A rude wake up call for India

Published: Wednesday, August 4, 2004, 15:08 [IST]
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The defeat to Sri Lanka in the finals of the Asia Cup was perhaps a wake up call to India. Throughout the tournament, they looked rusty and lacked self-belief, a trait that they recently imbibed.

Sourav Ganguly and his men in blue could well be aware of the adage, a big swallow doesn't make a summer. After giving the Aussies a run for their money and conquering Pakistan in their on den, Team India was on a high. Perhaps, they got a bit carried away by the hype and a sense of complacency had crept in.

While skipper Ganguly has put the blame on his batsmen for the failure, chairman of national selection committee Syed Kirmani has attributed the loss to the lack of a proper game plan. Whatever be the reason, one cannot deny the fact that Indians played poor cricket. This was not the same team that created history Down Under and across the Wagah border. Missing from the team was the faith in its ability to fight against all odds.

As a result, they succumbed to one more defeat in a final that has become a major jinx for Ganguly who now finds himself in the same predicament as with Hansie Cronje's Proteas outfit in the mid 90s when they kept on reaching the finals of major tournaments, but failed to finish. It is high time since Ganguly shed chokers tag and overcame the 'final' jinx.

Cricket pundits might have begun their post mortem exercise. So too, the team think tank, who have had to face the harsh realities of One-day cricket in such a short span of time. Now that the team is faced with the prospect of playing a string of One-day tournaments, it wouldn't be a bad idea to have the Australian policy of rotating the players, especially the fast bowlers. In this modern era of One-day cricket, fast bowlers are more prone to burn outs, Zaheer Khan being a pointer in this case.

Now that India has the luxury of a plethora of fast bowlers at its disposal, they can be rotated with one set of them playing the Dutch tri-series and the others playing the NatWest Challenge against England, so that by the time of Champions Trophy, India can choose the best and fittest.

The same can be applied in batsmen's case too. Or else, India would have to face a situation similar to Asia Cup, where it always found difficult to play eleven fit players. The fact that the reserve list didn't have an extra batsman made the matters worse. Ganguly' clamour for a large squad for ODIs is relevant in this context.

The fact that India couldn't get going in the season opener isn't a cause for major concern. But, the fact is that they need to do some soul searching. The fact that they required the loopholes in bonus point system to make it to the title clash sounds a bit alarming. Perhaps, the team was a bit distracted by the delay in the implementation of contract system. At a time when it is vying for top honours with Australia, India can't afford to have technical flaws and such aberrations. Nor can they sit on past laurels.

Too much tinkering with batting order as well as the team composition also didn't go well. There should be no place for players on basis of sentiments. So too with the 'one-match wonder' types. One-day cricket can be innovative. However, one should bear in mind the fact that too much experimentation is bad.

Perform or perish should be the mantra for the team that gets a two-week rest to flex their muscles and recoup their resources ahead of a gruelling season ahead that comprises the mini World Cup as well as the home series against Australia (which is the ultimate litmus test) and South Africa.

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