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When Indian hopes went for a toss

cricket Updated: Mar 24, 2007 11:19 IST

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First the most intriguing part of the whole saga. In such a pressure match against Lanka, why did India opt to bowl first. If we take India's most memorable victories in the World Cups, then most of them have come after India have batted first.

In 1983, when India faced Australia at Chelmsford in an all important battle to reach the Semifinal, they had opted to bat first against a bowling attack comprising of Lawson, Hogg and Thomson, and still made 247. Later, Madan Lal and Roger Binny, with four wickets apiece, bundled out the Australians for just 129 runs.

Probably, the situation would have reversed had Indians not shown the courage to go by their strength — setting the score first in a big match. Probably, India would still have been waiting for their first World Cup. However, against England in the Semifinal, they lost the toss and had to field first. That they still won, is another story.

In 1999, in the final league match — a do-or-die battle — against England at Edgbaston, India needed a win to qualify for Super-Six having lost to South Africa and Zimbabwe before. England won the toss and put India into bat. That was a big mistake as despite putting a moderate 232 on board, India were able to defend it successfully thanks to a good three-wicket haul from Sourav Ganguly and some impressive bowling from regular pacers spearheaded by Javagal Srinath.

On the other hand, India's most depressing losses in the World Cup have come when batting second. The 1987 semifinal against England, 1996 semifinal against Sri Lanka, and the 1999 final against Australia. Every time their batting crumbled under pressure — whether the opposition had made moderate totals, or big ones.

If we take the World Cup history against Sri Lanka, in previous five matches, only once has a team batting second won the match. From the very first battle between the two sides in 1979, when favourite India could manage only 191 when faced Lanka's 238, that has been the trend.

No more foreign coaches for India and Pakistan

Mission 2007 was a hogwash. World Cup can never be the ultimate aim. That only diverts attention from results throughout the year for all four years between the intervening Cups.

Every tour becomes a preparatory nursery for the talent, and an excuse for failure. Australia were a great team even when they were not winning the World Cups, and South Africa have always been far ahead of India despite never winning the Cup.

Why should one feel more sorry for losing the World Cup than losing the Test series against Pakistan and South Africa?

Why should not 0-4 ODI thrashing in South Africa matter more than defeats to Bangladesh and Sri Lanka in last one week?

We have won a World Cup only once in nine attempts (Eight, if Bermuda beat Bangladesh!), but there have been so many small achievements we can feel proud of. That includes wining overseas series against England (1986), Pakistan (2004) and the West Indies (2006).

This World Cup is not tainted

Everyone expected India to reach the next stage. That, despite the shock defeat to Bangladesh.

If India's recent good record against Sri Lanka was not enough, its financial clout might help the team get into the next stage. That was the wishful thinking. After all, nearly Rs 5,000 crore anticipated loss for India's premature exit from the World Cup is no small amount.

But Sri Lanka did manage to beat India convincingly despite Indian bowlers trying their best. India might still make it if Bermuda upset Bangladesh. Miracles do happen but the way the battle was fought on March 23 does prove that cricketing ethics are at their strongest after the depressing nineties which eventually culminated in Hansie-Gate Scandal.

Future

The present team is not getting any younger. May be in one or two years, we will be needing some replacements.

To succeed in cricket, you need three A's. Aura to force the opposition respect you like Tendulkar and Dravid have. Ability to demolish any challenge which players like Yuvraj and Dhoni have. But the problem is Age of some players. And the limitations in reflexes and fielding it brings along with it.

Sooner the Indian selectors take note of it, the better it will be. Even if Bermuda sink Bangladesh, and we qualify for Super-Eight.