Rahul Dravid, the new Team India head coach, will know a thing or two about what it means for an Indian team to not go beyond the first round of a World Cup.
He was the captain when India had to bear with the ignominy of not going past the first round of the 2007 50-over ICC World Cup in the Caribbean.
That forgettable picture of a shocked bunch of men-in-blue — the likes of Sachin Tendulkar, Yuvraj Singh, Virender Sehwag, MS Dhoni and the others of that time in the frame –staring coldly, helplessly at probably nothing, still continues to evoke disturbing memories.
Almost a decade-and-a-half later, there’s a huge chance that another forgettable frame could be in the making right now, at least going by the current scenario and build-up.
India did well to bounce back from that Caribbean disaster. They went on to become the World’s No.1 Test team and win the 2007 World T20 and the 2011 ICC World Cups? Interestingly again, there’s another T20 and a 50-over World Cup coming up between 2022 and 2023.
Let’s cut to the present.
Having steam-rolled Afghanistan, the Virat Kohli-led Indian team is set to face Kyle Coetzer-led Scotland next. Like any self-respecting ‘underdog’, the Scots too have punched above their weight. In fact, they first began the trend of upsets in this edition with a brilliant win over Bangladesh at the very beginning.
RESURGENT: After a successful white-ball comeback in over four years against Afghanistan, R Ashwin will be hoping for another productive outing against Scotland on the slow and low surface of Dubai. (AFP Photo)
Can they do more?
It won’t come easy and it’s not just because they’re running into a very formidable opponent. They’ll be running into a very angry opponent in Dubai on Friday evening. It’s a weekend holiday in that part of the world and apropos of India’s current standing in the tournament, the organisers know well what the Dubai crowd will come seeking.
Like in the game against Afghanistan, it’ll once again be about what kind of a statement the Indian team is looking to make. In the match against the Afghans on Wednesday, the Indian openers looked like they had to put in just that bit of extra effort before they managed to free their arms and flex their muscles.
Going into the game versus Scotland, they’ll be riding on red-hot form picked from that game and a unique set of aspirations that now border on earning respect more than anything else.
India need to get another 200-plus on board, not because that’ll assure them of a win. It’ll further boost their run-rate that may become necessary at a later stage, and alternately give them a sense of belonging in this tournament. After all, in this existing knockout jigsaw, they do not control anything – not even their own fate – post the two back-to-back losses against Pakistan and New Zealand.
Should the run-rate get better should Afghanistan beat New Zealand-; should India win their next two games – there are too many inflection points at this moment.
This Indian team can pick a leaf out of Dravid’s book right now, what’s perhaps his greatest virtue -patience. Do your bit to the best of your ability and wait. Wait for some other team to falter.
If that other team – New Zealand in this case – don’t falter, Team India can fly back home early, knowing they did not travel to the UAE with the kind of plans they should’ve ideally worked on. Too many cricketing elements – be it their selection, strategies, scoring runs, team combinations – have been tinkered with and need ironing.
Even if this Indian team gets lucky and walks into the knockouts, the big picture won’t change until they change the way they’ve been pursuing their white-ball assignments.
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