July 8, 2001

Ganguly pleads for 'best of three' finals

Having been grounded by West Indies in the final after a superlative performance in the league matches, Indian captain Saurav Ganguly has advocated the case of having a 'best-ofthree' final in one-day tournaments.

"It is a bit harsh because you play four league games and win all and then lose the one-off final," Ganguly said. India won all their four league matches convincingly in the triangular one-day series in Zimbabwe and lost the final by 16 runs yesterday.

"I have seen this happen to a number of sides. It happened to us in the ICC KnockOut mini World Cup in Nairobi where we beat two top teams and then lost to New Zealand who were rated to be an inferior side. It happened to Pakistan in Sharjah where they won four games and then lost to Sri Lanka in the final," Ganguly said.

While chasing an imposing 291 for victory, India had lost their first five wickets for just 80 runs yesterday, and Ganguly said it was a "shame". "We lost the game at 80 for five. It was a big total but with just three seamers in their side, and (Reon) King not at his very best, we backed ourselves. We just needed to bat properly and play normal cricket."

But Ganguly did not believe any of the players threw his wicket away. "A lot of people might say we have thrown wickets at the top order. I don't agree with it. The shot (V V S) Laxman played, it was pitched halfway down the wicket and you play such strokes in one-day cricket where you can't let balls go."

He also justified his decision to put West Indies in to bat after winning the toss. "I did think about it (batting first) but then you had won four games bowling first and it was a similar pitch. When at the time of the toss (Carl) Hooper showed me the team he had, any captain would have decided to chase because he had just three bowlers," he said.

But Ganguly's calculations went awry after the senior batsmen were out within the first 15 overs itself. The captain conceded the team needed a better performance from the top order batsmen.

"They (seniors) have been a bit patchy. They were not as consistent as they normally are, it is off and on kind of display. Me, Sachin (Tendulkar), Rahul (Dravid) and Laxman should have probably batted a bit better. "They know it, you can make it out of their faces that they have made a mess of it.

"We all try to win, especially in the finals. If we got to be a good side, then there is no place for losers. If you want people to say you are a good side, then you got to win matches, you got to have players scoring runs in important games. It is a mental kind of thing. It has to be in the mind rather than ability. If we didn't have the ability, we would not have reached the final."

But Ganguly was not sure whether the team needed a psychologist to deal with its mental fragility in crunch situations. "As for needing a psychologist, I would say yes and no. I personally feel it is more with an individual."

More than the batsmen it was the bowlers who came under attack by coach John Wright for conceding too many runs. Wright also strongly defended Tendulkar and the shot which got him out.

"Sachin never throws his wicket, he has played magnificently. He selected a ball which was a bit high and quicker also and it happens. We can't continually rely on Sachin Tendulkar to win us games (every time). It has to be a collective effort. The greatest thing about Tendulkar is that he is his hardest critic," he said.

"It does become a difficult game when your three medium pacers go for over six per over. We were just not efficient and accurate enough with the ball.

"Chasing that many runs was always going to be demanding. We just lost too many early wickets, it would have been a proper chase if we were 100 for two or something like that. "We have to take this as a learning opportunity, we just have to become tougher and more clinical in how we play in such situations.

"The critical stage today was the first 15 overs. Hooper and (Shivnarine) Chanderpaul did very well, they rotated the strike well, the left-handed, right-handed kind of thing.

"I don't think our fielding was bad. There sometimes is pressure on the field because the ball is going to all parts of the ground, it is just a fact of life," Wright said.

Hooper was pleasantly surprised by the effort of his batsmen. "We were certainly looking for a 250 plus total but 290 was a really good score and it put India under pressure.

"In the two games we played, we never really got to the Indian middle (order). The key obviously in this game were Sachin and Ganguly. We got rid of them quickly and we realised we had a chance."

Hooper revealed he had called a meeting of his batsmen a day before the final. "We had a meeting and we told the boys to stay positive. In the last four five games we were really not that positive and we wanted it so this time."

Hooper had great praise for his fast bowler and man of the match, Corey Collymore who picked up four wickets for 49 runs. "Collymore was nursing an injury before the final. We decided to rest him in the last (league) game and it paid off," he said.

"If a side makes 290, then the other side is always under pressure. It was fortunate for us that Sachin got out. He was the key. Then Ganguly had to pick it up because he couldn't let the scoring requirement go up to seven (early in the innings). I suppose they fell under the pressure." Hooper said.

Despite the heroics of Reetinder Singh Sodhi and Samir Dighe, Hooper had no doubt his side would win the final. "I always thought it (score) was too big. I was sure we would win this game by at least a 15-20 run margin."