Zimbabwe in India, Feb-Mar 2002
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India won by 101 runs
India 333/6 (50 ov)
Zimbabwe 232 (42.1/48 ov)

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The writer in you

The best-laid plans...
Dabhol Pawarkatkar - 04 March 2002

Sometimes, as Robert Burns theorised, the best laid plans backfire. That is exactly what nearly happened with India at Delhi on the final day of their Test against Zimbabwe. The pitch was a typical Kotla wicket; no self-respecting herd of cattle would go anywhere near it to whet an appetite. It was tailored to be a spinner's paradise, and it behaved exactly as it was supposed to on all five days. But the problem was that the Indians nearly threw the game away with some extremely uninspiring, insipid and boring batting.

Much more strangely, each delivery from the Zimbabwean bowlers, especially Ray Price, was treated like a hand grenade. True, the nasty nature of the pitch meant the batsmen could be forgiven for thinking that it was not just dust exploding from the surface but a real explosion. But so much for being the best players of spin in the world; Saqlain Mushtaq, Muttiah Muralitharan, Ashley Giles and Ray Price have, over the past three years or so, thrown that reputation out of the window.

More credit to the Zimbabweans for slugging it out till the last moment. They played wonderfully...or perhaps India let them play wonderfully. The greatest batsman in the world, nearing a dizzying batting average of 60 that would put him alongside a certain Donald Bradman as the only batsmen with more than 5000 Test runs to have that kind of batting average, was reduced to doing nothing more than attempting to ensure that he did not get out to Price. I am not implying that Tendulkar chickened out, just that he did not look comfortable facing up to Price.

The folly of serving up half-baked, crumbling, under-prepared wickets has been exposed thoroughly by this inept performance. What exactly have we gained from this series? Deep Dasgupta's keeping remains as bad as ever, Harbhajan Singh and Anil Kumble will continue to bamboozle batsmen only at home. Admittedly, Sourav Ganguly came back to form, Rahul Dravid came back into the team, and Virender Sehwag showed signs of being surely destined for greatness.

But Zaheer Khan bowled his heart out, as did Javagal Srinath, and what did they get? Wickets on which the ball reached the keeper on the second bounce (even accounting for the fact that it was Dasgupta behind the stumps) on the very first morning of the Test. There was a shocking lack of an attempt to try and groom a few new players (aside from Sanjay Bangar), when, of late, selection committees the world over have not balked at dropping senior players to prepare for the future.

India still lacks a quality opener to partner Shiv Sunder Das, a quality wicket-keeper, a good backup seam bowler, an alternate leg-spinner and a left-arm spinner. Good Test sides are not made only because of those who perform on the field, they are also made because those who are not in the playing eleven put so much pressure on the chosen few and force improvements in individual and team performances. Sadly, there is no one in sight giving the likes of Harbhajan, Kumble, Zaheer, Srinath or any of the batting pillars a scare or two.

These cracks cannot be papered over for ever. As Malcolm X famously said, "The future belongs to those who prepare for it today." It really is up to those in charge of Indian cricket to prepare for the future, lest we get left behind in the past, as has been the case at hockey, where the best we can do now is murmur "When we were kings ..."

The views expressed above are solely those of the guest contributor and are carried as written, with only minor editing for grammar, to preserve the original voice. These contributed columns are solely personal opinion pieces and reflect only the feelings of the guest contributor. Their being published on does not amount to an endorsement by CricInfo's editorial staff of the opinions expressed.
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