One-Day Mataram

Deconstructing the gentleman's game

Chokers, Bloody Chokers!

I am sure I am not the only one who finds parallels in the Indian defeats at the hands of Australia, at the ICC Champions Trophy 2006 and the ICC World Cup Finals 2003. Both the games featured good innings by Damien Martyn for Australia and Virender Sehwag for India. Both the matches saw Sachin Tendulkar failing to put up a meaningful score even though his form was good leading upto those two matches. And importantly... the most disturbing commonality in the two defeats was the way in which the Indian opening bowlers crumbled to dust under pressure. It was Zaheer Khan in the 2003 World Cup and Munaf Patel in the 2006 Champions Trophy.

Indian bowlers choked
As much as I have lauded the Indian bowlers' performances in the previous matches, I hate to say that the bowlers lost us the match yesterday. The match, much like the World Cup Final in 2003, was lost within the first few overs of the Australian innings. There is absolutely no shame in losing to a better team, and Australia is an awesome team, but what rankles is the manner in which the bowlers like Munaf Patel and Irfan Pathan seemed hapless in the face of an onslaught initiated by a batsman who was cramping up ever since he came out to bat (I am talking about Shane Watson). The usually impeccable Munaf looked horribly confused and at a loss for ideas. His line and length, both, went for a toss. His speed dropped alarmingly. And he looked a shadow of his usual efficient self. At the other end, Irfan Pathan swung the ball well, but served up far too many boundary balls to make any impact. Only Sreesanth, with a point to prove, seemed to bowl with any fire. As a result, he was rewarded with two wickets... while Munaf went wicketless at an economy rate over 7 rpo. The spinners, Harbhajan, Mongia and Sehwag fared better than their pace bowling teammates, but could produce only one wicket in the 22 overs they bowled among themselves.

I will not criticize the Indian batsmen because they stood up to be counted in a high-pressure match. And even though 249 wasn't a score to rejoice, it still was one that gave lots of hope to the Indian fans.

Captain Anonymous
One person who should take a lot of blame is Rahul Dravid. He may have scored a 50 in the match. But his captaincy was utterly uninspiring when Australia came out to bat. As bowler after bowler was dispatched to the boundary, Dravid's face showed confusion mixed with helplessness and it seemed as if he kept on hoping against hope for a miraculous Australian collapse. This is certainly not an attitude expected in a leader.

Questions... lots of them
Finally... the Indian think tank's strategy left a lot to be desired. If Dinesh Mongia was deemed good enough to bowl a full quota of overs and also bat at number 3, why was he kept out of the squad in the earlier matches? If Sreesanth was drafted into the squad to replace Agarkar and brought into the team straight away, why was he kept out of the squad in the first place. And then what was RP Singh doing in the sqaud in the first place. Why was Ramesh Powar kept out of the team even after a brilliant performance in the first match? And indeed, why was Powar kept out if half the overs were in any case bowled by the spinners in both the matches? Where the hell was the home advantage?! Is home advantage restricted only to the home crowds? Why was the Indian team caught unawares by the lack of dew at Motera (in the match against WI) and the ignorance about the nature of the pitch at Mohali?! Doesn't knowing the prevalent conditions qualify as home advantage and if it does, then why on earth did the Indian team not use this home advantage to good effect?!

These are just the few questions that the Indian team (players and the team management) needs to introspect. And rather than living in denial and arrogance, the coach and captain should be be open to questions and suggestions coming their way. I don't really care whether the coach experiments or advises commando training. The only question, on which he has to be answerable to the board (which pays him) and the cricket fans (who keep the funds flowing into the board, directly or indirectly), is why the Indian team has not been showing positive results lately!?!

And until the coach and the captain find an answer to that question, the Indian team will have to bear the burden of being termed as the chokers of international cricket!!

3 Responses to “Chokers, Bloody Chokers!”

  1. # Blogger Jagadish

    I think the batsmen were responsible. You can't get away by setting Australia 250 on a good batting wicket. Dravid and Sehwag needed to get 100s to ensure that India set Australia something in the region of 275. Come on, 249 isn't exactly an indicator that the batsmen did their job!  

  2. # Blogger Sameer

    Jagadish>> Thanks for your comment. While I agree that 249 wasn't a winning score against the Aussies, the general scoring trend in the series thus far and the form of the Indian batsmen meant that 249 was a score worth bowling at. And with Indian bowlers having acquitted themselves admirably well in the earlier games, one expected them to handle the situation better than they did!  

  3. # Blogger Neo

    Hey Sameer,

    Thats a really nice blog name.I jus loved it.  

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