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India were too reliant on a few ageing stars

It's very sad that India have imploded in this fashion and left the World Cup so early, writes Barry Richards.

india Updated: Mar 28, 2007 02:03 IST

What went wrong? Off the top of my head, I can think of a few major reasons: first, there was simply too much expectation weighing down on them. Second, the team is now too reliant on a few ageing stars, with nothing left to prove or achieve, and the fact that there is no second rung as yet in sight to take their place exposes the barrenness of India’s domestic competition. Third, their fielding: when will India take finally it seriously?

Undoubtedly, in the fallout of this disaster, heads will roll. Greg Chappell looks a doomed man, as does Rahul Dravid. But will the youngsters who take the seniors’ places stand up to be counted?

It is doubly unfortunate that this tournament will be remembered for two things: Bob Woolmer’s horrifying death and India and Pakistan’s early exits.

I do believe cricket has taken a backseat, and that cannot be good news for the game’s showpiece event. In any case, the absurdly bloated nature of the tournament means plenty of gaps between games, leading to bored and perhaps under-performing cricketers. March 4 to April 28? You can’t be serious.

Commercial considerations are all very well, but this is nonsense. Associate countries may be crucial to the spread of the game, but that is a theory we first heard in 1975 or thereabouts, and what has changed since then?

Cricket teams from these countries still comprise failed cricketers from established cricketing nations, and where’s the sense in getting Ireland and Bangladesh to play lopsided Super Eight matches?

However, Wednesday’s match certainly will not be lopsided, because Sri Lanka are shaping up to be a side to be taken very, very seriously.

Their youngsters fear little, and can pose a real challenge to Australia’s dominance. On the other hand South Africa, who looked to have their group game against Australia by the scruff of the neck until the run out of de Villiers and Graeme Smith’s cramp attack, will have to make sure their middle order doesn’t let them down again.

The 83-run loss to Australia has hurt the Proteas badly, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it turned out to have a long-term effect on their progress in this tournament.

Smith, their most influential batsman by far, will have to bat out of his skin once again, but the real worries for me are Jacques Kallis’ strike rate and Shaun Pollock’s bowling.

You have to wonder if Sri Lanka will take a leaf out of Australia’s book and go after Shaun from the beginning, and what will South Africa do then? As I said, this match is shaping up to be a beauty.