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    September 09, 2005

    Riding off into the sunset?

    On Tuesday, India's bowlers did their utmost to lose yet another one-day series final, this one against New Zealand.

    If the last couple of finals have been lost courtesy the batsmen suffering brain damage at critical moments, how could the bowlers be left behind? The 2003 World Cup final wasn't that long ago either, was it?

    Perhaps the side needs to go back to its mantra of not choking by not even reaching the final.

    The batsmen came good at last, with the honourable exception of Rahul Dravid, with even Sourav Ganguly for whom Harsha Bhogle, perhaps rather prematurely, predicts close of play, making a few runs, although he did his best impersonation of Nureyev when facing Shane Bond. But if the side is scoring at nearly 6 an over, in spite of Shane Bond's giving away only 3 or 4 an over, then you're doing pretty fine. But a few moments of madness is all that takes for games to turn around. Ganguly's pat to point which must have really surprised Hamish Marshall was the first blow.

    Kaif and Sehwag batted superbly and took India to 150/1 and it wasn't yet the half-way stage of the innings. Kaif has definitely sealed the #3 slot for now. Remember that we wrote about it nearly five months ago. From that position, India should have aimed to get at least 320, if not 340. There was absolutely nothing in the pitch to suggest that batting second would be a nightmare. Yet, the actual nightmare which panned out, was India's, as after Sehwag gave his wicket away yet again, when he was in total control. Dravid was dismissed by Vettori, not bowled for once, as well and in the span of an over, the tide had changed. Yuvraj failed to re-enact his antics of last Sunday and Kaif was running out of partners. Venugopal Rao, who had been harshly dealt with earlier in the series by being sent out to bat at #3 and then open the innings, played a curious knock, sixteen balls for eight runs with six of them coming from one hit. Why shuffle a youngster around so much in the batting order? In his six match career, he has opened and batted at numbers 3, 6 and 7! Either he's confused or someone else is.

    Wickets fell in batches and India ended up being bowled out in the last over, with Nehra not even having the sense to bat out the innings. Who was he kidding when he tried a pull shot?

    A score of 276 was certainly not a bad total, especially in a final. With early wickets being absolutely important, Irfan Pathan, Ashish Nehra and Ajit Agarkar chose the wrong day to lose their line, length and perspective. Fleming and Astle came up with a stunning batting display which effectively ended any hopes of an Indian victory. Fifty came up in the fifth over, 100 in the 13th and at that stage, the match was pretty much done and dusted. A few farcical wickets to Sehwag just increased the drama.

    But Astle was batting superbly, and Harbhajan was totally ineffective. Harbhajan's decline in one-dayers as a bowler has been dramatic. In his last 15 games, he has taken only 11 wickets and conceded over 4.5 an over and generally been totally ineffective. If teams are content to play him out, he must come up with other strategies to get wickets. Mind you, all these games were played on sub-continental type wickets, it wasn't as though he was bowling in May in England. He really does need a kick up his backside. Perhaps time for Kumble?!

    The forthcoming test series against Zimbabwe is now off to an awful start, with Nehra ruled out and Ajit Agarkar included in his place. Recall that Tendulkar had already opted out. Personally, I think Nehra was fuming that he was asked to bat in the final rather than cool his heels in the pavillion. That resulted in him kicking his kitbag so hard, that his back gave way.
    Thus spake Jagadish @ 8:58 PM |
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