherly duties and be present at the birth of his first-born. It is a question of commitment, personal and professional and is why it would not surprise if the two ancient enemies don't square off in the final in the delightful colonial surrounds of the venue that carries the name of Kensington Oval, in Bridgetown.

At least one of India's names of the future, Raina has been tasked with the onerous job of helping India find a new formula, as the selectors were practical enough to look deep into the future. A couple of names missing from the Caribbean visit, Virat Kohli (Raina's tour deputy) and Naman Ojha are being given a chance in the central African country, yet the absence of Robin Uthappa and Parthiv Patel continues to surprise. Or is there an agenda here?

And if Sri Lanka's selectors act as sensibly as have India's in this case, they will also rest some of their seniors and retire Sanath Jayasuriya, whose continual failures at the Indian Premier League manifested at an international level in this tournament. After howls of indignation from the myopic inclined, he was pushed in as opener and three games in his old role showed his inability to handle the short ball.

As it is, Sri Lanka has a three-match T20 series in Miami with New Zealand after this tournament and if Ashantha de Mel has any genuine influence, he would be doing many a favour in sending the one-time swashbuckling left-handed hero home. His continued failures are blemishing what have been a fine career and a reminder it is no longer 1996, nor 1999, 2003 or 2007. The game has long surged ahead and so has bowling strategies.

It is a lesson from which India also need to learn, otherwise the errors of current selection at T20 is going to come up short. Apart from the Zimbabwe series, there is the Asia Cup as well as the Sri Lanka tour later in the year to develop a new order. If not the message from the aftermath of the Caribbean earthquake will have been missed. India cannot afford another lost opportunity.

First Published: May 12, 2010, 4:39 PM IST

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