It was so near, yet so far for India

Written by: S K Sham
Published: Monday, October 16, 2000, 18:45 [IST]
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"Haathi nikal gaya, doom rahe gayee magar," a rather pedestrian Hindi idiomatic expression may look out of place in the context of describing India's defeat on Sunday at the hands of underdogs New Zealand.

But reduced to its proximate English translation, which roughly reads, "We could get the whole elephant out, but finally not its tail," that perspective may, perhaps fall in right place.

After conquering two giants of world cricket, Australia and South Africa, in the manner of champions, the Indian team stumbled at an obstacle, over which it ought to have hopped, skipped and jumped as it liked.

The Black Caps' tremendous resilience and ability to fight hard notwithstanding, India had no business to lose the match the way they did. The very virtue of the new-look side that was so much being talked about, turned into a shame. For once, Saurav Ganguly's captaincy was found wanting, sadly enough at the time of the crunch situations when the crucible was on fire.

Actually the Indian defeat, as narrow and as unexpected as it was, brings into focus two very pertinent points, which need to be pondered in all seriousness. The first is the re-surfacing of the selfish streak in the mental make-up of Saurav Ganguly.

The way India had performed in the last few matches, under Ganguly's captaincy, an impression had been created that the usually laid-back player, who would not hesitate to put his personal ambition above that of the team, was now a different person altogether.

In the finals, Ganguly was responsible for two avoidable run-outs, for which he did not apparently have any qualms of conscience, as he went on to his second successive century in the tournament.

In the first instance, he turned back on Sachin Tendulkar, after giving the call for a run. This was when the two were going great guns and there was absolutely no need for stealing such cheeky singles. When you decide to do so, you must go through it, come what may. This may not be worse than turning back suddenly and regaining your crease, leaving your fellow-player absolutely stranded.

There is nothing wrong in Ganguly valuing his wickets. It is in fact a very good sign of one's tenacity. But in this case, he ought to have sacrificed his wicket, rather than bring down Tendulkar, who had appeared to have finally found his touch.

Ganguly's faulty running out of Rahul David may, perhaps, have been cushioned somewhat by the needs of the side. The dismissal of Dravid, for no fault of his own, under the circumstances, may have been considered a blessing in disguise to the Indian team.

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