Archive for the ‘strategy’ Category

There has been a lot of talk, rumors if you will, about how India is ready to take battle into the boundaries of Pakistan. How, if necessary, we are ready to wage war also.

As long as it is rhetoric, it is fine. But could it actually move from talk to action? Should Pakistan call India’s bluff, do we have it in us, to press the W button? I have my serious doubts.

I have no doubts on the capabilities of our armed forces. Irrespective of corruption charges in the Defense purchases, I still believe that we have enough fire power, guts and numbers, to take on Pakistan in battle, if we had to.

But for any war, there is one most crucial element, and which is the Commander in Chief. You need a strong person at the top, to commandeer and army into war. Someone who is aggressive and smart, someone who can motivate, someone who does not worry about petty politics and votebanks, but has a clear eye on the best interests of the country. Someone who, if required, can go and stand with the jawans, in the trenches, and without his Z+ security tagging along!

Do we have anyone of that stature at this time? Do we even have a Commander-in-Chief?

I can trust Dr. Manmohan Singh, our PM, to go and battle in the boardrooms of the World Bank, or position India at Davos, or pitch for investments to heads of states of G8 countries. But can he command our forces in a war?? I don’t think so, really.

Defense Minister A K Anthony who has been meeting the Defense heads? External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee, who has been making the loudest official noise regarding war? Nah..! These guys are politicians to the core. Also they are not politicians with charisma that can make the country follow them. I cannot imagine either of them coming on TV or at the Red Fort, and goading the country and countrymen, with anything like a “jai jawaan, jai kisaan”, or a “ask what you can do for the country…”, or a “har har mahadev”.. ! Nah.. these chappies can negotiate with Sharad Pawar or Mamata Banerjee or Jyoti Basu, for poll alliances and the like, but commanding the forces in war.. no, I will not put my money on these characters.

The official designated commander-in-chief, the President of India, Mrs. Pratibha Patil? As someone who could lead us in war?? Ho..ho.. ho.. ho.. Laughable to even think about it, right? On the other hand, a scary thought, that if we are pushed into war today, she would actually be the commander in chief! Oh My God.. ! We have a LOT to be worried about. Until this is resolved, I pray that there is no war..

One of the commanders of the defense forces? The Army or Navy or the Air Force? I am not sure how well the Chief of Integrated Defense Staff has been working in India now. But the potential of this Chief, being the commander-in-chief at wartime, appears to be the best option for India. The hiccup to this being the fact that in India, politics has always been supreme over the Defense forces, and it is unlikely to change in a hurry. So getting the Chief of Defense Staff to take over the overall reins of decision making and leading the country in war, looks like a remote possibility.

We had stronger leaders during war time in the past. Indira Gandhi, whatever be her other problems, was a strong woman, and one who could lead from the front. One who could fire the public imagination, and motivate the armed forces, with a strong speech from the Red Fort. The country was behind her in the 1971 Bangladesh Freedom war.

War was thrust on India, during the Kargil confrontation. It was still a conflict that was restricted to the location there, and did not become an open war, with no holds barred. Still war it was. Again, the Defense Minster then, George Fernandes, with all his other faults, was a courageous man. A union leader, he could again fire up the people, did not hesitate to go to the trenches when required, and was a suitable commander of sorts, at that time.

But at this time, we lack a serious commander in chief! No, this is not the right time to go to war – if only for this one reason!!

… or some may say, the lack of it!! Strategy, I mean..!

Maybe I am just too much of a fan of Sri Lanka’s, or maybe I am able to see another perspective, which I present here.

Before that, for those of you who came in late, here is what happened.
Sri Lanka was playing Australia in one of the tougher Super 8 games in the World Cup. Both teams have more or less confirmed their positions in the semi-finals, so it was not a crucial game from the semi-finals point of view. But it was an important game for each team to get a psychological advantage, as they are quite likely to meet each other again, in the semi-finals or the finals.

Then, in what looked like a very strange move, Sri Lanka ‘rested’ their top 3 bowlers, for this game, Muralitharan, Vaas and Malinga. Malinga, to be fair, had not played the previous game too, as he was injured, so we can assume that he still needed to get well. But Vaas and Murali had been playing all along, and of course, performing very well too, and so it was a surprise to not find them in the eleven, for this crucial encounter.

The captain, Jayawardene, explains that these two chaps have had injuries earlier and in order to ensure that they do not develop any problems, and considering that the place in the semis was settled, he chose to rest them.

Experts like Ian Chappell and Arjuna Ranatunga were shocked beyond words. Chappell went to the extent to suggest that the ICC’s anti-corruption cell should enquire with Sri Lanka, as to why they did not play their best team. He was also upset for the sake of the fans, who had come to see the best teams play.

Well, here is what I feel about this matter.

Sri Lanka have a good team, but of course, Australia is a different peak to climb! For ANY team to beat Australia, whether in the Super 8, or in the later knock-out stages of the World Cup, they would need to do something different. Kind of bring in a surprise factor and hope to upset Australia’s rhythm. And Sri Lanka as a team and perhaps with Tom Moody’s inputs, might have worked on this gamble.

Think about it:
1. If, without the key bowlers, Sri Lanka managed to beat Australia, what a phenomenal boost they would have got, and how depressed Australia would have been, in that case,

2. If, without the key bowlers, Sri Lanka managed to take the fight to Australia, and lost, then too, they have a psychological advantage. They tell themselves that ‘they lost because the stars were not there, and yet, without the stars, they gave a tough fight to Australia’! And what does Australia think? That Sri Lanka, minus their extremely good three bowlers, were a handful. What will happen when we meet them again, in the knock-out stage, and when those top bowlers will also be there??

This, in fact, is what happened. That Sri Lanka fought back from being 24-3 to post a total of 220+ was a big thing. At a time when Jayawardene and Chamara Silva were going strong, it appeared that Australia were clearly lost on ideas. Similarly, with a rank ordinary attack, to get Hayden and Gilchrist thinking about the bowling initially, and also picking up both of their wickets early, was also creditable. If Australia wanted to make an impact, they should have been able to take the game with 10 wickets to spare.. they could not do that!

3. All these three bowlers have different styles and are a handful to cope with. For the best of batsmen. There is so much in ‘studying’ their styles on video and there is a different sense of confidence in playing against them, and overcoming the mystery. Not getting that opportunity in the Super 8 ensures that when they meet in the knock-out, the Sri Lanka bowlers start with the upper hand. Why?

– if the batsmen try to be aggressive and aim to dominate say, a Murali, he is quite likely to pick up wickets
– if they play watchfully, they will let a lot of economical overs come and go

This, then becomes the surprise plan that Sri Lanka spring on Australia, and give them their best chance to beat Australia in the semis or the finals!

I think it was a smart move. Also speaks for the confidence that Sri Lanka has. That they were willing to take the risk of losing this game, in the larger interest of winning the tournament later.

I continue to back them to be the ultimate champions this time..! Yes, inspite of Australia’s amazing run. I mean, backing Australia to win does not require any imagination, but thinking that there is a team, in this case, Sri Lanka, who can possibly upset the Australian team, requires a little specific conviction. I have that!!