The Indians will have to do a lot of soul searching
If the Sri Lankans humbled the Indians on the Friday, they humiliated them in the final of the Coca-Cola Champions Trophy at Sharjah. At the start of the 49th over during the Sri Lankan innings, both the captains reached a stage where they couldn't care less, but for different reasons. While Jayasuriya was intent on throwing his bat at anything and everything without bothering about the results, Ganguly decided to bring himself on to bowl, as he must have thought that it could not get worse. Jayasuriya despatched the first ball for a four but got out the very next delivery. It was the only triumph for Ganguly on a day which otherwise was something short of a torture.
Jayasuriya called correctly during the toss and from then on wrote his own script in which every other player in the opposing rank was more or less a pawn to be manipulated to his wont. A cover-drive off the very first ball he faced from Zaheer Khan clearly indicated that the big occasion was not playing on his nerves. Both Jayasuriya and Kaluwitharana started off freely with the skipper leading the way with some rousing shots. His partner Kaluwitharana also started in an ominous fashion but failed to play a substantial knock. Jayasuriya subdued the duo of Zaheer Khan and Agarkar from the word go but Khan pulled things back after a wayward first over. Khan eventually accounted for Kaluwitharana when the partnership appeared to be running away.
This breakthrough brought the spring back in the Indians' stride with Atapattu starting off in his customary sedate fashion. Meanwhile Jayasuriya made Prasad pay very dearly for his inaccuracy with a combination of deft touch and raw power. The introduction of Joshi and Tendulkar slowed things down with both of them managing to restrict even Jayasuriya. Atapattu was unfortunate to be run out with the ball deflecting off Tendulkar's hands to the stumps while attempting to stop a drive from Jayasuriya. It was a close call but technology helps the umpires to give the correct verdict. Mahela Jayawardena made the mistake of playing shots too early in his innings and his slog resulted in a skier to be snapped up by Yuvraj Singh.
Jayasuriya was bringing all his experience to keep his attacking instincts under control but the inability of Sangakkara to work the ball around tested the patience of the skipper. Jayasuriya was visibly annoyed on more than one occasion when Tendulkar was allowed to get away with some loose deliveries. Sangakkara perished trying a play an expansive drive off Tendulkar with the inner edge knocking the off stump back. This dismissal was the time for the Indians to just force their way through into the enemy camp but the man of the day, Jayasuriya, had a totally different plot in his script altogether. He found a more than willing ally in Arnold and both of them clawed their way out with some sensible batting in the middle overs. By the end of the 32nd over, a total of 240 would have looked good enough to the Sri Lankans.
The action from that point onwards was breathtaking and any amount of adjectives is not enough to describe the knock Jayasuriya played. Sunil Joshi dropped a straightforward catch off his own bowling and after that, the blitzkrieg from the Sri Lankan skipper was so bamboozling the Indians found it difficult to get over it. Jayasuriya, the genteel human being that he is, seemed as though he was possessed and attacked the Indian attack with incredible ferocity. He had the chance of becoming the first person to get a double hundred in onedayers, but a pre meditated charge down the pitch led to his dismissal.
A target of 300 is not all that easy for the best of batting sides and as such it was even more harder for the Indians who depend on a couple of batsmen heavily. Ganguly was hell bent on proving that he could play the pull shot in this particular tournament and was once again dismissed by Vaas with a shorter delivery. The mistimed pull from Ganguly resulted in not only an easy catch to mid-on but it also triggered off an unexpected and inexplicable collapse. The entire batting line-up wilted under pressure and the Sri Lankans bowled them out for the lowest ever total in Sharjah. Vaas and Muralitharan just ran through the Indians almost as if they were bowling to a bunch of amateurs.
The Indians will have sit and do a lot of soul searching as they have a long season ahead of them. They have to forget the good days they had at Nairobi and with cricket being the great leveler, it has brought the Indians back to reality that consistency is what matters in a team. In the interest of the team and also in his interest Ganguly should refrain from indulging in the pre-match verbal sparring bouts. He and his team would be better off if they prove themselves on the field rather than get sucked into unwanted situations.