Monday, July 07, 2008

Dhoni surrenders in another final. India has no strategy to counter Mendis

By John Cheeran
Mahendra Singh Dhoni won India the Twenty20 World Cup. But that was a long time ago.
Now what worries many is that Dhoni has lost three finals in a row as a captain. He first lost the Indian Premier League final while leading Chennai Super Kings to Shane Warne’s Rajasthan Royals.
Later, Dhoni’s India lost to Pakistan in the final of Kitply Cup in Mirpur, Bangladesh.
And yesterday, despite striving hard as a batsman, Dhoni lost another final as India surrendered to Sri Lanka in Asia Cup.
So with every ambush such as that happened in Karachi last night, we realize that nothing has changed in Indian cricket. Dhoni, coach Gary Kirsten and other seniors of the team failed to build a strategy for the Asia Cup final and there cannot be any excuses on that front.
It was pretty clear before the final that the contest will boil down to a battle of wits between the emerging Sri Lankan slow bowler Ajantha Mendis and Indian batsmen.
Were there any tactics to counter the carom-ball bowler?
None was evident. May be only plan was to get as many runs as possible before Sri Lankan skipper Mahela Jayawardene introduced Mendis. Virender Sehwag, to his credit, did that hammering the Sri Lankan pacers to all corners of the field. But to lose two wickets in the space of first five balls sent down by Mendis shows how vulnerable the famed Indian batting line up against accurate bowling.
Skipper Dhoni said after the match that they had tried to figure out Mendis’ way of bowling watching a few video clips. But there was hardly any hint of sensible approach to read Mendis’s bowing. In fact the Sri Lankan reduced Sehwag, Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina, Rohit Sharma and Robin Uthappa to the levels of school boy cricketers. May be worse than me!
The point is that Dhoni can trot out novelty as a factor for succumbing to the guile of Mendis. But can a professional side console themselves on such pathetic explanation?
Sri Lankan cricketers, including skipper Jayawardene and wicketkeeper Kumara Sangakkara, say that Mendis can bowl up to five different balls in an over and the way Mendis flicks the ball while delivering it, batsmen finds it impossible to handpick the bowler. The only way to read Mendis, is off-the pitch. But Indians failed in that task. It is not even certain whether they attempted any such thing while on the crease.
And it is quite interesting that suddenly a boring tournament came alive on the final day. Bowlers, Ishant Sharma for India, and Mendis for Sri Lanka, tested and teased batsmen. It seemed there was a new sky, and a new earth in Karachi.
May be we are mistaken.

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