July 8, 2001

Lack of attention to detail cause for India's loss to West Indies

Four comfortable wins in four matches

Four comfortable wins in four matches. Consistent run scoring from arguably the world's best batsman, Sachin Tendulkar. A three pronged pace attack firing on all cylinders. A clean sweep of everything but the match that mattered most. What went wrong for the Indian team in the Coca-Cola Cup in Zimbabwe? For starters, no one gave the West Indies a chance and perhaps some of that spirit crept into the Indian think tank as well. Going into the final without breaking into a sweat, Sourav Ganguly was still walking arm in arm with Lady Luck as he called heads and put the opposition in to bat.

Then came Daren Ganga and Chris Gayle. With Ajit Agarkar warming the bench, Ganguly threw the new ball to Debashish Mohanty. The highly rated Orissa swing bowler seemed to trust the pitch report of the expert commentators more than his own. The pitches through the series have had something in them for the quicker bowlers early on. The wicket for the final however seemed a touch different. With the ball gripping the surface a bit and not really swinging much, Mohanty needed to adjust his line and length a touch. He failed to do so, persisted with a line and length that was ineffective on an unhelpful surface and had the cover taken off the ball. Ganga, known more as a grafter than a big shot player drove and pulled with such ferocity that Mohanty was very quickly out of stride. His first three overs cost 26 runs, and the next two 17 - an overall analysis of 5-0-43-0.

That was the first irreparable mistake the Indians made. Apart from getting the scoring rate up, the initial burst gave the West Indians the belief that there was a way to stop the Indian juggernaut. With Ganga moving from strength to strength the Indians desperately needed to slow the game down. This is something you see the Pakistanis and Sri Lankans doing with great effect. All of a sudden the captain would confer with his men, the field would be moved around... The Indians however did not even think along these lines. Instead, over after over was sent down with the prospects of a big total looming larger with every passing over.

When Ganga (71) was finally dismissed the Indians had a glimpse at better times. Wavell Hinds, in less than fluent touch, struggled to keep the scoreboard ticking over. All the while, Hinds' partner and skipper Carl Hooper was settling in for a valuable knock. At this point Ganguly desperately needed to put the breaks on the game. Hooper's style of play is well documented. Dropping the ball softly down in the off and leg side with irritating regularity the touch artist stole singles at will. 18 of Hooper's 66 runs came off boundary hits and an amazing 38 came in singles. The singles had to be cut off and they weren't.

Then again, not all of India's mistakes were made on the field. Chasing a total of 290 is hard at the best of times. When you lose Sachin Tendulkar for a duck the task becomes doubly harder. VVS Laxman, who has been on the bench for a majority of the tournament walked back into the vital number three slot with almost no match practice. And as he has done all tour, Laxman batted as though every ball was meant to be creamed. Striking three crisp boundaries in his 18, Laxman played one shot too many and perished. Ganguly too, with an eye firmly on the mounting run rate played his share of exciting yet risky shots before perishing on 28. In all the top order mayhem, the Indians did not take into account the composition of the bowling attack of the team from the Caribbean. Corey Collymore and Merv Dillon were the frontline bowlers with an erratic Reon King the third seamer. For the remainder the Indians had to choose from the spin of Hooper, Gayle and Samuels. Surely they could have waited a bit before forcing the pace against the best bowler in the side?

All this however, is as Robert Frost so poetically put it, "Revelation in retrospect." The fact remains that the Indians had a reasonably good outing in the shorter version of the game. Having baked the cake and put the icing on it, the men from the subcontinent would have been disappointed to see the opposition taste success.