It was an off-day for us: Ganguly

Returning home to a warm welcome, Indian captain Sourav Ganguly on Monday stood by his decision to bowl first in the World Cup final.

india Updated: Mar 25, 2003 19:21 IST

Indian skipper Sourav Ganguly on Monday rejected criticism that his decision to bowl first in the final against Australia had cost India the World Cup and said the players had an "off day" in the crucial match.

"There was dampness on the pitch and I knew there was something for the seam bowlers. We had one off-day which shattered our dreams of winning the World Cup," he told reporters on his arrival from Johannesburg alongwith most of the other team members.

Ganguly was also combative in his reply to other questions including his batting form.

He said the team had played well in the tournament and he was already looking forward to India's next engagements.

"Now we will have to leave the disappointment behind and concentrate on the triangular series in Bangladesh from April 10 as there is always a next time to win the Cup," he said.

India, who made it to the World Cup final after a gap of 20 years, were defeated by 125 runs by Australia after Ganguly had elected to field first on winning the toss.

Despite the loss, the team was given a warm reception at the airport. Thousands of fans and supporters waited since early morning to welcome the team which won 9 of its 11 matches in the tournament, with both the losses coming against Australia.

Ganguly replied in the negative when asked whether a specialist fifth bowler in the team could have altered the result of the final.

"I don't think we missed the fifth bowler. Dinesh Mongia, who was used as the fifth bowler, was the most economical bowler in the final. In fact, throughout the tournament our part time bowlers kept the run rate in check which was quite good," Ganguly said.

Asked how he felt after regaining his own batting form, Ganguly shot back, "I have scored 9,000 plus runs in one-day cricket and I don't have to keep proving myself as a batsman every now and then."

Ganguly emerged as the second highest scorer in the tournament, only behind Sachin Tendulkar, amassing 465 runs with three centuries, the maximum in one World Cup.

The captain praised the three fast bowlers, Javagal Srinath, Zaheer Khan and Ashish Nehra, despite their ordinary performance in the final. He was particularly happy with Srinath who came out of brief retirement and bowled superbly to finish with 16 wickets.

"I wanted him to play in the World Cup as I knew he could contribute with his experience. He did not let me down," he said.

Ganguly said it was now up to Srinath to decide whether he wanted to continue in international cricket or retire.

"I think it should be his decision. It is his career and his life and let him decide about it," he said.

Asked whether the sponsorship controvercy between had been resolved, Dalmiya said "the controvercy has not been resolved as yet but the players will not be involved in the issue in future.

"Indian Board will take up the matter with ICC and the players can concentrate on playing alone.
Though there has been no settlement so far we will take all the actions deemed neccessary till the issue is resolved," Dalmiya added.

Eleven of the Indian players -- Ganguly, Parthiv Patel, Sachin Tendulkar, Ajit Agarkar, Anil Kumble, Virender Sehwag, Ashish Nehra, Zaheer Khan, Sanjay Bangar, Dinesh Mongia and Harbhajan Singh -- arrived in a chartered flight which was delayed by two and a half hours while the others are expected by the evening flight.

First Published: Mar 25, 2003 12:22 IST