Thursday, July 3, 2014

India's Tour of England 2014 - Test of mental toughness more than the cricketing skills

Team India during a warm up game in England
England summer has started and India is also ready to start their England Tour. This time the tour is really long. For fans next 3 months are going to be filled with exciting cricket whereas for players its going to be a test of mental toughness. We don't often see India playing a 5 match test series. India last played a 5 match test series in England way back in 1959.  The real test of any team is playing a long test series abroad. Its good for Indian Cricket that we are again back playing more test matches. No doubt that results of test matches are the best way to know how good a team is.

This test series is being called ' The Big Test ' and the tagline is absolutely correct. Its going to be an all round test of every player both physically and mentally. A long test series can become a burden for players if the team doesn't do well in the 1st two test matches. This is the time when players need to buck up and keep going. Their enthusiasm and passion for country should never go down. This Indian team is young and has some extra ordinary promising talents. Their cricketing skills are superb but now its time to show that they can do well outside India in the longest version of the game.

In batting department , we have Shikhar Dhawan , Cheteshwar Pujara , Virat Kohli , Rohit Sharma and Ajinkya Rahane. We have seen in the past that when these players are in full flow they are unstoppable. In a long test series form of a batsman depends upon many factors. First and foremost a batsman needs to be patient and try to get some runs in the initial part of the series. Once the batsman is aware of the conditions and his positive factors he can quickly better his form in the remaining part of the series. If the form does not strike early its vital for the batsman to remain focused and calm. Hurrying up things will not be a solution. Its obvious that when form is bad the enviornment around a batsman changes but to become a great batsman its important to overcome the bad and be mentally prepared for the good things to come. One of our main batsman Virat Kohli has shown his determination and mental toughness in the past. When India toured Australia in 2011 , Virat was part of that squad. In the last test match of that series he scored a century even after being out of form during that tour. India lost the series and that match but his innings is a great example for every young cricketer to learn from. Its important to have a never give up attitude. I am sure many more players in this squad have this attitude in them.

Test matches can sometimes be very hard on the bowlers. Batsmen can take rest after getting out but for bowlers they have to bowl and field at the same time. It gets tougher when the opposing team is having a long partnership. In such an event we often see body language of our bowlers going a bit down. This is where the mental toughness is tested and only the bowlers who have that extra bit of firepower succeed. In bowling department, We have some good swing bowlers like Bhuvaneshwar Kumar and Mohammed Shami. Shami was impressive during the South Africa and New Zealand tour which took place a few months back. A lot is expected from him in this England tour as well. Ishant Sharma has also been picked. His form in the recent past has been inconsistent. Generally its seen that if Ishant strikes early he becomes a different bowler but in case he goes for some runs he gets wayward in his line and length. In absence of Zaheer Khan, Ishant Sharma needs to take more responsibility and become the spearhead of our bowling attack. He should keep a positive mind set. Pankaj Singh has been picked for the 1st time in the Indian Squad. His domestic cricket record is mind blowing. He should definitely be a part of the playing XI.  Ravindra Jadeja , Stuart Binny and Ravichandran Ashwin are the all rounders in this team. All the three players are equally good. Stuart binny being the new comer has less experience. Jadeja can be a sure shot pick for the playing XI as his form in the champions trophy in England was superb and he is good in all 3 departments of the game.

Now talking about the most important player of the team MS Dhoni. MS Dhoni being the captain of the side has extra responsiblity and his decision making in tough or crunch situations needs to be spot on. Many say a captain is as good as his team. Yes this is true but we have to also accept that certain decisions on the field can change the game and those decisions purely depends on how a captain thinks. MS Dhoni has said in a press conference recently that he will play attacking cricket. We have seen MS Dhoni go on defensive many a times in the past when Team India played abroad. He definitely needs to change this mind set and be attacking. We have seen Sourav Ganguly, Former Indian Captain do well abroad as he attacked. MS Dhoni needs to learn from Ganguly. Hopefully we get to see a different MS Dhoni this time.

All in all, This England tour will tell us who is the best out of the rest. The team which will play fearless and attacking cricket will have an upper hand. The players who come out fighting from tricky situations are going to taste victory. Team India needs to make sure that they never lose hope during tough times and keep fighting hard till the very end.

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