We have to back this team

Published : Aug 18, 2001 00:00 IST

IT was shattering no doubt as the defeat crushed the spirits of the Indians. It was a telling blow on a night when the Sri Lankans once again reaffirmed their supremacy over the Indians in quite a convincing fashion. It was poor cricket from the Indians in the big match.

The final of the tri-series was expected to generate exciting cricket and it was unfortunate that the match never rose as a contest. The atmosphere at the Khettarama was electric and should have acted as a tonic for the players to give their best but the Indians caved in so meekly.

The reasons for the Indian debacle were many but nothing as emphatic as the brilliant manner in which the Sri Lankans organised themselves. Their planning was flawless because they had the men to carry out the instructions and leading by example was that grand performer - Sanath Jayasuriya.

At the outset I must say that Sri Lanka had the advantage of the toss. It was a big advantage if you ask me because the pitch changed its character in the second half of the match. It became slower and it did not matter how you rolled the ball because the home team had the cushion of 295 runs on scoreboard, a pretty stiff target by all standards. When the Sri Lankans batted, they could drive the ball on the up. When it was India's turn to bat, the ball was turning appreciably and conditions were difficult for batting. But then there can be no excuses for the humiliating defeat.

I know the team management will not agree but I must say that the combination for the final did not reflect any planning on behalf of the Indians. It is important to recognise the fact that success is planned by finding the right man for the job. You have to recognise the right men and then plan your tactics around them.

Despite being aware of the fact that the pitch would help the slow bowlers, the Indians shockingly left out Rahul Sanghvi from the line-up. I am not saying this in hindsight. I had maintained all along that the Indians had to find a place for Sanghvi and there was not much being achieved by having Sameer Dighe bat at number nine. The Indians were clearly a bowler short and it was too much to expect the likes of Yuveraj Singh and Virender Sehwag to take on the responsibility in a big match.

The Indian bowling was shockingly mediocre. The first 15 overs decided the trend of the match. It was a big failure of the Indian seamers. The slow bowlers did their best but the seamers were off the mark.

The target was too big for the Indian batsmen and the poor start did not help at all. It was important that the team got a flying start when up against a huge target. The team needed at least one extraordinary effort from one batsman but sadly there was none in the Indian ranks to assume the role.

Looking back at the tournament, the most glaring shortcoming was the poor start in all but one match. It was a problem which the team failed to tackle. The team may have boasted of an effective middle-order but in the absence of a good start things did not work the team's way.

One would also like to take into account the injuries that did not allow a few players to be at their best. The wear and tear of the international circuit had caused immense damage to the Indian attack and led to its eighth defeat in a cup final just when most thought that the team would pull it off. The remarkable comeback after having lost the first three matches had indeed raised hopes of some stirring deeds bit it all remained a dream. The Indians bowled badly and the fielding was just pathetic.

The Indians had acquired the reputation of chokers when it came to playing the final, reminding me of the South Africans, who remained in that state for some time before stepping up to winning ways. The Indian team was peaking all right, but came to a grinding halt against an inspired opposition.

It would be unfair if Sri Lanka was not given the due credit for its wonderful performance. It proved that it was the best side in the tournament and had the right combination to pull it off so comfortably. It did not matter that the stage was the final barrier as Sri Lanka drew on its overall strength and guided by Jayasuriya gave the home crowd a lovely gift in the shape of a title win.

The Sri Lankans are a tough combination and especially at home. Their self-belief is their greatest asset and that is what I would like the Indians to develop if they wish to be acknowledged as a good side. There is no doubt that India is a good side but then it is so inconsistent.

Despite the setback in Sri Lanka, it would pay if the National selectors persist with the youngsters. We have to back this team because it has the potential but then it is time the team management stopped experimenting with certain slots. They have to find a regular third opener and also a reserve wicketkeeper. The grooming process has to be set in motion because the team must have replacements ready. It would keep everyone on toes and instill a healthy competition.

Yuveraj Singh and Virender Sehwag have shown that proper backing is a must if youngsters have to achieve their goals.

Another example of excellent grooming is Shiv Sundar Das, who is an advertisement for the plus points of India's domestic cricket. He has been honed in difficult conditions over six years and should be backed by one and all.

The exuberance has to be channelised properly if Indian cricket is to look up.

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