From 4-1 to 1-4 in 99 days!
It was not long ago that India crushed Pakistan 4-1. Ironically, the scoreline inverted vs WI, writes Atul Sondhi.
Did it start with Dhoni's haircut which not only took out his charm off the field but also his lucky charm on it?
Or Chappell's comment post 1st ODI that the West Indies had forgotten to win which pricked their pride and spurred them on?
Or that famous ball which got to the defences of Yuvraj Singh with just one touch required for a tie, or a two-nil lead?
May be all of these three factors conspired to consign India to doom. Exactly 99 days after the men in blue had Pakistan on the mat, they were left addressing their wounds after a solid knockout punch.
For start, nobody expected India to lose this series so badly. Even Lara had said after the 2nd ODI that with India needing two runs and Yuvraj on Strike, he was at best hoping for a tie after getting Munaf back on strike. West Indies can say whatever they want now, because the world is all about winners take all!
When great Viv said that Lara had been made captain for commercial reasons, the underlying philosophy was that he would find it difficult to unravel Indian puzzle.
Richards exact words for record: "Clearly, it is a decision prompted by commercial considerations, keeping in mind the World Cup. It's also a decision that might last only till that tournament, and chances are that Lara's appointment was not a very popular decision among the players."
But then such massive defeat was not such a surprise in view of India's recent run. It has been a great run, but what people failed to notice was that most of the great victories were accomplished in India.
India had failed to win both the triangular series under Chappell. They did steamroll Pakistan 4-1 in Pakistan, but failed to give them a killer punch at Abu Dhabi. And now the debacle in the West Indies.
Sometimes, the weight of history overshadows the immediate accomplishments. Probably it was at the back of India's mind that the worst three defeats in their cricketing history had come courtesy the West Indies.
What went wrong with the Indian bowling in the series? The batsmen were always going to struggle on these pitches, where top score in ten innings just about managed to breach 250. But the Indian bowlers did not exactly distinguish themselves.
Specialist spinners disappoint
Much was expected of Harbhajan and Powar on these track. But the spinners turned out to be as good as part-timers like Yuvraj and Sehwag. Pitches were slow and suited to their bowling, but they failed to take advantage.
Indian part-time bowlers did wonderfully well in the limited opportunities provided to them. They were marginally less economical, but did as well in terms of average and strike-rate as the Indian specialist spinners, which reflected badly on the guiles of Powar and Harbhajan. In fact, Powar was total failure in the series.
The Mumbaikar had bowled exceptionally well in the series against England and at DLF cup. But an economy of 5.28 was a little too much in the context of the runs scored by the West Indies.
Effective, but not penetrative
If we take Indian pacers' performance under Chappell before this series, while their economy did turn out to be great in this series, they were found wanting when it came to strike rate and wicket-taking average. That allowed the West Indies batsmen to save wickets even as they continued to make runs.
Agarkar looked to be the sole bright spot and at times looked like taking one wicket in each over of his first spells. His economy in all his first spells, barring the first match, was exceptional considering he was facing both Gallant Gayle and Sensational Sarwan in each of his initial spells.
The failure of others to support Agarkar's efforts proved to be India's nemesis in the end. It was a rare collective failure of much-hyped Sreesanth and Munaf, and an off-colour Irfan.
Indian pacers' hopeless strike-rate and economy, especially in the slog overs, was more than evident in the last ODI when the West Indies made as many as 82 runs in the final 10 overs. That turned out to be the critical difference between a 2-3 scoreline and a 1-4 mauling.
Bowling will again be the key as a wounded India prepare to take on the West Indies in what could well turn out to be a very exciting Test series.