Time for India to embrace change

Team will have to shed the negativity quickly
Last Updated 20 August 2014, 18:20 IST

The Indian team hotel near St James Court was a beehive of activity in the last two days. Players were busy shopping with their spouses or friends, while some of the one-day specialists checked into their respective rooms.

Perhaps, it was all a mere ruse. It seemed a conscious attempt to make themselves believe that everything has been in order in their world. If that was the aim behind that rush, then it wasn’t a bad thinking at all. They need a mental break before taking on England in a five-match one-day series, beginning on Monday at Bristol.

They have been thrashed soundly by England in the Test series, but more off-field negativity surrounds this team. They spent countless hours trying to win a Level 3 offence case against James Anderson, only to be waved off at every doorstep. It has become personal humiliation of sorts.

They have been used to the understated ways of Duncan Fletcher over the last two years or so. The Board of Control for Cricket in India has clipped his wings, appointing Ravi Shastri as the director of the team. Shastri is anything but understated. He is a strong person who loves his voice and opinions to be heard and followed.

Shastri’s stint may last only for five one-dayers and a T20, but it will be a massive cultural change for the players. They will see a firm man organising the things around, and in a way that’s what they need at the moment. The Indians require the presence of someone who can lift their spirit, someone with whom they can have talk about their predicaments and pressures – within cricket and outside it.

Shastri fits this bill perfectly. As a former cricketer of distinction, the Mumbaikar knows the intricacies of the game from close quarters and can offer valuable technical inputs.  Even after retiring, Shastri has kept himself abreast with the modern day game as a commentator. 

His commentary might not get universal acceptance but the experience he has gathered from travelling around the globe will be a useful tool for this Indian team. Additionally, most of the players, including skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni, has a fine rapport with Shastri.

In essence, the team will not be welcoming a total stranger amidst them, warranting few introductions and sit-together sessions to know each other. On Tuesday, Shastri showed that he has taken the responsibility seriously. He visited the team hotel and had an interaction with Fletcher and some of the team members, putting forward his views and thoughts.

 But it will be naïve to think that Shastri and a new set of support staff alone can bring a change.  Players need to rediscover their will to fight after the drubbing in the Test series.

Now, they can’t let that setback linger on in their minds. They will have to find a way to free themselves from the clutches of pervading negativism and play positive cricket in the one-day series. For once, they don’t have to occupy their minds with the thoughts about victory but they just have to be desperate for fighting outings.

Former England skipper Michael Vaughan wrote in his coloumn that Indian players were scantly interested in appearing for their country and their attitude reflected in some of the shots they played over the series. 

This young Indian side can answer some of those questions through a gritty effort in the one-day series. Will they regain their fight? 

(Published 20 August 2014, 18:20 IST)

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