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 India - Too successful for their own good?

            The Indian team will rightly be regarded as favourites for the 2015 Cricket World Cup. The reigning champions under captain M.S.Dhoni look to have an exciting blend of youth and experience. The biggest risk to the team retaining their trophy might, ironically, come not from their opponents, but from their own domestic success.

            The lucrative franchised Indian Premier League has been a huge hit on the sub-continent, where enthusiastic fans cheer the world's best cricketers, as they display their skills in tense 20-20 matches. However there is a downside to all the razzmatazz and excitement.

            The life of a modern cricketer extracts a huge toll both physically and mentally. Year-round match schedules, constant travel and stressful finishes all combine to create fatigue. The issue was not so prominent during the 2011 World Cup, as the IPL was in its infancy. However the impact of playing non-stop high-pressure games could dilute the ability to produce peak performance at critical times.

            The increase in fixtures has also led to a diminution in the surprise factor. Before the advent of franchised leagues across the globe, a batsman may only have faced a star bowler a couple of times in his career. So when Allan Donald bowled a yorker or Waqar Younis generated reverse swing, the bamboozled occupant of the crease would soon be back in the pavilion. However the best cricketers are now meeting on a regular basis, so batsmen have a greater chance of knowing how to defend against such deliveries. Likewise bowlers will have insider knowledge of the batsmen's weaknesses and will be able to aim accordingly.

            Every format of cricket demands its own mentality and tactics. By focusing so much on the rapid-fire version, there is a danger that inappropriate attitudes might be carried into World Cup games. In 20-20 batsmen are often care-free risk takers and the bowlers’ priority is keeping the run-rate down. In the 50-over game the focus switches to bowling out the opposition and scoring runs with controlled aggression.

            So will tiredness and over-familiarity deal a hammer blow to India's World Cup hopes, or will their experience in close games once again propel them to victory?  Has Indian cricket been pursuing the wrong kind of success? Is it possible to have misplaced priorities, even when things are going well?

 

Brian Salmon

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