Dark side of the doom
They may have been a champion side on paper, but a look at Team India’s performance in the World Cup reveals they just weren’t good enough.
Apparently, he hasn’t put a foot wrong since his comeback and was India’s second-highest scorer in the Cup. But statistics seldom tell the real story. His performance was well below par in terms of the way he got those runs. We don’t remember Ganguly being tied down by any spinner, leave alone three inexperienced left arm spinners bowling in tandem (vs Bangladesh). Not only did he not go after them, he struggled to rotate the strike, eventually getting out for a scratchy 66. He continued from where he left off in the next two games. It wasn’t the scores but the lack of assurance that was disturbing. Still, he looked meaner, fitter, and hungrier, and a better fielder.
‘Mortals are known for their achievements and legends for their failures’. But when god lets you down time and again, you lose faith. Tendulkar failed in two crucial games and yet again, the buzz about his match-winning ability —or the lack of it — is doing rounds. Perhaps there’s nothing wrong with his technique, hand-eye co-ordination or the feet movement, but something is definitely amiss. His aggressive strokeplay is best suited to open the innings and he has often set the tone for the rest but batting down the order meant he had to curb his natural instinct and do repair work. Failure is never an option for him and that probably made him over-cautious. It showed and showed him up.
He has done far better than most thought he would and proved again that if he’s on song, there’s little bowlers can do to stop him. You can’t blame him for getting a century against Bermuda but then, given the length of his bad patch, he should’ve gone on to make the most against the Lankans. One tends to give a longer rope to players like him because of their ability to win matches but then these players have to score big to make up for the failures. Sehwag had too many. Then, he isn’t the fastest fielder and is usually under-bowled, so that makes every innings with the bat more important.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni
In every sense, he’s the only world class find since the last World Cup. His glovework is debatable but the good thing is that he’s constantly improving. His batting has suddenly become far too important for India to win games while chasing. He likes to play a few balls to get his eye in before going for the big shots and unfortunately he didn’t have that luxury against Bangladesh as he came in at the end, but his missing out against Sri Lanka was crucial. But if one is fair, what he’s done over the last year cannot be discounted. More importantly, if a guy gets out for a duck, what can you say?
A great strokeplayer with an ability to turn the game on its head. We should give him the benefit of doubt for being a newcomer but his failure in all three games should raise questions. He doesn’t seem to have a Plan B and the only way he seems to bat is the only way he seems to know i.e. go after the bowling. Well, nothing wrong with that if you’re assigned that role, but how many people does India need to make use of the Powerplays? There’s Ganguly, Sehwag, even Tendulkar for the top. But then, do we have a middle order batsman to replace him?
A captain is as good as his team, so Dravid got it all wrong over the last year or so when he invested in the wrong players. Dravid can play the bridesmaid’s role to perfection but he needs a couple of guys to win the game in the shorter format. He didn’t find them in the game against Lanka. His captaincy was as defensive and risk-free as his batting can be at times. Playing seven batsmen even against Bangladesh sent out the wrong signal. India’s batting line-up is far more experienced than the bowling and even then, if we need the cushion of an extra batsman, then something’s terribly wrong.
This guy hasn’t done anything wrong in the World Cup or, for that matter, over the last 18 months. He did run himself out in the last game but it was a one-off thing that mattered more than it should have. He batted beautifully against Bangladesh in partnership with Sourav and was the dominant partner, despite being new to the crease. His 47 was unblemished, his 89 against the minnows clinical, and his getting out while going for big hits, when he could’ve easily got to his maiden Cup century, was unselfish. His fielding was as good as ever.
Can’t bat, can’t field but this guy can bowl! He was picked for sheer pace and the control to go with it. Perhaps he’s still the most economical bowler in the side. He gets the ball to bounce a lot more than others and is very accurate, but then he has sacrificed pace for accuracy. He doesn’t seem to possess those deadly reverse swinging yorkers anymore and is rarely seen changing the pace either. India have a one dimensional attack and Munaf could’ve been that missing link. Every good team has an out and out pace bowler and his job is to go for wickets, taking a chance of getting hit in the bargain.
He’s another guy who hasn’t put a foot wrong since his comeback and was right on the money throughout, barring that one spell against Bangladesh. Zaheer lacked support from the field and the batsmen and that makes a difference. What separates good performers from ordinary ones is the consistency of their performance, and for how long they can delay the inevitable failing once in a while.
He went into this tournament in probably the best form of his life. He was the pick of the Indian bowlers during the last tour of the Caribbean and we were expecting him to start from where he had left off but that didn’t happen and he was seen struggling in the first two games. He did come back strongly in the last and most crucial game, and was somewhat unlucky not to take more wickets.
A disappointing outing for him. It’s not often that he comes back wicketless from any tour, especially when conditions favour the slow bowlers. With our lack of firepower in the pace department, Harbhajan’s job is more crucial, to not just restrict the opposition in the middle overs (as often he has to bowl with part-timers at the other end) but also to take wickets. He was preferred over Kumble in the last game for his ability to take wickets and his success against left-handers. He didn’t do either.
Out of favour in ODIs for a long time, Kumble, it might be recalled, played only one game in the last World Cup too. He struggled against the West Indies and Sri Lanka at home prior to this. His bowling seems to lack venom in one-dayers and he even struggled to bowl to the mighty men from Bermuda. He is a liability on the field, though he’s a fighter and gives the game his all, but one-day cricket is meant for faster men. He was perhaps expecting a fabulous swansong but that didn’t happen.
He didn’t play a game and we doubt he would have either. We were told he’s not there as a second wicket-keeper but purely as a batsman. Karthik averages just 19 in 11 games so far but you pick some people on potential. Nothing wrong with that but by pure logic, it’s baffling to see him play after Dhoni in the batting order. He’s a livewire on the field but don’t we have a specialist batsman who’s a good fielder too in the domestic circuit?
The blue-eyed boy of Indian cricket, touted as the best all-rounder since Kapil Dev. He was picked purely on talent as his current form was abysmal. As he too didn’t play a game, it might be argued that he cannot be blamed. But the million dollar question is — why didn’t he play? Obviously the team management thought it too risky. On form, he couldn’t have replaced a bowler and leaving out a batsman wasn’t considered worth the gamble. In case India had progressed, it would’ve been interesting to see how many matches he eventually played.
Agarkar was a little off-colour in the first two games and it was an ideal opportunity to play Sreesanth. That he didn’t means the team didn’t have enough faith in him. He’s been a revelation in Tests but seems at sea with the white ball.