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Team India's tail is biting

Sachin's desperate wish comes true, finally. How the tail-enders in the Indian cricket team make us good chasers.


MIND GAME

FOURTH UMPIRE

April 1, 2006: After India went up 2-0 in the One-Day series, skipper Rahul Dravid faced the usual inane set of questions from the assembled scribes. And he matched them with equally inane answers. 

But there was one poser which made him think. How did Team India, which had this reputation for botching the easiest of run chases, suddenly become good chasers?

"The mental aspect has changed," he said. Maybe - but that was not the only reason. It wasn't a
big score to chase but as they say in cricket, modest totals are more difficult to attain. And, though it may not seem very significant, Irfan Pathan's 12 is a very crucial knock. 

I can visualise a few raised eyebrows. By way of explanation, I want you to go back in time a little
bit. 1997. Sachin Tendulkar was the captain and during the West Indies tour, he neither got the players he wanted from the selectors nor the kind of commitment he expected from the other players.

When the team repeatedly managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, he had an intelligent observation to make during one such post-match press conference. He said the tailenders needed to score 7 runs with the bat. Why 7? Well, he meant at least.

Multiply 7 by 4 and the 28 runs you get can often make the difference in the competitive caudron called international cricket. 

Bob Woolmer, when he was coach of South Africa, would give lots of batting practice in the nets to his bowlers. Nicky Boje was one such beneficiary and Klusener also flowered as a batsman under his guidance. What he was looking for definitely was the '7' runs contribution at the death. 


India's tail enders can scrore those critical few 
runs now. And, often, more. Pic: Irfan Pathan and
Suresh celebrates India's second ODI win against
England at Faridabad.

India's improved performance is definitely because of the skills of youngsters like Yuvraj Singh and now Suresh Raina. But in the last few years, whoever representing the tail has the ability to score that elusive 7 when they are badly needed and this is must count as one of the crucial factors in the Indian team's limited overs resurgence.

Not convincing? Well, jog your grey cells a bit for the batting 'exploits' of a certain Javagal Srinath.
He was a gutsy cricketer with a lot of commitment - even batted single-handed after an injury once - but never developed the capability to score that magical 7 when needed. He had this strange knack of hitting the ball very very high so that fielders got enough time to catch the ball at their leisure. People like Madan Lal and Anshuman Gaekwad who were coaching never felt it necessary to make him see reason at the nets.

Look at the tail now. Irfan. Harbhajan. Zaheer. They hit with such ferocity, fearlessness and sometimes common sense that they put frontline batsmen to shame. And such bowlers have this habit of making amends with the bat when they themselves go for a lot during their 10 overs. 

Gone are the days when five batted, the other five bowled while one kept wickets. It is all about
managing to score those 7 runs at the end. Or 17. What is in a number?

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