Monday, November 27, 2006

A tale of lost opportunity

By John Cheeran
India again played exasperating cricket and lost by 106 runs to South Africa in Cape Town.
So what’s new?
A team that is hungry for success should have capitalized on their good fortune when Graeme Smith's men were tottering at 76 for six in a 50 over match. Indian bowlers flattered only to deceive in the end and to give away the game to South Africa in the last 15 overs when Justin Kemp cut loose.
Let’s not hide from reality.
South Africa has better bowlers and better batsmen and Rahul Dravid’s Indians are inferior to them. To expect Dravid and company to turn into supermen would be too much in the given conditions.
I wish at least they could be men enough to minimise the impact of their crashes.
Dravid, of course, should shoulder the blame for letting things drift in the last 15 overs when Kemp took the game away from Indian bowlers. Fielding was sloppy and catches were dropped. If criticism does not spur Indian cricketers at least to improve their fielding what else will do?
But it should be said that India is carrying quite a few non-performers in the side. When was the last time Harbhajan Singh troubled batsmen?
And Ajit Agarkar’s inconsistency with the ball is becoming part of the Indian cricket folklore.
What can a captain do when his celebrated openers Virender Sehwag and Sachin Tendulkar flee from the crease faced with a daunting total of 275? India had lost these two champions with total on 7 in 4.4 overs.
Sehwag 0, Tendulkar 2!
Dravid opened the Indian innings on Sunday, for all practical purposes. Dravid did the best he could do by compiling a sensible 63, leaving the crease as the ninth wicket.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni was India’s answer to Kemp.
Dhoni smote some hefty blows (55 from 48 balls with four sixers and three boundaries) but his effort fell short of the day’s requirement.
The most die-hard optimist can, however, count India’s blessings from Cape Town capitulation.
In his comeback into one-day cricket, leg spinner Anil Kumble bowled with sense and purpose, befitting his role as a hardened pro. I’m afraid to single out Zaheer Khan for praise lest he forget his wicket taking ways too soon.
Dhoni’s willingness to learn and innovate is a plus point and he should evolve into someone who can nuke the bowling, just the way Kemp did, a few overs ago.

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