Dravid admits India are low on confidence
In the final what separated the winner from the loser was the confidence factor. Sri Lanka drove on with the impeccable record of winning in the finals to move forward, while India succumbed under pressure once again in the summit clash. In all Sri Lanka have played 14 finals and they have just lost two.
Greg Chappell, the Indian coach, was direct in his analysis when he said that the team had been struggling in the one-dayers. "The team is not been doing particularly well in one-day cricket. Winning takes some practice. We are bit down on confidence at the moment," he continued. "With success, we got a little bit careless and thought success would continue. Well, it hasn't continued and we have got a crisis in confidence. Otherwise, I don't think there is much difference between the two teams." The Indian Oil Cup series was Chappell's first assignment and despite just winning two of the five matches in the series, he felt that his team were in a position to do much better. "We were in a position to win three or four of the five games but we were not good enough. We do have to analyse not only this series but what has been happening in recent times in Indian cricket."
His captain Rahul Dravid was not that worried that Indian had lost one more final as he felt it was a learning curve and they had to start getting better. "We have not won many finals. It is just a question of going back and working on it, getting ourselves in good position, getting ourselves in more finals and trying to win them. We have to learn from and get better at."
He further added that the Sri Lankans understand their conditions very well and were the only team to bowl two spinners in the last ten overs. "They have that nous to win in these conditions as they understand how to play cricket here and not many teams beat them."
Dravid backed his team selection of playing an extra bowler instead of the batsman He reasoned on the fact that it had not helped the team when they had played an extra batsman in the past finals. "We played a lot of finals with a bowler short and ended up giving runs and then it doesn't really matter how many batsmen you have. I backed my batsmen as each one of us had got runs at some stage of the tournament. If we could restrict them to a decent score we could chase successfully. But Sri Lanka batted well in the middle overs and a wicket there might have restricted them to 250."
Chappell thought 281 was an achievable score and the team was in a position to win untill the last 15 overs. "281 was a reasonable target and Rahul and Yuvraj (Singh) were batting well and at one stage we needed 112 runs from 108 balls with 8 wickets in hand and we should've won the game from there."
Yuvraj who had scored a match-winning century in the last group game against the West Indies was showing the same fluency but in a period of urgency played a shot too many. His wicket triggered a quick mini-collapse. "Yuvraj's wicket and my run out coming in quick succession was a turning point, as we left a bit too much for the lower order. We needed to carry on for at least six to seven overs," said Dravid.
Sri Lankan captain Marvan Atapattu said he was aware that India would come out strongly early on, especially with the likes of hard-hitting Virender Sehwag opening. "We tried to patient as we knew they would come hard at us in the first 15 overs and we just tried to remain patient."
Sri Lanka's total was boosted by a fifth-wicket partnership of 125 runs between the in-form Mahela Jayawardene and Russel Arnold, who were busy stealing singles and twos, ticking the scoreboard over. Jayawardene, who had scored an unbeaten 94 against India in Dambulla in the fourth game of the series, felt it was nice to be under less pressure this time as his partner was taking the lead in the getting the runs. "It is always good when the guy who comes in starts scoring quickly and takes the pressure off you. My job became easier with Russel coming in and moving the scoreboard."
Atapattu attributed the series win to the team and felt, "We all have performed in one game or the other to secure this victory. So this is a team thing. We trust each other and we enjoy each other's company and that helps us perform as a team."
Dravid's conclusion was more downbeat: "Sri Lanka is the number two side in the world in one-day form so they have been winning consistently which we have been not been doing over the last 14 to 16 months. When you get yourself in the position to win sometimes you just need that extra bit of confidence to win."
Nagraj Gollapudi is sub-editor of Wisden Asia Cricket