June 2, 2000

Indian team in need of shock treatment

One aspect for which credit can be given to the Indian team is for putting in a fair bit of thought on the eve of their encounter with the Sri Lankans in the Asia Cup. Dravid was nominated to don the gloves to facilitate the inclusion of an extra bowler in Nikhil Chopra. This line of thought cannot be really criticised as this was bound to happen sooner or later. Dravid performed creditably behind the wickets for one doing the job as a stopgap.

Starting from the toss the Sri Lankans held sway as they methodically imposed their superiority over the Indians. Thiru Kumaran provided the Indians some respite by dismissing Aravinda De Silva, but the partnership between Attapattu and Jayasurya established a solid launching pad for the offensive in the slog overs. Sanath Jayasuriya batted with a lot of responsibility curbing his natural attacking instinct. The usual flair was lacking but the strike rate never suffered as he completed his century.

The inclusion of Chopra did not make any difference at all as the Sri Lankans gathered the runs without having to take any chances. Ganguly was not very confident of employing either Joshi or Robin Singh and it was once again left to Tendulkar to deliver. The bowling utility of Tendulkar apart, the difference between him and the rest is in the mental toughness. Tendulkar may enjoy the advantage of not having to perform with the ball, but his positive attitude is the key to success in breaking partnerships.

The Indians effected a minor Sri Lankan slump with Tendulkar and Agarkar picking up a couple of wickets each. Jayasuriya's run out provided the upper hand for the Indians but it was squandered away. Kaluwitharana, involved in the run out of his skipper, made amends with a useful knock and kept Vaas going during their partnership. Vaas played a little gem of an innings.

The Sri Lankan total in the end proved to be more than formidable. Tendulkar exhibited a great deal of resolve and looked determined to play a match-winning knock. Ganguly played an uncharacteristic shot resulting in his dismissal. The promotion of Joshi to number three has not really worked before and the chances of that experiment succeeding does not promising even in the future. This is where an experienced cricketer like Robin Singh would have been a better bet. He is capable of rotating the strike and can deliver some big hits at will. Tendulkar was left to carry on with the task of winning the match but none of his partners hung around to provide any support. Dravid has still not worked out his problems with regard to the demands of one-day cricket and the team management might well think of giving him a break.

The suicidal run out of Azharuddin made matters worse and Jadeja seems to be still suffering from his ailment. He did not appear to be his normal self throughout the game and tiredness was evident in his mannerisms. The exit of Tendulkar to a good catch by Jayawardene rang the death knell for the Indians and with Singh following him immediately to the dressing room it was curtains for the Indians. It is difficult to pinpoint as to why the Indian team is performing so badly when one considers the combined experience of the individuals making up the team. It is about time Kapil Dev read the riot act and sometimes shock treatment does produce wonders.