If in their first match, last Monday, the Indian team eventually buckled under to Pakistan on the last ball of the match, in a nerve-tingling finish, Wednesday's defeat at the hands of Australia by 28 runs, was once again of our own making.
The point to make is that there was little to distinguish between India and Pakistan in the first game, except the discipline of action during the stress period. And in the second match at Melbourne, what made the difference was Australia's absolutely brilliant fielding, which was helped a lot by the hesitancy of the Indian batsmen in running their singles and twos.
But, more importantly, the Indian team lost a grand opportunity of forcing a win by their injudicious batting order. Chasing a target of 270 in the allotted 50 overs meant a speedy and solid start. Which only the most confident batsmen in the side could have provided.
You cannot help but repeat that Sachin Tendulkar and Saurav Ganguly, together, make for the best opening pair in the shorter version of the game. After blundering on the opening order in the last match, the challenge at Melbourne ought to have provided the opportunity to right this wrong.
It came as a surprise, therefore, when V V S Laxman was once again asked to open the innings with Ganguly. The bigger surprise was the promotion of comparatively inexperienced Sameer Dighe to the no 3 position. While Laxman faced 15 balls to scratch just five runs, Dighe, who obviously came at one-drop position to boost the scoring rate, ate away invaluable 25 balls to score mere three runs.
In the end India fell just 29 runs short of victory, with four wickets standing, because they had runs out of their overs. In the final analysis, therefore, the balls wasted earlier, did us in, as indeed had the crucial run-out of Tendulkar and Ganguly.
Tendulkar, as he went for the second run, had appeared quite confident of making it, but he had not reckoned with the fact that the boundry-lines were drawn in. Shane Lee who boasts of having probably the best throwing arm in the Australian team, was spot on and caught the Indian captain just a couple of centimeters short. Looking back on the Indian team's reply, this dismissal was the turning point of the match. The last flicker of hope of achieving a remarkable victory were shunted out when Ganguly was rather foolishly run out.
All experts were unanimous of the view that for a batsman, who has dominated India cricket for four years and is amongst the best stroke-player should be so lacking in the basics of the game, is incomprehensible. The lack of basics which cost him his wicket, and the Indian team its last chance of victory, was his failure to ground his bat and slide it into the crease. But he plonked has bat which was rather late. He would have been comfortably home. If only he had followed the rudimentary principle.
The Indian team eventually proved unequal to the task of reaching the winning target of 270 because the innings was so badly timed from the very start. If Tendulkar had stayed on and Ganguly batted a little longer, after inching to his century, the visitors might well have won the match on this beauty of a batting pitch.
The unfortunate run-outs came about. As much due to the tardiness of the batsmen in regaining the crease, as due to some absolutely brilliant work in the field by the Aussies. Two matches and perhaps two avoidable defeats are all that the Indian team have to show for the start of their challenge in the triangular series. It calls for some real shake-up in the Indian team before the next match against Australia at Sydney on Friday.
The bowlers are so far doing an excellent job, but something has to be done about the side's batting. There cannot now be any alternative to Tendulkar opening the innings with Ganguly, who has run into brilliant form. Having lost two and just half-a-dozen matches to go, three each against Australia and Pakistan, there is no room for experiments any more with the batting order.