From time to time, we all find a reason to call it quits. We hit rock bottom and don’t know just how to turn things around and that is when we need to turn to history because sometimes, the best lessons are in history.
Firstpost takes a look at some of the best cricket teams in history — Don Bradman’s ‘Invincibles’, Clive Lloyd’s West Indies and Steve Waugh’s Australians to see what exactly made them tick; to see what exactly made them formidable units. India have hit rock bottom in every sense and if they want to rise up to the top of the table once again, they need to learn a few lessons from Bradman, Lloyd and Waugh.
DON BRADMAN’S AUSTRALIA (1948): The team was the first to play an entire tour of England without losing a single game. No surprise then that they were nicknamed The Invincibles for this feat. They played 34 matches on the tour, winning 25 (17 by an innings) and drawing the rest. Australia won the five-match Test series 4-0.
It was not just the wins, but the ruthless manner in which this team went about its business, earned them the sobriquet The Invincibles. They had a busy schedule, with 112 days of play scheduled in 144 days, meaning that they often played every day of the week except Sunday.
The strength of the Australian team was based around its formidable batting line-up, which included Bradman, Arthur Morris, vice-captain Lindsay Hassett, Neil Harvey and Sid Barnes. Ray Lindwall, Keith Miller and Bill Johnston formed a fearsome pace trio.
The tour was captain Don Bradman’s last Test series, and the immediate postwar team was the most successful that Bradman appeared in. He celebrated his 40th birthday during the tour and was on the decline (by his own standards!). Still he managed to score 2428 runs in 31 innings at an average of 89.92 with 11 centuries during the summer. He remarked in the 1980s that, in his opinion, the Invincibles remained the finest Australian team he had ever seen.
Australia under Bradman
Overall: P24 W15 D6 L3 Win% 62
In the period: P5 W4 D1 L0 Win% 80
Key batsmen: Don Bradman: 6996 runs (avg 99.94), Syd Barnes: 1072 runs (63.06), Neil Harvey 6149 runs (avg 48.42), Lindsay Hassett : 3073 runs (avg 46.56), Arthur Morris: 3533 runs (avg 46.49).
Key bowlers: Keith Miller :170 wickets (avg 22.98), Ray Lindwall: 228 wickets (avg 23.03), Tests: 61 Av: 23, Bill Johnston 160 wickets (avg 23.91)
CLIVE LLOYD’S WEST INDIES (1983-85): No other team in cricket history has dominated as completely as this West Indies team did. There was an aura around this team that would just intimidate the opponents. Much before the start of a contest, the end result would be a foregone conclusion. The survival against the West Indies pace-attack would be the only thing of significance.
The likes of Marshall, Roberts, Holding, Garner and Croft would pepper the opposition batsmen with ferocious short-pitched deliveries. They would do this relentlessly and clinical precision. There was no respite for the opposition batsmen.
The batting line-up was awesome, too: Gordon Greenidge and Desmond Haynes formed one of the finest opening pairs in Test annals. In middle-order they had Lary Gomes, Viv Richards, Richie Richardson and Clive Lloyd. Followed by Jeff Dujon, a very ﬁne wicketkeeper-batsman.
The unit was ably captained by Clive Lloyd. Though some critics argue that his only role was to rotate his bowlers, it was Lloyd who managed to unite individuals from the disparate nations of the Caribbean into a harmonious team.
Such was the dominance of this side that they played a record 27 Tests without defeat between 1982 and 1984. Between March and November 1984, they won a then-record 11 Tests in a row including England’s 5-0 whitewash in England – the first and only 5-0 whitewash by a touring side. At one stage in 1984, three of the top five batsmen (Richards, Greenidge and Lloyd) and three of the top six bowlers (Garner, Marshall and Holding) in the Test rankings were West Indian.
West Indies under Lloyd
Overall: P74 W36 D26 L12 Win% 49
In the period: P25 W16 D8 L1 Win% 64
Whitewashes: 5-0 England 1984
Key batsmen: Viv Richards: 8540 runs (avg 50.24), Clive Lloyd : 7515 runs (avg 46.68), Gordon Greenidge: 7558 runs (avg 44.72), Richie Richardson : 5949 (avg 44.40), Desmond Haynes: 7487 runs (avg 42.30)
Key bowlers: Malcolm Marshall : 376 wickets (avg 20.95), Joel Garner : 259 wickets (avg 20.98), Michael Holding: 249 wickets (avg 23.69), Andy Roberts: 202 wickets (avg 25.61)
STEVE WAUGH’S AUSTRALIA (1999-2001): The Australian team was going through a transition when Steve Waugh took the reins from Mark Taylor. Waugh was lucky to inherit some ﬁne cricketers from Taylor and ﬁnd several more emerging ones. It was to Waugh’s credit that he recognised their talent and propelled them to ever higher levels of achievement. This Australian team set a few benchmarks for themselves. Trying to win every match was a given. Scoring 300 runs in a day soon became a norm.
They were the most formidable batting line-up one could imagine: With Langer and Hayden opening, Ricky Ponting one down, followed by Waugh twins, dependable Damien Martyn and swashbuckling Adam Gilchrist.
In bowling department they had Shane Warne, who could spin the ball prodigiously on any surface and Glenn McGrath, whose nagging line on and around the off-stump tested best of the batting talents. They were ably supported by Brett Lee and Jason Gillespie.
This Australian side just brushed aside the opponents. Between 1999 and 2001 they won 16 Tests in a row, before coming across a strong Indian side.
Australia under Waugh
Overall: P57 W41 D7 L9 Win% 72
In the period: P20 W18 L2 Win% 90
Whitewashes: 5-0 West Indies 2000-01, 3-0 New Zealand 1999-00, 3-0 India 1999-00, 3-0 Pakistan 1999-00, 3-0 South Africa 2001-02, 3-0 Pakistan 2002-03
Key Batsmen: Ricky Ponting : 13378 runs (avg 51.85), Steve Waugh: 10927 runs (avg 51.06), Matthew Hayden : 8625 runs (avg 50.74), Adam Gilchrist: 5570 runs (avg 47.61), Damien Martyn: 4406 runs (avg 46.38), Justin Langer : 7696 runs (avg 45.27), Mark Waugh : 8029 runs (avg 41.82)
Key Bowlers: Glenn McGrath: 563 wickets (avg 21.64), Shane Warne: 708 wickets (avg 25.42), Jason Gillespie : 259 wickets (avg 26.14).
The one thing that emerges from these numbers is that each team had it’s own method — a method that was evolved from the way the team played it’s cricket. But more importantly, all these teams developed a consistency. They had batsman and bowlers who could be trusted to not have any off-days. Without that kind of trust, India are not going to cut it.
Right now, it seems like Dhoni has no trust in his bowlers and batsmen and in return, the team doesn’t have any confidence in him either. That can’t be right either. The climb back up to the top isn’t going to be easy — India will be without many of their greats… which is perhaps why the younger ones need to step up and make their mark.
… Then you better start swimmin’
Or you’ll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin’.