Despite all the innovations frequently pumped in to make the format of limited-overs cricket more exciting, if not more competitive, the men of ingenuity who devised and developed this version of cricket, just could not ensure that a one-sided contest would not be boring. If any proof of this was needed, it was provided the other day at the Ferozeshah Kotla Ground, New Delhi, where, first New Zealand turned the decider into a virtual no-contest by their inept batting display.
Then, India to the utter dislike of a packed house, laboured greatly to achieve a rather modest target. As it is, one-sided matches are a boring affair, because you know all along, despite the vagaries of one-day cricket, which side is going to win. But, the side in whose favour the dice is so heavily loaded, ought to be able to provide the required finesse in their act of achieving the ultimate victory.
The Indian batting, however, oscillated between the two extremes, brilliant and desultory. The distressing point to emerge from the overall display at Kotla, despite the fact that India was able to clinch the decider of the five match one-day series rather easily, is that for the first time since Tendulkar took over the reins of captaincy, the Indian team looked somewhat complacent. This is certainly not a good sign considering the forthcoming tour of Australia.
This brings us to discussing the prospects of the Indian team Down Under, where India will play three tests and a triangular one-day series, with Pakistan being the third team. All in all, it is as formidable a tour as any for India, which has a rather poor record in Australia. India has yet to win a test series in Australia, and the only achievement that it has to shout about in the shorter version of the game is that the Sunil Gavaskar-led side won the World Series tournament in 1985, beating Pakistan in the final.
This significant success had an icing on the cake in the form of a new, shining Audi car which Ravi Shastri won for being the Best Player of the Series. From all accounts, it will be a much stronger Indian team that will be battling in Australia this time, as compared to the last tour (under Azharuddin in 1991-92), at least with respect to the batting.
The brilliant trio of Tendulkar, Dravid, Ganguly, must make the Indian batting line-up one of the strongest, if not the strongest, in the world today, in both the versions of the game. Saurav Ganguly, who is in such splendid form at the moment, has bitter memories of Australia to live down. It was such a disastrous tour for the young Ganguly that he was a completely forgotten player for five years, until being resurrected for the tour of England in 1999.
He made a dream debut at Lords, with a century on his first test appearance at the holiest of the holies. He hasn't looked back since. Ganguly must be just itching to carry on with his present form in Australia. It was on the last tour of Australia that Tendulkar established his credentials as one of the finest batsmen in the world. Today, he is arguably the number one cricketer in the world, and the only one in the history of the game who can be compared with the great Sir Donald Bradman, and that too by the living legend himself. It will be left to Rahul Dravid to prove that he is not far too behind as the greatest batsmen in the game today.