Business as usual - Ind vs Aus vs SL - Triangular Series - 2012

2008 was an aberration, a disruption of normal service. Till then, irrespective of the team's superlative and horrendous performance in the longer format, Indian team fared pretty consistently playing up either as the perennial runners-up or quorum filler making a quick exit in ALL the triangular contests held down under dating all the back to the 80s. Even during the '04 series when the team was considered to be at its strongest best, it somehow couldn't land the sucker punch on the Aussies, thereby merely adding up one more notch on what had been a consistent string of crushing defeats. All that changed in '08 though. Again, the league matches leading up to those two epoch finals (at least, from the Indian perspective) proceeded in the same fashion as its predecessors in the previous visits - a victory here and there, but never a momentum building drive that could topple the Aussies from their high chairs. And so, in the finals, when Indians registered back to back victories in the finals on the shoulders of consistent batting, miserly bowling and sharp fielding, it was complete bolt from the blue that even they themselves found it hard to believe. And the post victory celebrations, the laps around the stadiums and the chest-beating and -thumping that followed, as though the country had won the World Cup, showed how much those wins meant for them, even if they were just a couple. One could even say that winning the first series ever in Australia was the crowning achievement for the team's ODI unit that could rank along side the World Cup victories, which made the team to be taken seriously even when leaving the comfortable confines of home turfs. And then 2012 happened. After a brief interruption in the regular schedule, normalcy was restored and business was back being the usual.

There are somethings that people in India can set their clocks to, aside from the natural periodic phenomena. Like the sighting of the Haley comet, these two events happen with amazing regularity, the first one every 4 years after the Olympics, and the second every three years, after the trip from Australia (as said above, 2008 was an exception and hence excluded from the following consideration). And in both cases, the arguments haven't changed much through all these generations dating back to decades. In Olympics, after the Indian contingent returns empty handed (save for some herculean individual efforts here and there), all the chatter media gets to work piling on the same complaint in the same complaint box about how a country boasting of a billion people remain so barren all this time, when countries, more impoverished and less populated than ours, casually pass us up on the final medals tally. The second argument is just as exasperating, futile and tiresome, and this one involves pace and bounce. How many more times and in how many more ways can the richest board in the world be beaten up for its lackadaisical attitude towards sporting wickets, whenever the team returns from overseas tours long-faced and empty handed, like a kid who managed nothing but noughts on his progress report. While the paucity of performance can be justified to a certain extent, in Olympics, what with the weak infrastructure and lack of seriousness towards sports at the grass root level, or the scarcity of private sponsorship for less glamorous sports and institutional apathy towards nurturing talent, cricket has no where to hide. It has the money, it has the resources, it has the men - players, administrators, coaches. What it lacks is the concern and the commitment to overcome the deficiencies, which plays into the commonly held view that the administrators either don't know anything about the game or don't care anything about the game, as long as the sponsorship money flows in and the coffers get filled up.

What is surprising is the solution is so simple that all it takes is just a couple of juicy tracks to mirror the conditions abroad to have the team work on its technique and iron out any obvious shortcomings. That's it, nothing more. No foreign coaches, no computer aided technology, no motivation lessons, no visualization exercises. Just one bloody pitch where the ball can dictate terms to the bat. Until such is laid down, the sights of batsmen hopping up and down like cats on hot coals, the tentative pokes and jabs and miscalculated leaves along the Green Mile, falling head over heels over the chin music continue to frustrate its loyal legions, troubling the scorers the least in the process and provide fodder to the talking heads and writing hands. To borrow a line from a presidential campaign - don't expect different results with the same failed strategies, or in simple breaking-up jargon - It's not you, it's me!

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