It took just 13 balls to destroy a myth that was taking shape among many Indians after a superlative show over the past one year that saw India mauling Sri Lanka, England and Pakistan.
The silence that greeted the loss of those five wickets in a space of just 13 balls must have dented the confidence badly, whatever be the future performance of the present side.
Rain may have saved India the blushes, but it cannot hide the fact that against an attack which boasted of a proven performer -- but still a comeback man in McGrath and a newcomer in Johnson -- it slipped badly.
The only saving grace in Saturday's performance was how Harbhajan measured up to the challenge of not only facing Australia, but also a not so charitable referee in the past in Chris Broad and how Sehwag's innocuous looking off spin checked a strong Australian line up.
In fact, Australia's run rate, which was a healthy 5.71 runs per over when Harbhajan stepped in to bowl, slid to around four as long as Harbhajan was bowling along with pacers and Sehwag. A score that looked 300+ at one stage, was brought down to less than 250.
Harbhajan's factor in India's run rate
|Before Harbhajan's spell||21||120/3||5.71|
|During Harbhajan's spell||19||78/2||4.10|
|After Harbhajan's spell||9.2||46/5||4.93|
One need not recall that Sehwag's comeback in 2001 only got momentum with the Bangalore ODI against Australia where his 3 wickets were as critical as his first half-century in ODI Internationals.
He failed to take a wicket on Saturday but an economy of 4.3 was second only to Harbhajan. Why India does not utilise the talent of these part-timers, including Yuvraj and, may be Raina, is still a puzzle.
Such players, so many times can earn important breakthroughs, which frontline bowlers may have failed to deliver.
On a hot tin roof against Quality attack
In a World Cup, the performance of top order against a quality attack is always the key. However, since November 2005, India have flopped badly at least thrice against strong opponents. Twice have they lost top five wickets for less than 40, and once for 71.
India's worst top-order collapses
(Since November 2005)
|35||Australia||Kuala Lampur||2006||No result|
Now, three such flops in 24 matches starting with the series against South Africa may not mean much, but even a single such collapse can very well take care of our World Cup aspirations.
The feeling becomes worse when one realizes that this Australian team consists of so many newcomers, while the Indian players are by and large the core of the next World Cup squad.
Are we mentally so strong
One fears that the collapse was as much due to the tremendous bowling of Johnson, as the fear factor that had set in after McGrath-treatment to Tendulkar. The blow to the head may not have bothered Tendulkar as much, but it looked to have rattled the rest of the batting line-up.
In spite of all such success without Tendulkar in the past, if the team is still looking towards the master blaster for inspiration, then one will really needs to introspect if we are indeed a strong favourite for the Cup. Dismissal of Ponting never ever bothers the Australians.
Balance of the side
Dravid as a makeshift opener was a success in the first two Tests in Pakistan in the beginning of 2006. After all, two tremendous centuries at Lahore and Faisalabad had class stamped all over them.
But then came the twin-failure at Karachi and the futility of a makeshift opening pair was realized. By that time, the Test series was lost 0-1.
High time we take lesson from Karachi and have those players as ODI openers, who can blast the ball. As it happens in ODIs nowadays, in the beginning is the end.