Saurav Ganguly has always looked prone to mental laziness and continues to squander a wonderful talent. After India's patchy batting performance in its opening World Cup match against Holland, most of the Indian batsmen need to spend some time in quiet reflection before Saturday's match with Australia trying to find the state of mind that allows them to play to their potential. India achieved objective number one in defeating Holland comfortably. It wasn't as comprehensive a win as team management and Indian supporters would have preferred, but a win is a win. To do well in this World Cup India must get the basic things right.
It needs to win the matches it should win, it must catch its catches, field with enthusiasm and, importantly, bat 50 overs. India's batting in this game was, at best, patchy. Holland boasts a modest attack but the Indian batsmen played without conviction on a good wicket. The good news was that Tendulkar spent some time in the middle. It is hard to bat with confidence when you don't have any but the Indian line-up needs to be more convincing than this if they want to get to the final.
Australia's attack in the next match will test the Indians more sternly than did Holland's. John Wright and Ganguly must not put too much pressure on the team to perform. It is more important for everyone to be as relaxed as possible to the point of having fun. Good players don't lose their talent overnight. They can lose their way mentally though, and it is this mental balance that the Indian squad needs to rediscover. This will not be achieved by boring routine worrying about technique.
Worrying about bad form will only entrench the negative frame of mind and make it impossible to watch the ball as closely as is required to perform well. If the batsmen can find the right state of mind they will be able to start watching the ball again and their form can return immediately, as if by magic. The beauty of the state of confidence is that it is a state of mind. It can be lost quickly, but equally it can return overnight if the individual can recapture the thinking patterns they use when they are in form.
The positives for India were that Tendulkar spent 91 minutes at the crease and that the experienced bowlers bowled well. Tendulkar looked intent on making sure India won. He didn't look to play the expansive shots but was content to knock the ball into the gaps and pick up the one's and two's. He is one of the leading players in the tournament and is capable of playing either knock, as it is required, provided he is in form. This innings will have done a lot for him. He, and the rest of India, knows he has to play well if they are to go deep into the tournament. Tendulkar will also be aware that Lara has made a good start to the series and this will motivate him. The fact that Yuvraj Singh and the much criticised Mongia spent nearly as long as Tendulkar in the middle is another plus. The rest of the batting was tentative at best. Sehwag looks to be struggling with self-belief while Ganguly continues to squander a wonderful talent.
He has always looked prone to mental laziness, as if it is below him to work on developing his talents. A great shame! Dravid looks a long way from the peace of mind that will allow him to play to his best while the decision not to take Laxman to the World Cup may haunt the selectors before this series is very far advanced. The bowling was much more convincing than the batting. Srinath proved once again that he is a bowler of quality. He is honest and big- hearted and his ability to take wickets with the new ball will be an important asset against better opponents.
Kumble and Harbhajan Singh showed their class. They will be put under a lot more pressure by more aggressive batting but that can work as much in their favour as against. The Australians will come out blazing on Saturday as they try to dominate the Indian attack. The better bowlers will have to withstand this onslaught, as the lack of a quality fifth bowler is something else that could hurt this Indian side against better opposition. Ganguly, Tendulkar and Sehwag will not strike fear into the hearts of Gilchrist, Hayden, Ponting and Symonds if they are on song. Tendulkar may need to show off his subtle bowling skills as well as his immense batting talents. On the whole the win over Holland was a good start.
It allowed some of the batters to regain some equilibrium and the bowlers showed some good signs. The fielding though, will have to show more enthusiasm and intent. India did not show enough firepower to suggest it will be a finalist at this stage. They will need to do better in the match against the Australians who still appear to hold most of the trump cards, despite the loss of Warne.
Sri Lanka is riding high upon the back of a rich vein of form from Jayasuriya but a lack of depth in bowling may be its Achilles heel. South Africa should improve on its nervous start, while the West Indies appears to be emerging from the gloom of recent times and may well play a big part in forming the composition of the semi-finals. The fun has only just begun!