Old failing haunting India

Old failing haunting India

Lack of fortitude in pressure situations affecting us, says Dhoni

Old failing haunting India

Injuries to frontline players supposed to have doused the Australian spirit and effectiveness, but after five matches the visitors have taken a 3-2 lead in the series. But the sight of a full-strength Indian side failing to drive home the advantage against the Aussies in crucial moments was more disappointing.

The hosts nearly brought an amazing turnaround in their fortunes in Vadodara in the first one-dayer through a gritty partnership between Harbhajan Singh and Praveen Kumar, but they could not complete the job as India crashed to a four-run defeat.
The defeat in the fourth ODI in Mohali could not exactly be termed as a close defeat, but their failure to scale down 251 on a perfect batting strip was well beyond any logic. But that old weakness surfaced in all its ugliness in the fifth ODI in Hyderabad as India courted a heart-breaking three-run defeat.

Few had given India a chance once Australia notched up 350 for four, but under the command of Sachin Tendulkar the men in blue mounted a brave chase, raising visions of a miraculous victory. When the Mumbaikar got out after making 175 India needed only 19 runs off 17 balls with three wickets standing. But two nervous run-outs turned what could have been an ever memorable night for them into an agonizing three-run defeat.
It was not surprising, then, to hear Mahendra Singh Dhoni attributing the failures to mindset of the players. “We came very close on a few occasions, but the one last effort that we needed as a team we couldn’t put in. I don't think it was the talent part. I think it has more to do with the mental part of cricket,” Dhoni said.

Defeats in close matches have been India’s bane for a long while now, though they have displayed the occasional bravery to pull off a fabulous win. Since that landmark year of 1983, India have lost 24 one-dayers when the match was decided in the last three overs while winning 20 such matches, but 16 of those victories have come pre 2005, before the current crop of players came into picture.

It may not be a reflection of the new bunch’s mental fortitude in crunch situations but it certainly mirrors an area that they need to work on if they wish to scale the ladders of success. In contrast, despite injuries to their five impact players the Australians have showed remarkable fighting abilities so far to stay a step ahead of Indians.
So, the cultural and social differences and the outdoor upbringing of Australians provide them an edge over others in tight situations?

Dhoni attributed it to the ability to judge the situation at hand. “When it comes to cricket, it’s about controlling the instincts. When you go out to bat you go out with a certain emotion. All of a sudden when you start hitting, going from first gear to sixth gear, you need to remain calm.

You need to know whether to sustain that sixth gear or to come down to third gear. Realising what’s needed at that moment is very important. I don’t know how much role factors like upbringing and other aspects play in such situations,” he said.
But he agreed a person like Paddy Upton, the mental conditioning coach of the Indian team can make a difference. “Paddy Upton can play a big part when it comes to preparing the team for such situations. But at the end of the day, it is up to the individual. It’s like the teacher’s job. A teacher teaches you a lot of things, but the student has to sit for the exam. Success and failure entirely depends upon his efforts,” he said.
Let’s hope we can see a difference in the remainder of the series.