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October 31, 2000
The entire city of Calcutta seems to have been shocked by the performance of the Indian batsmen in the final of the Coca Cola Champions Trophy at Sharjah. This is not just true of the past and present cricketers of the state. Even people who have not much interest in the game are discussing the debacle that the Indian team passed through. Like the one, who comes to the market place everyday to buy items. "I avoided buying a newspaper today so that I can avoid reading the humiliation that we suffered at the hands of the Sri Lankans.'' Or for that matter, the taxi driver who said, "Usually, I stop driving the day India plays a match. I am very lucky that I was on duty on Sunday. I was saved from being a witness to the shameful spectacle."
In fact, more than anyone else, it is the common man on the streets who is blaming the Indian captain Sourav Ganguly for playing an indiscreet shot. Rahul Gupta, a student of a well known college in the city here said, "he should have refrained from taking such a risk. Especially as, he is the only one who could have won us the game. The media is raising a hue and cry on the failure of Sachin Tendulkar to win us the match. However, he has never won us a game singulalrly since the Coca Cola Cup in Sharjah two years ago. Ganguly should have stayed in the middle and not depended on Tendulkar."
Former state cricketers are also at a loss to explain the debacle. As the former Indian captain Pankaj Roy said, "It was rank bad batting. Look, our cricketers have played Muralitharan before. I am not ready to believe that he has suddenly become a magical bowler. We played spin with the wrong technique. And above all, I cannot understand how Chaminda Vass got five wickets. There is no doubt that he bowled well. But the figures he notched up on Sunday were gifted to him by the Indian batsmen."
Like Roy, former Bengal opener Palash Nundy attributes the defeat to bad batting. "We had a chance in the match. However, the moment, the score crossed 275, I knew that the task was going to be very difficult. However, the batsmen let us down. To a certain extent, they panicked. But then what can you expect after you are at the recieving end of an innings of 189? I had realised the match was more or less gone when Sunil Joshi dropped Sanath Jayasuriya when he was on 93."
Nundy, however, made it clear that the Indian selectors should not do much of chopping and changing with the team. "Most of the youngsters have shown a lot of promise. They should be persisted with. Reaching the final of the ICC Trophy and the tournament at Sharjah have been an achievement in itself. Just remember that we played the final at Sharjah without regulars like Javagal Srinath, Mohammed Azharduddin, Anil Kumble, Rahul Dravid and Ajay Jadeja."
Even though there were no demonstrations of any sort in the city, the debacle in Sharjah was the centre of discussion almost everywhere. Even Buddhadev Bhattacharya, who has been chosen as the successor to West Bengal's long serving Chief Minister Jyoti Basu had a comment to offer. A keen cricket fan, he said was, "I cannot believe that this has happened. I feel sad for Saurav Ganguly. But then he will have to learn from these setbacks."
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