ON New Year's Eve, along with partying and drinks and resolutions, comes the time for a little reflection. The Indian captain, Sachin Tendulkar would rather close the book on the subject... his team started the year with a test match loss and ended it with an ODI loss. Rather an all-round performance!
The team began this year with great hopes and expectations both from the people as well as themselves. They had just beaten the mighty South Africans at home in the test as well as ODI series. They seemed ready to take on the South Africans on their home ground. And just as it was starting to stabilize, the Indian bubble of joy burst.
First they lost badly to South Africa in the very first test match of the series. Then came another loss in the second match and the series was as good as over. After that it was just a downhill slide for India. In the cricketing year of 1997, they lost 2 test matches of the 12 they played and did not win a single one. In ODIs it was even worse. They lost 19 matches and won only 11, with a few other being abandoned. And the ones that they won were rather against lesser formidable opponents like Zimbabwe and Bangladesh. Not a pretty picture at all...
So what exactly went wrong? Firstly was the injury to their main strike bowler, Javagal Srinath. Had he been fit for the whole year, maybe things would have been different. Then all of a sudden Venkatesh Prasad didn't look like the bowler who had just won the Ceat Cricketer of the Year award for the previous year. And Anil Kumble found that the finger didn't quite tweak like it used to. So, the three bowlers that the team really relied on gave way and with that fell the confidence and performance of the team.
Coming to batting, the captain himself, despite scoring 1000 runs for the year, was under great pressure and failed just when it mattered most. The openers were always the problem and when that clicked the rest of the batting order didn't. Tendulkar seemed tired of his post as captain and the selection committee didn't make matters any better, by dictating terms with him.
Perhaps the only Indian cricketer who would like to remember the year 1997 for personal achievements would be Saurav Ganguly. He had a great time with the ball in Toronto and his bat throughout the year. As Sunil Gavaskar said recently, he's probably been in better form this year than any other year. Possibly the only hope that the Indian team has, to gear itself for the 1999 World Cup is to take inspiration from him and other players to work hard to obtain excellence in their departments. Otherwise, we might as well start to dig the grave of Indian cricket... and seal it for good.