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Poor batting, curious selection caused a flop

How can players not be edgy and how can the team stay united when players wonder why some have most preferred status, writes Kadambari Murali.

india Updated: Oct 31, 2006 01:11 IST

These are Monday morning blues of the kind we've never really had before. India (and every other Asian team) are out of the Champions Trophy even before the knockout stage and we've just been informed that no one should get their hopes up because there's no bench strength either.

So, why did India lose? They batted badly, bowled well but in bursts and were quite awful when it really mattered, like against Australia in their final league game. Still, the bowlers can't really be blamed, they had one very bad game and like Rahul Dravid said right through, the batting let India down.

That the batting failed was probably due to a combination of factors. Straight off would probably be that the home conditions were not quite home for the subcontinental teams, because of the dew factor.

Usually, pace attacks that travel to India need to swing the ball in the air, pitch it up to the batsmen, as they won't get much from the track itself. But the problem with this is that batsmen in the subcontinent are comfortable on the front foot, so they normally deal with the bowling without much difficulty.

But seeing the dew factor this time, the bowlers adjusted. Hardly anyone used a spinner unless he was really good (like Daniel Vettori. Instead they used a full fast bowling attack, unusual for Indian conditions. Then, they started bowling bouncers and bowling a very different length, more short, more into the rib cage.

It might be noticed that there were quite a number of bouncers bowled in this event. In the Kiwis vs Pakistan game, the Windies and Australia against India and the games South Africa played, they bounced people out or put them on to the backfoot. Literally. Something that made life difficult for players from this region.

Then again, as Dravid pointed out earlier, the usual slow, flat wickets that India produces are more common only later in the season, when they have been rolled a lot, when lots of domestic and junior games have been played on them, when it is drier, when the bounce evens out.

The wickets at this time of the year are not that great, especially following a very good monsoon. Generally speaking otherwise, the ball doesn't move that much, and even if someone bowls short, it sits up to be hit because of the slowness of the track. That didn't happen this time around, causing a change in the mindset.

And then of course, we come to that old bugbear - the changing and swapping of the batting order. Normally, it is accepted that batsmen in the middle of a purple patch are given a run to continue that patch. Here, we found batsmen being halted in the middle of a good thing, either by being given a break or by being sent down the order.

The lack of consistency was bound to happen!

India haven't played to their strengths either, like when they did not go with two spinners in Ahmedabad. And then, they didn't back their choices. They first picked RP Singh ahead of Sreesanth and then played Sreesanth ahead of RP against Australia after RP, who had hardly played in any case, had just one bad game. What would have happened to his confidence? In any case, it also shows confusion and a lack of confidence in their own judgment.

Nothing is really making sense and there is bound to be insecurity.

How can players not be edgy and how can the team stay united when players wonder, albeit quietly, about why some have most preferred status while others are in and out irrespective of performance?

One more point. Right at the beginning of this experimentation process, we were told that we would have a team of 20 players or so and anyone could replace anyone else, i.e, an enviable bench strength.

Suddenly on Monday, we are told by the chairman of selectors that India have no real talent as yet undiscovered. What happened to that building process, where did it disappear? If there is a pool of players waiting in the wings, why hasn't the selection committee been told of it?

It's great to have a vision and a plan and call this a journey, but if you don't win today how can you guarantee winning tomorrow? It's as simple as that.