Cricket

Soft and pampered India lack obsession needed to win Down Under

  • Ashish Magotra
  • December 24th, 2014
  • 20:23:08 IST

The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man

- George Bernard Shaw.

Except when it comes to the DRS, the Indian cricket team is a very reasonable outfit – and that is their biggest problem. They try to keep things in perspective, say things like it is just a game and talk about moving on after defeat... all very good and likeable. Of course, none of this hides the fact that India has never ever won a Test series in Australia.

Mitchell Johnson celebrates with team mates after dismissing Rohit Sharma of India during day four of the 2nd Test. Getty

Mitchell Johnson celebrates with team mates after dismissing Rohit Sharma of India during day four of the 2nd Test. Getty

India have been touring Australia since 1947 and they count themselves as one of the premier cricket nations now. But in all the years since, they have never managed to win a series there. What does that tell you?

It tells us two things: primarily, we want to win in Australia but we aren’t really prepared to go the extra mile needed to achieve success and by we, it is the BCCI and the players.

When Australia lost the Ashes – they spent a year preparing for the next series. They obsessed over the idea of winning back the urn; they planned every single detail; they looked at options; they looked at options for options and they trained themselves into the ground. Victory, after that, was almost an after thought.

When squash legend Jahangir Khan decided he wanted to become the best in the world – he formulated a training program that bordered on the extreme.

“Hard work, discipline, commitment and ambition. To be the best, I had to work harder than everyone else. I trained for 8 hours a day, 6 days a week,” wrote Jahangir in his autobiography.

He would typically start his training day with a 9-mile run (14 km), followed by the ‘400 meter torture test’. The latter consisted of running 400 meters at a fairly high pace, followed by 1-minute breaks – which would be continued until exhaustion. And after that, there would be endless court sprints and racket drills. The result: he won 555 consecutive matches.

Ivan Lendl was another great whose practice routine was brutal by the standards of that age. While others got by on talent, the Czechoslovakian took the scientific approach and tailored his training to meet certain goals.

“People may say I developed an iron will, but what really happened is that I made myself much fitter. I think an iron will is always supported by fitness," Lendl had once said.

In his autobiography, basketball legend Larry Bird summed up his obsession to winning best.

“As a kid, I always thought I was behind and I needed that extra hour of work to catch up. Jim Jones once told me, ‘No matter how many shots you take, somewhere there’s a kid out there taking one more. If you dribble a million times a day, someone is dribbling a million and one.’ Whenever I’d get ready to call it a day, I’d think, ‘No. Somebody else is still working. Somebody-somewhere is playing that extra ten or fifteen minutes and he’s going to beat me someday.’ I’d practice some more and then I’d think, ‘Maybe that guy is practicing his free throws now.’ So I’d go to the line and practice my free throws and that would take another hour. I don’t know if I worked more than anybody else did, but I sure worked enough. I still wonder if somebody-somewhere-was practicing more than me. Maybe Michael Jordan.”

To be perfectly honest, if India want to win in Australia or anywhere away from home – they need to train themselves into the ground and they need to be obsessive about it. Our most common excuse for defeat is that the schedule is very tight – the players have no time to go back to the basics.

But the really great athletes find time to set things right. They place a higher priority on their sport than they do on work, family, relationships, and even on their own health. That is what made Sachin Tendulkar great; that is what made Rahul Dravid stand out; that is what made Anil Kumble a legend.

The BCCI is also to blame. They are the richest Board in the world but when West Indies pulled out, they ran to an under-prepared Sri Lanka to fill the void. They have sued the West Indies Cricket Board and as such would not have suffered too great a financial loss. Instead of inviting Sri Lanka in, they could have also opted to send the team to Australia. But no, money comes first… winning in Australia comes a very distant second.

Secondly, we don’t care whether we win in Australia – not enough anyway. Mahendra Singh Dhoni tells us that we are better off this time because we are at least ‘competing.’ At what point did just competing become enough in professional sport? Isn’t that the kind of stuff we were told in kindergarten to stop fights from breaking out?

Sunil Gavaskar's description Rohit Sharma’s dismissal was spot on – “I may be wrong. But look at his face… he seems a little sad that he got out but other than that nothing.”

Sourav Ganguly, Dravid and Kumble set up a base for Dhoni and this generation of cricketers. They showed them how to win abroad but all those lessons now seem forgotten. We are back to square one – making money, losing the plot and being perfectly okay with it.

Yes, defeat does rankle but only so much – a few ODI wins later, the Tests disaster will be forgotten. Dhoni even spoke about how the tour of Australia will be good preparation for the World Cup but what about the tour itself? Doesn’t anyone on this team want to create history or are they all satisfied with merely ‘competing’?

For the BCCI, the tour is another opportunity to make money. Their goal has been achieved. But what about the millions of fans who wish for a win in Australia... is this team doing justice to their hopes?

Updated Date: December 24, 2014 20:23:08 IST

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