The inaugural match of the VB Series in Australia once again proved that cricket is a game of glorious uncertainties. Just when it looked as though Yuvraj and the Maharaj would see India through, both of them threw their wickets away, leaving the long Indian tail exposed and, expectedly, they caved in.
Kudos to the Aussies for holding their nerves. They have a resolute captain and a bunch of performers who believe in themselves and who never say die. In stark contrast, India relies on individual brilliance and take things for granted. (As the former Australian captain Ian Chappell said, the difference between India and Australia is that when Ponting goes for a duck and Aussies win they celebrate, whereas Indians rejoice at a Tendulkar ton in a lost cause.) How else can one define the 'Great Indian Collapse' when they lost their last six wickets for the addition of only 13 runs. From the threshold of victory, they lost, thereby giving the Australians a psychological edge in the forthcoming battles.
In the Test series India had shown a lot of courage and discipline in battling against all odds to level the series and hence were no longer the underdogs. (They might even have been the favourites before the start of the match). However, they squandered all the good work in the Tests by this shoddy display. Only India could have lost a match from such a commanding position.
There is no question of taking the credit away from the Aussies. They were excellent in the field. The skipper himself set the tone by plucking one out of thin air to get rid of the dangerous-looking Sachin Tendulkar who was looking to take the match away from the Aussies. Earlier, the utility value of Andrew Symonds and Michael Clarke (who seems to be improving with every day) came to the fore again as they rescued the home side from the initial hiccups.
Ajit Agarkar ended up with a career-best six-wicket haul that would have done a lot to his confdidence. However, he needs to hone up his batting skills to fill the void of the ever-vacant all-rounder's slot.
Sanjay Bangar, who was flown in specially to do the job, came a cropper. He added insult to injury by running out his well-set captain. Part of the blame lies with Ganguly himself for attempting a non-existent single. However, Bangar should have had the courtesy to sacrifice his wicket for his captain who could have in all probability won the match for the team. Instead, it seems he was enjoying his shot a la Winston Benjamin (who ran out a well-settled Brian Lara in the 92 World Cup's crucial league match against the same opponents at the same venue thereby ruining the chance of a semi-final berth).
India's track record while chasing a target, especially under the lights, has been abysmal. They had a good opportunity to correct that record. But, old habits die hard. They pressed the panic button once again. Steve Waugh once dubbed the Proteas 'chokers' for their inability to finish it off. India of late are showing signs of fitting into that shoes.
It's always demoralising to lose the opener of a series. In the eminently forgettable tour in '99 too India had met a similar fate, when they gifted the match on a platter to Pakistan after having dominated throughout. They could not recover from that shock and ended up losing seven of the eight matches played. It's said that a job well begun is half done. Unfortunately, India has not begun well.
Eventhough they adjusted quickly to the abridged version from the traditional game, it is high time they came out of the dream world and played to their strength. Australia have been a thorn in their path for quite some time in this brand of the game and it has been almost 13 years since they last defeated the home side in an ODI at Kangarooland. The present team has everything in it, but for the lack of a killer instinct that was glaring at MCG the other day.