Tuesday, June 20, 2017

India's ODI Template is Outdated

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The vibrancy that is India's Test team is not reflected in its ODI and T20 outfit. The promise that every Test will be played to win is Virat Kohli's most refreshing and welcome quality. The days of hiding behind processes and being almost demure about going for wins is thankfully behind us...

...In Tests.

In LOI cricket however, the hangover of the previous generation persists. Virat Kohli, so far, has either been unable to shake it off or he is less confident of imposing his own fresh, new vision. When India's squad was announced for the Champions Trophy, it seemed a good one to win a World Championship if it were held a decade ago. IPL performances were ignored and the middle order and spin slots were treated as long service appreciation or servitude awards. Virat Kohli is clearly behind the curve when it comes to LOI cricket.  

The captain of a country that is home to the most explosive T20 league in the world that throws up innovations every few years said,  
"Explosive cricket is not our brand"

There is something not quite Virat Kohli in India's LOI team. This still seems very much Mahendra Singh Dhoni's team. His vision. Something that worked in 2011, 2013 and to some extent in 2015 but clearly not good enough for the Fakhar Zamans and Shadab Khans of the world. Dhoni is a once great LOI master who probably doesn't have it in him to outsmart the bravado and fearlessness of the next generation of Pakistan Super League stars. He increasingly resembles a dead man walking, constantly checking around to see if he has done enough to keep his place in the side. 

The win for Pakistan was a good one and for cricket romantics... even a heart warming one. India's LOI approach has been outdated for a while now and it would have been a tragedy if it wasn't "found out" in a global event of this scale and in the humiliating margin that eventually separated the 2 teams. It clearly calls for a fresh approach. 

Pakistan, a country that is internationally isolated when it comes to cricket and doesn't have access to the IPL, shed its aging heroes and trusted the talent the Pakistan Super League threw up to leave the reigning Champions shell shocked and humiliated. If this were a 100 meter race, India wasn't even in the frame when Pakistan crossed the finish line. If this were a game of soccer, it had parallels to Brazil 1 - Germany 7. 

India's approach to maintain the LOI supremacy it gained in 2011 have been to indulge in half measures so far. There is plenty of local talent to be found in the IPL only if India is willing to ignore the past achievements of our middle order and spinners in particular. None of whom had a half decent IPL but were still picked to maintain status quo; as if to assume that the opposing teams have stopped evolving themselves. 

India's Test team is far more mentally strong. Right from the Adelaide Test in 2014, Virat Kohli's first Test as a stand in captain, the team has promised to play for wins and have delivered on that.  It has lost matches going for improbable wins and set up wins from hopeless situations. Its a joy to watch them because no other Indian team has played such a positive game. 

India's LOI side however, still has one foot in the old world. 

India have world class talent emerging every IPL season but strangely unwilling to trust its own platform that throws up these stars. Why were IPL non-performances ignored when it came time to defend the Champions Trophy.

Its not like I think Pakistan will sustain their success over a period of time. Come the 2019 World Cup at the same venue, they will obviously start as favorites but if Virat Kohli is fully entrusted with the reins for LOI cricket, I have a good feeling about 2019. 

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