India was number one in the world of one day cricket, for a whole 24 hours. Yes, that"s how long she lasted atop the table. Before one gets critical it is essential that you know how the ICC ODI Rankings are calculated. The ICC changes the ratings with every match and not with the end of a tournament. It"s an ongoing points accumulation through all matches played. Therefore there is volatile movement between teams at the top when one point separates them. As one writes this article, the current ODI champions are South Africa with 127 points, India now in third have 126 points and Australia on the same points but with fewer matches are in second place!
The Tri nation Compaq Cup would showcase the then ranked team, no.2 India, no. 5 New Zealand and hosts no. 7 Sri Lanka in one day cricket. India went into the tournament knowing that they needed a clean sweep to end as the number one team in the shorter format of the game. Coach Gary Kirsten was pleased with the levels of fitness that he saw in the training camp that was held in Bangalore prior to the team"s departure to the emerald isle.
Gary Kirsten said on departure, "We have set our goals. One of them is to be the best cricket team in the world. We are headed that way and we are very excited. We know we have to perform well as we continue the quest to be the best. We won the last two series in Sri Lanka and we are confident. But we think ahead and don't harp on the results of the past."
The campaign started well, as India defeated New Zealand by 6 wickets and emerged as the number one side in ODI cricket. Enough to get the adrenalin rush for cricket fans in the country. But one realized that they would need to beat Sri lanka to maintain the position. That was not to be and overnight India went from no. 1 to no. 3. India lost by a mammoth 139 runs. And the skipper was miffed to say the least.
MS Dhoni expressed himself after the loss to Sri Lanka, “It was one of the worst days, starting in the season. Frankly, I have nothing to say right now ... they played very well ... Sanath batted well and Matthews bowled really. The only thing that went well for us was the warm-up before the game!"
No mincing words there. The team had to regroup and address the one area that ironically the young brigade was lacking in, fielding. Given the fact that most of the legs are young and therefore should be full of energy, the performance on the field was far from satisfactory. Added to this, India"s track record in finals was not complimentary. Since 1999, India had reached 21 ODI finals. They lost 17 shared two and won 2. Given this, the team had to better the record!
Much of the buzz before the match was on how the toss was most crucial. Strangely this ground, R Premadasa , was never too kind to teams batting under lights. Always an unfortunate condition, but then like the Sri Lankan captain, Kumar Sangakkara wisely put it.
"Are you going to think about the toss and not about winning the game, or are you going to try and win the game no matter what happens with the toss? I think we've got to get the attitudes and our minds right. My theory of luck is simple. If you are prepared and you train very hard then the need for luck is minimise. The toss unfortunately cannot control that and what you can control is how you react to it and what do you do after it. Whether you bat first or second you got no choice you have to try and win the game."
Well, the toss did happen, and MS Dhoni was the lucky one who chose to bat. The class act Sachin Tendulkar played what he has called; one of his best one day knocks ever 'scoring 138 off 133 balls. What made this innings special for both India and Sachin, was the conditions under which it was played, trying to say the least. Mental strength won in the end, and the hosts Sri Lanka were given the daunting task of getting a winning target of 320! Needless to say, the hosts tried to achieve, but the runs eluded them. Despite a hapless fielding effort from India, the Lankans had to accept defeat. India had just won the Compaq Cup. The trophy itself a talking piece, as it became the first digital silverware, sporting an lcd screen that played out the best moments from the tournament. A fitting innovation to the techie age that we live in.
A win is a win is a win they say , so the Indians must take all the positives out of the performance at the Compaq Cup. But captain Dhoni, laced his after- match interviews with a coating of sarcasm and calculated caution. Happy? Yes! For the moment, but knowing that as a team , they still had a lot had to do. He said, “You got to learn from your mistakes. We made quite a few today on field. As a team we didn't field well. Thanks to characters in the side, we ended up on the winning side. It's very special to us. We are winning here after a long time. If you are the second best team, you can't make these kinds of mistakes."
The Champions Trophy will be another stage for India to show off her talent in the One day form of the game. Most cricketers these days believe in living in the now, like the Indian captain MS Dhoni does. The team he believes is only as good as its last game. The one area that they will make sure that they work on, is fielding, now that"s a given. One just hopes they"ll produce Compa"q"t performances!!
One thing is for sure. They will always have the advantage of a billion! A billion prayers, a billion wishes, a billion hopes! And one hopes a billion cheers!