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Coming on the back of one of the hardest fought and most compelling Test series of recent times, the VB had much to live up to. India had been tantalisingly close to defeating Australia in the Tests, and hopes were high that the one-day games would produce similarly dramatic cricket. But though the Indians started well, and in their early games against Australia retained the fierce competitiveness that lit up the Tests, they ran out of steam even before the finals - in which they were hammered.
Another factor in a disappointing tournament was that the third team, Zimbabwe, merely made up the numbers, losing seven games with their eighth ruined by the weather, though they did once come within a boundary of surprising India.
Perhaps the Indians were weary at the end of a long and demanding tour, but great sides overcome fatigue and lift their game when it matters - as Australia showed, time and again. And quite simply, the Indians were outclassed by a team who, when it came to crunch matches, were in a different league: Australia beat India five times out of six.
One of the Australian stars, Adam Gilchrist, ran into superb form after a disappointing run in the Tests, but he was far from alone. Matthew Hayden was savage at the top, Ricky Ponting brutal in the middle and Andrew Symonds devastating at the death. (Symonds usually batted No. 5, but in this company there was no guarantee he would see more than the closing overs.) Michael Clarke, aged just 22, also showed why many believed he would assume Steve Waugh's place in the Test side. Brett Lee was caned early in the tournament - against India at Brisbane, he conceded 83 runs - but he soon regained his lethal reputation. The rest of the pace attack all showed that they had more than enough control and guile to prevent the Indians rebuilding an innings.
Despite some sublime batting from V. V. S. Laxman, who hit three hundreds in the series, India never matched the world champions for urgency, athleticism, improvisation or in exerting pressure. They were also unable to make as much impact with the new ball as the Australians, though Irfan Pathan, the 19-year-old Indian left-armer, did take 16 wickets - more than anyone else - if at a cost of more than five and a half an over.
The Test series had been close because it celebrated the classicism of Laxman, Rahul Dravid and (in Sydney) Sachin Tendulkar. In the abbreviated form of the game, it soon became clear that those same Indian batsmen simply could not produce the ferocity of their Australian counterparts. Laxman hit his 443 runs at a respectable strike-rate of 83 per 100 balls, but he was eclipsed by Gilchrist, whose 498 came at a hum-dinging 122. The combination of plentiful runs and coruscating speed - Symonds added 349 at 94 for good measure - was irresistible.
Match reports for
1st Match: Australia v India at Melbourne, Jan 9, 2004