Faltering at the last hurdle, the Indian way

Written by: Sajith Balakrishnan
Published: Monday, February 9, 2004, 18:43 [IST]
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Earlier, South Africa had the dubious distinction of being chokers in the finals. It now seems India has inherited the baton from the Proteas. Yet again, Indians failed to finish it off. For the umpteenth time, they have faltered at the summit clash.

The way India got butchered at the hands of a rampaging Aussies at Sydney left a lot to be desired. It was a virtual repeat of the World Cup finals in South Africa a year ago. With this win, the Aussies have made it three in a row including the TVS Cup, thereby living up to the reputation of the champion side in the shorter version of the game.

At the end of a long and arduous Australian summer, India has just one win apiece in Tests and ODIs under its belt against the world champions. The scars of Perth left by Messers Lee and Co continued to haunt them again in the finals of the VB Series. The way they capitulated in the first finals at Melbourne, nobody might have expected a miracle from the Indians at Sydney. However, the manner in which they surrendered was disappointing, to say the least.

Captain Ganguly put up a brave front saying nobody else has done so well in Australia in the recent past. He also found solace in the lower order batting which saved the team from complete embarrassment. However, that is no relief for a team that boasted of being the second best in the world after subduing the Aussies in the Adelaide Test.

India did their best within their limitations, but when it mattered most, they couldn't pull it off. The last day of the Sydney Test and the two finals of the VB Series were a pointer to the case. Perhaps the fatigue syndrome that arose as a result of the lengthiness of the tour as well as the prospects of a crucial Pak tour might have been weighing in their minds. But that is no excuse for a team that plays game at the international level.

Prior to the tournament, India's track record in the finals has been pretty poor, add to it Sachin's form in the finals too. They are known to be poor finishers and they had an opportunity to set it right. But they couldn't overcome the jinx once again. The Men in Blue looked a tired lot even before taking the field. It looked as though they were keen to take the next available flight back home. Perhaps staying away from their respective families, kiths and kins have taken a heavy toll on them.

The tour Down Under had its positives as well. India tasted their first success against the Aussies in their den in a Test match after 22 years and in an ODI after 12 years. Irfan Pathan, who was supposed to warm the reserve benches, perhaps could be described as the find of the tour. V V S Laxman reiterated his liking for the Aussie bowling, while Rahul Dravid reinforced his value with the willow, but not with the glove, where it's high time the country grooms a specialist for the job.

Proper rest and some time out in the nets would have been an ideal recipe for a team coming back after a pretty long tour. Instead, the team is forced to battle it out with archrivals Pakistan , that too after a 14-year hiatus, in their home grounds. With the two Boards keen on generating revenues, it wouldn't be surprising if non-cricket issues dominate the high-voltage series in the offing.

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