India badly missed Sachin as batting failed again
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- 09-14-2010, 04:09 PM #1Unregistered Guest
India badly missed Sachin as batting failed again
The familiar story of India's failure to cross the last hurdle to victory was re-enacted this week as the team's supposedly strongest department, batting, let the country down yet again - this time at the one-day Triangular Series here.
A consistent batting performance was starkly missing as the Indian players came out of a long layoff and opened the new season in Sri Lanka for the second successive year. Last year as well India had begun the new season with the Asia Cup here and had lost to the home team in the final.
But unlike in the Asia Cup, the bowlers were mostly on target in the seven-match tournament in which an under strength West Indies was the third team. The bowlers, however, received little support from a batting line-up that sorely missed maestro Sachin Tendulkar, who is recuperating following an elbow surgery in May.
Led by Rahul Dravid, India's fielding did not disappoint either despite the odd blemish in every match. Those can, however, be ignored as fielders were largely on the ball - thanks to the three-phased preparatory camp at Bangalore that preceded this tournament.
Batsmen's failure resulted in India struggling to make the final after beating the West Indies - missing several top players owing to a pay dispute with their board - in the fourth and final league match. India eventually made the grade, but only by the skin of their teeth as an inspired West Indies took the contest to the wire.
India, playing under new coach Greg Chappell, wasted good starts twice, including the final, to lose as batsmen from the middle order downwards lost the plot to hand over the advantage, and the matches, to the opponents.
In the final, vice-captain Virender Sehwag's blitzkrieg gave a perfect launching pad to chase Sri Lanka's imposing 281 for nine wickets - the highest total of the 10-day tournament.
After losing Sehwag and Sourav Ganguly, who missed India's first two matches due to an International Cricket Council-imposed ban, for 102, India were cruising along with Dravid and Yuvraj Singh at the crease. But they went haywire after the two well-set batsmen were dismissed within 19 runs of each other.
The rest of the batsmen panicked with no experienced head left to guide them at the crease as the Sri Lankan bowlers, backed by a vociferous packed house at R. Premadasa Stadium, stepped up the gas and India soon wilted under pressure.
While India lost, new captain Dravid batted in his usual responsible manner, which showed that he was not burdened by the pressures of leading the side. The consistent performer made 185 runs at 46.25 in five matches.
Significantly, he scored three half-centuries - the maximum in the competition-to prove that he is easily the most reliable Indian batsman, Tendulkar and Ganguly included, at any given time and not just in this tournament.
Yuvraj was, however, tallied seven runs more than Dravid, at 48.00, and was also the lone centurion of the tournament. The left-hander's stroke filled 110 came in the crucial last league game against the West Indies that guided India into the final.
Equally importantly, Yuvraj rediscovered his form with his 114-ball knock that contained 11 boundaries and one six.
Sehwag, who struggled until the final, found his touch in the most important match as he hammered the Sri Lankan attack for an unbelievable 22-ball 48 as India began the chase at 5.64 runs/over in the day-night final. He carted Dilhara Lokuhettige for 26 runs in the innings' sixth over in this fashion: 4, 4, 6, 4, 4, 4.
The avalanche stunned Sri Lankan supporters, before the Delhi dasher played a Chaminda Vaas delivery on to his stumps - and the stadium came alive again.
Sehwag (102) and Mohammed Kaif (180 at 45.00), who would have received the tournament's best fielder award if there was one, were the other Indians who aggregated 100-plus runs in the tournament.
Among the bowlers, left-arm pacer Ashish Nehra was the competition's top wicket taker with 12 scalps, earned at an excellent average of 16.50. His strike of a wicket every 24 balls was also the best amongst the three teams.
India had picked two fresh faces - all-rounder Suresh Raina and batsman Y. Venugopal Rao - and both impressed in their own right.
The left-handed Raina proved more useful to the team as he is a brilliant right-handed fielder also and he effected a few run outs that forced the experts here to talk in glowing terms about his versatility.
The 18-year-old from Uttar Pradesh, who also bowls effective off-spinners, was played in three matches and seems to have done enough to force a discussion when the selectors meet in Mumbai this week to pick the squad for the tour of Zimbabwe.
Although Chappell had repeatedly said here that all 16 members of the squad would get enough opportunities in the tournament, hard-working all-rounder Jai Prakash Yadav was the only one who did not get any match.
Yadav, the highest wicket taker with 56 scalps and scorer of 629 runs in the 2004-05 domestic season, is another case that is widely expected to be discussed by the selectors, Chappell and the captain at the selection committee meeting.
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