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Professional England show up undisciplined India

Trevor Chesterfield

Updated: May 19, 2010, 10:58 PM IST
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As their Caribbean ICC World T20 debacle descended from shamefaced defeat into an ugly pub brawl, Team India delivered itself a black-eye and the nation's professional image received a stinging slap in the face.

And as the accounts suggest, the script of events that emerged from the St Lucia nightspot, a square ring would have suited India's post match purposes better than looking out on the picturesque oval of Beausejour Stadium, with batting gloves replaced by those used for the repulsive art of pugilism.

Ashish Nehra, aka the spray-painter, because of his bowling efforts, Yuvraj Singh and others should have known better not to react to taunts from disgruntled alcohol fueled fans. There is disappointment too that Rohit Sharma, a growing name on the international stage and one of India's top young batting guns, was dragged into this unseemly foray. Instead of discipline, the players disgraced themselves, the tricolour as well in an unseemly joust.

From this farcical fermented fricasseed rabble, well sauteed with bruised egos, now with reputations you find among English soccer hooligans, India have nine months and possibly 17 or 18 ODIs to pull together a side to win next year's World Cup. It places Gary Kirsten in an invidious position of turning around a squad that needs to achieve what it hasn't been able to do in the past year, look like winners at the upper level of international competition.

How so different are England. Jettisoning players, pulling together smart planning, behaving with on-field panache, discipline and professionalism. They showed a lot of pride in this Caribbean event as Andy Flower, not hidebound by straight-jacket style coaching and thinking, delved into other areas of the game and found the players he wanted to deliver a trophy.

"Don't get carried away by the success though" is the former Zimbabwean captain's euphemistic warning. He has reason as well, to caution against such jingoism you get when a team not only does particularly well, but also does so to a different, vibrant tune. Winners are always expected to perform as they did when winning the trinket they have paraded with such enjoyment.

Ironically, it is two men from southern Africa who have not only turned England's show around and made them not only to look like a good side, but play like conquerors as well. Flower, who bravely and in some defiance of Zimbabwe political behaviour, not only donned a black armband to highlight his protest at what he called the death of democracy in his nation, but also how his black brethren were being treated by a callous regime.

This was during the 2003 World Cup games played in Harare and Bulawayo. It is easy to understand the frustration he felt along with Henry Olonga, the other who openly protested and why. Shona friends of mine with university degrees, who had returned to the southern African state in 1982 to help rebuild the nation, disappeared with their children one night 14 years later and were never been heard or seen of again. Asking questions about them led to a visit by an unpleasant member of the notorious political secret police.

So yes, demonstrating their beliefs, as they did was fraught with serious dangers; it is why Flower ended his international career and settled in England to rebuild a future. As a former captain as well as wicketkeeper, and batsman who a decade ago headed the Test batting rankings, he was not someone who was exactly hiding in the underbrush of a weak side. He was the standard-bearer.

Kevin Pietersen, frustrated by the growing need for a faster-moving transformation process in South African cricket, along with a demand by politicians for a quota system instead of merit-based programme, was initially linked by Clive Rice to Nottinghamshire. At the time, Rice was equally scathing of how South Africa was chasing away talent, as was Ray Jennings.

South Africa's national and provincial hierarchy didn't seem to care either. They were prepared to let such classy players find a home elsewhere and be left with a programme that is still short of where they would like to be. It has been shown at the last nine ICC tournaments, starting with the 2002 Champions Trophy in Sri Lanka and through to this year's World T20 in the Caribbean.

Whatever way you look at it, it is about as incompetent as it gets. England's record for that matter had not been that much better.

This was pointed out by Hugh Morris, former Glamorgan and England A captain turned England's Managing Director, when in December 2007 and on a flying visit to Sri Lanka during the Test tour, said he needed a side with players to take responsibility to turn the senior team into a "winning, professional outfit and win one of the three ICC events before the end of the decade." A man built foursquare like Allan Border, Morris had always been in the thick of team management, coaching and planning as a player and later administrator.

Another irony of the Flower and Pietersen careers is the interesting point of how it has been Flower's quiet determination to build a solid reputation of someone who is prepared to take on challenges. It was in the aftermath of the Pietersen fallout with Peter Moores, then England coach, which allowed Flower, then batting consultant to be gifted the England post. The result has been winning The Ashes as well as this ICC World T20 trophy.

To achieve the latter was a matter of getting rid of the safety first players: out went Ian Bell, Jonathan Trott and Matt Prior for a start. It is the attacking batsmen who put runs on the board that win trophies, and while largely the bowling skills England employed are those you see in the Yorkshire and Lancashire leagues, the slow, loopy bouncer is new. Also, the difference is that while England's batting vibrancy that was built around attack, so was the bowling.

It is a matter of leadership and developing squads. England now have wicketkeepers for three different sides. Also, not only was the T20 XI a balanced side, it was also one that adapted well to conditions, that Flower and the captain developed a strategy that always worked: a bowling length that smothered most teams efforts to smash the ball around; one of containment and with fielding that was always sharp. A couple of run outs may have been missed, and a catch or two dropped, but that is what can be expected in the frenetic pace at which T20 is played.

India have a tour of Zimbabwe for which they have selected a team with the future in mind and an Asia Cup tournament in Sri Lanka, followed by a tour of the island for which there will be five more 50 over games. Yet the side is far from settled. Lessons from the seismic events of poor performances and brawling in a Caribbean bar need to be addressed, as they show a lack of discipline and without such important control and behaviour, India are going to end up failing again in next year's World Cup.

First Published: May 19, 2010, 10:58 PM IST

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