Even, as we slam our cricket team, spare a thought for the brilliant cricket that Sri Lanka played, this was a team that seemed down and out on its tour of England, almost entirely because Muttiah Muralitharan was unfit. It re-grouped and with the wizard off-spinner available, it re-discovered its self-belief. It won the tournament in Morocco in style, disposing of both Pakistan and South Africa.
Before its home crowd, Sri Lanka started as favourites to beat Pakistan. Why then are we so surprised that Pakistan lost? But more than surprised, we are angry.
We have got quite used to believing that the Pakistan team can only lose if there is internal bickering or that the bookies have got to it. We rarely give any credit to our opponents. Sanath Jayasuriya is one of the best batsmen in the world and when he fires, Sri Lanka usually wins. Muralitharan is the best spinner in the world, in both versions of the game. If there is such a person as a match-winner in this team game, it is he. It was our bad luck that both were at the top of their game and throw in Aravinda de Silva and our cup of grief was full.
But when a team is down on its luck, the rub of the green is not with it. I thought that Jayasuriya was caught behind off Wasim Akram early in his innings and Aravinda was plumb out, leg-before. The umpire who had not hesitated to go to the third umpire in the case of Shoaib Malik, chose not to use technology in this case. But one has to accept this in cricket as the Sri Lankans had to accept that Saeed Anwar got two lives before he was finally out.
But having said all this, there seems to be little doubt that something is not right with the team. From its body-language, it gives the impression that the players are not enjoying their cricket.
I don't think it would be right to say that they have been playing too much cricket. The Indians, for example came to Colombo virtually straight from a long and gruelling tour of England. The team showed no sign of mental or physical fatigue despite having to cope with the tension of the contract row with their own Board and the ICC.
I really can't see what the grievances can be. It is too simplistic to say that there is feuding in the team. There has to be some reason for in-fighting. The team started to unravel in Morocco and that is when the team management should have stepped in and sorted things out.
I don't think it is fair to pin-point or target individuals for what, prima facie, is a collective failure. In management, areas of responsibility and authority should be clearly spelt out.
The captain should be in charge of them on the field, the coach should run the nets and even the captain should be subservient to him in this area. If, so instance, Yusuf Youhana had refused to appear at the nets, it should have been the coach who should have been the disciplining authority. And the manager should be above all this. Somewhere, I feel there has been either an overlapping or a dereliction. It is not just the team that should get its act together but the management as well.
There are 'weak' areas in the team. The batting has not clicked but the main reason is that Inzamam has not been available. This is why the batting order has not been stable. Pakistan is not like Australia. There are no alternatives available. Then there was the wholly avoidable row with Yousuf Youhana. The younger players seem to have got caught in the cross-fire and I can't help feeling that Shahid Afridi is getting too much advice and Imran Nazir not enough or else he wouldn't be making the same mistake over and over again. I would recommend that he too should be brought back and made to play against Sri Lanka 'A'. He should start getting some runs under his belt and there is nothing like a century or two to restore one's confidence.
From the matches played so far in the ICC Champions Trophy, the fielding, apart from Pakistan, is of the highest class. The key to fielding is that it should be enjoyed and not seen as manual labour.
It didn't seem right that Saeed Anwar having batted should have been allowed to skip fielding and Imran Nazir brought in to field for him. Jayasuriya did appear to bring this to the notice of the umpires who took no notice. Saeed Anwar is not among the fleetest of fielders and he was replaced by the best fielder in the team.
Judging by media reports, the ICC's Anti-Corruption Unit seems to be very busy making sure that the players do not make any contact of any sort with what are deemed to be unauthorised persons. There are shades of Peter Sellers as Inspector Closseau in the Pink Panther films. Even girl cricket fans, the groupies who attach themselves to cricket teams are being watched and questioned. Big Brother seems to be watching closely over the players and keeping the bookies at bay.
This is supposed to be a rehearsal for the World Cup. This must be tough on the players. Did they bring this sort of vigilance on themselves? It seems to be a validation of the saying that when two elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers.
Does the ICC Anti-Corruption Unit have the legal right to carry out vigilance in the hotels of the teams? Is this not an invasion of privacy of the hotel guests? The ICC Anti-Corruption Unit should be going after the bookies and by now, it should have got a good idea of who they are. Unless, it is trying to justify its existence.
One wishes the ICC would have shown the same vigilance in drawing up the contracts with the players instead of climbing down when challenged by the Indian players.