India realise big names not big enough

Published: Sunday, March 25, 2007, 23:53 [IST]
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Port of Spain:India only have themselves to blame for their World Cup problems, for they lacked courage and conviction to excel at the biggest one-day stage.

They had batting superstars in Sachin Tendulkar, skipper Rahul Dravid, Sourav Ganguly and Virender Sehwag, but took just one match to realise that big names alone are not enough to win important matches.

What mattered was performance but India could only under-perform in big games against Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, with Dravid also conceding his side did not deserve to be in the next round.

Coach Greg Chappell's "Vision 2007" promised more, but delivered little.

It was in a shambles after his team's 69-run defeat against Sri Lanka in the must-win match here on Friday which left them needing a miracle win by Bermuda over Bangladesh on Sunday to progress.

India could beat only Bermuda in the four-team group in what was their worst Cup performance since the 1979 edition in England. They were the champions in 1983, semi-finalists in 1987 and 1996, and runners-up in 2003.

India looked flat and uninspiring in the field, although the coach and the captain stressed it was not true because the team had been working really hard for the tournament.

"I think there is a need for a serious introspection, but I don't think it should start today," Chappell said after his team's defeat against Sri Lanka.

India were let down by what was considered their main strength -- batting. They could not even cross the 200-mark against Bangladesh and Sri Lanka on pitches which offered bounce and movement only early in the innings.

Opening an innings remained a big headache, with Ganguly having two different partners against Bangladesh and Sri Lanka in Robin Uthappa and Virender Sehwag. On both the occasions, India failed to make a solid start.

With Tendulkar making just seven (against Bangladesh) and a duck (against Sri Lanka), the pressure was soon on the middle-order batsmen who failed to show the resilience to rise to the occasion.

India's seamers and spinners failed to defend a total of 191 against Bangladesh, but looked impressive in patches against Sri Lanka which was simply not good enough. The fielding also left a lot to be desired.

India were aware they just could not afford to have an off-day in group matches as each side played three games, with the top two advancing to the next round.

Unfortunately for them, it came on the very first day.

"The lead-up to the tournament was pretty good. The confidence was quite high and the boys were playing good cricket. We had a bad game against Bangladesh where we did not really bat well upfront," said Dravid.

"That put pressure on us. Again (against Sri Lanka), we did not play well enough. The way the tournament is structured you have one banana skin game and you can be out of the tournament quite quickly."

Millions of fans back home had been expecting their team to complete just a formality in group matches as Sri Lanka were the only team which could have seriously tested Dravid's side.

They were in for a shock when the star-studded Indian team went down to Bangladesh after putting in one of their most dismal performances in the tournament history.

India had three batsmen -- Tendulkar, Ganguly and Dravid -- with more than 10,000 runs each. The entire Bangladeshi side had fewer runs than the Indian trio, but raised their performance when it mattered most.

The big guns did not boom, with Tendulkar contributing seven and Dravid 14. Only Ganguly (66) and Yuvraj Singh (47) managed to score more than 20 in the match which put India under tremendous pressure.

Bangladeshi teenagers Tamim Iqbal, Mushfiqur Rahim and Saqibul Hasan upstaged the Indian stars with impressive half-centuries to help their team pull off an upset five-wicket victory.

Just one nightmarish day at the office pushed India on the brink of elimination and pressure became the name of the game as they had no option but to beat in-form Sri Lanka in their final match.

And it was expecting too much of a team playing much below their potential.


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