Vantage point

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Talk 'em Up

The biggest difference in the Indian cricket team in the 20th century seems to be the unity in the team, regardless of any geographical loyalties. The three men at the top, M/s Ganguly, Wright and Dravid are exceptional at man management.

We can't really peek into the dressing room and listen to their conversations but one can see what they say to the media and figure it out.

The earlier generation of Indian cricket was always ready to do an "ugatey suraj ko salaam", i.e praise someone who was having good days. You can see that even now in their comments in the media. Rajsingh Dungarpur and Bishansingh Bedi, for instance, change their opinions about cricketers every few weeks. And these opinions change radically.

The current team leadership however takes care to buck up those who have been left out of the spotlight.

The first time I noticed this was when John Wright appeared on Shekhar Gupta's 'Walk the Talk' after the triumph in Pakistan. Gupta asked him about Sehwag, Kumble, Pathan and Dravid, the heroes of the series. Wright however chose to speak about the Kaifs and Chopras of the world. I am guessing the thinking was that heroes are already being applauded aplenty. It is the other contributors who need to be recognised.

A couple of days back, writing in the Times of India about the Kolkatta win over Pakistan, Dravid applauded someone whose contribution everyone else seemed to have forgotten. Dravid wrote that just before the crucial Afridi dismissal on day 4, Kaif substituting for Laxman, had dived superbly to save a boundary and restricting the batsman to just 3, thus bringing him on strie. Dravid wrote that if Kaif hadn't stopped the boundary, Afridi wouldn't be on strike, and probably would not have been dismissed.

Now regardless of how logical this is, imagine what Mohd Kaif feels when he reads this. The team management noticed his effort and considered him as one of the contributors to the win. There is an extra spring in his step the next time he fields, not that Kaif needs any incentive to give his 100%.

These comments show why we have half a dozen match-winners in this team in just 4 years when we had just two of them throughout the 90s. The team management then didn't do much to boost anyone's confidence.