Good to focus on bigger picture, not instant gains

I have now heard Rahul Dravid’s press conference a few times and also read some of the social media posts on it. Let’s face a few facts first. India is surely not the best placed team at the moment. They don’t look great and the injuries haven’t helped either. India is perhaps the only team that is missing four first XI players to injury. Rishabh Pant, Jasprit Bumrah, Shryeas Iyer and KL Rahul are literally half the side who are injured.

Second, India have not been great in 50-over cricket in the recent past. A home series loss against Australia, a reversal against Bangladesh and now a loss against the West Indies has irked fans. But then that’s where Rahul Dravid’s comments become relevant. When asked if he will play to win the decider or continue to get the team ready for the Asia Cup and World Cup, this is what Dravid had to say, “No, we will continue to look at the bigger picture. With the injuries we have and with the Asia Cup and World Cup just a month away, we will continue to look at the bigger picture. Given where we are in the cycle, we can’t keep focussing on every single match or every single series and should prioritise the bigger picture.”

That’s where I think Dravid makes a lot of sense. Ahead of the 2019 World Cup, India were winning almost every bilateral 50-over series they played in. India demolished South Africa 5-1 in an away series for the first time ever. Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal were making headlines and considered match-winners who could run through line-ups and win India the World Cup. Even against Australia in Australia, the Indians did extremely well. So much so that ahead of the World Cup, India were tipped to win the title.

But then we all know what happened in England. At Edgbaston against the home team, they played on the pitch which had shorter boundaries on one side and the English attacked Kuldeep and Chahal from the word go, hitting them to that side at will. Kuldeep, especially, lost confidence and wasn’t the same bowler all World Cup thereafter. The Indian top order, which looked sublime till the semi-final, collapsed in a heap against Trent Boult and the dream was over.

This time round, India will go into the World Cup as the underdog. You go through social media and the feeling is this isn’t a team that has a chance. Some senior journalists have gone on record saying Pakistan look a far settled side.

Also Read: Decision on resting Kohli and Rohit based on giving fringe players game time – Dravid

All this talk is actually good. It gives a sense that Rohit Sharma’s India are not really ready and go into the big event as the underdog. At home with intense pressure from the fans, less expectation is not a bad thing. You don’t want the favourite tag to weigh you down and we have seen what it has done to the team in the past.

And from Dravid’s statement we know the management is aware of the big picture. It isn’t about one match or one series. They know that a failed World Cup could cost them their positions and they will do all to give themselves the best chance. Rohit, too, had said the same to me in one of my conversations with him. “We need to be prepared for a situation where we are 10 for three. We need batters to then be able to take the pressure and win us a game,” he had said.

Losing an inconsequential ODI against the West Indies, may I say, will have little or no bearing on the World Cup. If Indian fans have it their way, they will want the team to win every single game every single time. A defeat is doomsday and the moment it happens, all hell breaks loose.

For far too many times, India have won all before a big blow in a major World Cup knockout encounter. It was the same story in 2019 and 2015. We don’t need a repeat on home soil. So while it appears that the team management is clueless at the moment, in reality, these defeats could well give them a direction. They will know who they can bank on as back-up and also know who to go to if the injured players don’t get ready in time. Winning now with Virat Kohli and Rohit would not give us that chance. Remember Pant in 2019? Playing him in the semi-final in Manchester was a poor call and unfair on the young man.

For Suryakumar Yadav it won’t be the case. If he is the chosen one, he would have played in the set-up and will know what to do. He could still fail but that doesn’t mean he wouldn’t know what to do. Pant in 2019 was clueless. He was thrown into the deep sea without any grounding for the big stage. He failed. But that experience had done him a world of good and in Australia a year later, he played some of the best knocks ever in Indian cricket history.

Surya’s failure in the Caribbean could well be the thing he needs ahead of the World Cup. If Rahul fails to make it, he could be India’s go-to man and the management is trying to do its best to get him ready. That’s what you can do in sport. Try and be the best prepared. And then it is all going to be on the day. Going in as underdog isn’t a bad idea and each time India have won the World Cup, 1983, 2007, 2011, they have done so when they weren’t the favourites.

Also Read: Sir Curtly Ambrose on Jasprit Bumrah’s return to international cricket.

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