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

India must learn to chase wins
R Bhardwaj - 15 March 2002

I was of the opinion at the beginning of this current series (as well as the one against England) that it probably gives the Indian team the best opportunity to experiment, and iron out fundamental flaws in their one-day game.

The teams visiting us were a relatively inexperienced England and Zimbabwe, and we had 11 games - a substantial number for players hoping to reverse their fortunes and those of their country's - to work on specific aspects that needed improvement.

But after nine games we have not discovered anything new; all we have found out yet again is that we do not have explosive batsmen, intimidating bowlers or acrobatic and effective youngsters on the field. And also that we have absolutely no idea on how to implement a plan in the playing arena.

Against England our pitiful inability to stand up to the mildest form of pressure was on show during all our chases, including the ones where we laboured to victory. This is one of the many crucial reasons why we are not performing well as a one-day team.

Worse still, against Zimbabwe, we won the toss thrice, but our team management was not willing to ask the boys to chase even against the relatively weak bowling attack of the visitors. If our young team would have chased and won without Sachin and Sehwag, the team's confidence would definitely have shot up. And pray what have we gained by plumping for the soft option? After all, arenít we trailing 1-2 against what is essentially a B-grade team even after choosing to bat first in order to avoid pressure.

A chase is all about planning, preparing for contingencies, and quickly adapting and tackling them. And even teams with relatively low firepower can handle chases well if the planning is right as both New Zealand and Zimbabwe have proved. Australia are in a different league altogether and their methods canít consequently be adapted by India.

The reason for India avoiding chases is probably the fear of failure that our senior team members carry. I am certain Sourav Ganguly would be willing to chase, but he is never sure about the cost of failure. To a large extent our Board has to take the blame for this, as they have to for a lot of other issues.

Of course, this is not to say that the players are blameless. A very high level of talent, courage, maturity and determination are required to succeed in chases, after a plan has been made. Out-of-the-box thinking has to be employed both inside the dressing room (as Australia demonstrated in their successful chase of a massive victory target against New Zealand in a World Cup in Chennai in 1996), and out in the middle as Dougie Marillier so magnificently proved recently, and, then, the luck factor has also to go your way.

Here's my thought - when we our team is back at full strength, the Indians should attempt to master the art of chasing 250-300 scores. I still think we do most things right till we get to 60 from 10 overs with seven or fewer wickets in hand. We seem to have no clue from thereon. Unless there is a programme designed to teach our last six or seven batsmen to get 60-80 in 10 overs, we will not chase any total successfully.

Tactics like what batting order to play, who should be the anchor, who the big-hitter, how we should gather 5-6 an over without risk, how to stay calm, which batsman's wicket is tactically better to sacrifice etc. should be decided well in advance. Batsmen 8 to 11 have to be capable of scoring the last 30 runs by themselves, at a run-a-ball. Breakdown of the entire 50-over stretch has to happen as 1-5, 6-15, 16-40, 41-45 and 46-50. Standards have to be set before the run-chase for each match and the implementation has to happen.

I am unsure that all these happen at the moment, because if they do we will not be surrendering the way we do currently in chases. Of course, I would be thrilled if Sourav would win the toss, field and win the games on the 16th and 19th, but no conceivable evidence has been provided that things will work out in that fashion.


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