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Indian batsmen seem mentally fatigued

By Vivian Richards
February 17, 2003 19:45 IST
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I remember discussing India's prospects at the World Cup during the West Indies tour to India, and I had predicted that the poor preparation plan for the team would cost them dearly. What is worrying for the Indian batsmen is not the fact that they are out of form, it is the fact that they seem mentally fatigued. That tour of New Zealand was not just reward or proper preparation for a team coming to play a World Cup in South Africa. It just made a tired team look exhausted, and robbed some of the batsmen of their confidence.

However, India should not lose heart. They must keep their heads at this moment, and view their defeat against Australia as a team faltering against the best side in the World Cup. They must not look at it as a gloom and doom situation, because the more you think of a loss the more likely you are to hit a losing streak. My message is: be positive, for you never know, a good run might just start a couple of matches from now.

While matters are taking a fairly predictable course in that group, our group is seeing one upset after the other. When I arrived in South Africa, all I heard about was how the host team would revel in familiar conditions in front of a supportive home crowd. However, I always have felt that the home advantage is not always an advantage, especially if you don't have the stomach to cope with crowd support. When the crowd turns against you, things can get tough, and in the two crucial games, South Africa have not been able to step to the plate at crucial moments.

The sad part for the hosts is that the batsmen are doing their job, and it is their bowling that is letting them down. For example, you would expect any team to defend 306 in South Africa, but they uncharacteristically dropped catches and let New Zealand off the hook.

New Zealand's victory on Sunday makes our passage into the Super Six look a little easier, but the job still has to be done. We've still got to win well against the less experienced teams and then defeat Sri Lanka. I hear lots of people are "depending" on us to beat Sri Lanka, but that is a load of rubbish. There are no favours on offer at this level of the game, and we're hoping that we win all our remaining matches so that we can cement our place in the Super Six.

What we must guard against is complacency, and a feeling that we are home and dry. Tomorrow we play Bangladesh, and we should not have a problem winning that game. We played against them in our last series before the World Cup where we beat them with ease in both the Tests and the one-dayers.

We were disappointed at our loss against New Zealand and would like to use this game as well as the game against Canada to get into the winning habit. While the team composition is yet to be decided, it looks like most of our senior players will be in action as we don't just want to win tomorrow, we want to win well. I'm not too upset with the loss against New Zealand, because it's been seen that a few hiccups at the start of the tournament are better than later, when teams reach the knock-out stage. It will also help the team to refocus on its goals and keep away any signs of complacency.

The team that is looking miles ahead of the rest right now is Australia. They are playing superb cricket at present, but sometimes, such a good start does not have a happy ending. Australia themselves may recall that they lost their first two games before winning the World Cup last time. Every team has a hiccup at some point of the tournament or the other. An off day comes every now and then and you would rather face it in the league or Super Six stage than in the knock-out stage. I think in some ways the Australians are peaking too early and might come against a reversal at a later point. Their challenge at this point is not to run out of steam later in the tournament.

(Gameplan)

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Vivian Richards