Wednesday, May 12, 2010


All right, the semi-finalists have been confirmed... there were no surprises in store yesterday. India lost a last-ball thriller to Sri Lanka. And West Indies, needing a 24-run win to advance, were bundled out early and lost comprehensively to the mighty Aussies.

Semi Final Fixtures:

England v Sri Lanka
Australia v Pakistan

As I have predicted a couple of times already in my previous blogs, the finals will be played between Australia and Sri Lanka at Kensington Oval, Barbados.

Back again to India's poor performances on the tour. Lets take it step by step. The team was humiliated in the last edition of World Twenty20 in England by fast, pacy and bouncy bowling. They drew a lot of flak for their performances then.

But it was soon forgotten because the team soon became the World No. 1 Test Team. But that was a different team. That Team India had Virendra Sehwag, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar and VVS Laxman at No. 2, 3, 4 and 5. This team had Murali Vijay, Suresh Raina, Rohit Sharma / Yuvraj Singh / MS Dhoni / Yusuf Pathan at those positions. A difference in class altogether.

Then came a few meaningless ODI tournaments against Sri Lanka and Bangladesh before another Test series where India retained the No. 1 ranking. A win in the 3-ODI series followed, which was again masterminded by Sachin Tendulkar's 200*, who is a part of that team and not this team.

And then came along the IPL. A lot of blame of India's performances has been placed on the rich shoulders of IPL. There were some good performances, some sorry ones and lots of controversies. But in general, it was clear by the end of the tournament that the players are tired of all the cricket and travel. But they did not have any rest to look forward to.

Instead, the World Twenty20 Championship came along... and the players made their way to the Carribbean islands. They opted not to play any warm up matches... and they can be forgiven for that in my opinion for two reasons. One, is was a tight schedule... you also have to get rid of the jet lag. Two, their first fixture was a warm up game in itself (no disrespect meant for Afghanistan... I, for one, am delighted at their progress in cricket).

Their first match went on expected lines: an easy win over the Afghan side. Murali Vijay impressed in his first appearance in the India blues. Then the matches went on unexpected lines.

India beat South Africa comprehensively riding on Suresh Raina's 101. This team again made merry when on a slow pitch. They entered the Super Eights looking falsely formidable. And then, the same old story replayed again. Three more defeats in Super Eight matches means India has lost six consecutive Super Eight matches in World Twenty20s. And almost all of them to the same script - bounce them out.

I have been extremely disappointed by Dhoni's strategies in the Super Eight matches. The Kensington Oval pitch was not meant for a part time spin based attack. One can understand him misreading the pitch during the first match against Australia... but when you repeat the same mistake on the very same pitch, you need to be pulled up.

About yesterday's match now... the game went along fine for India till 11 overs when India was well placed at 96 for 1. Then Gambhir went. That was also fine. Wickets are bound to fall. But then I saw my fears come true. The captain had promoted himself to No. 4. My friends were of the opinion that it Dhoni might promote Yusuf Pathan up the order. But I had a feeling at the back of my mind that this is what Dhoni likes... dead flat pitch, not a fast bowling attack, India well-placed... basically, a batsman's wish when he knows that he is not a good enough batsman!

Dhoni came... and the momentum went out of the window. By the end of the innings, he had managed a 19-ball 23 not out with 1 six... at the end of an innings with wickets in hand, this is unacceptable. When you have the ability to hit a clean straight ball, why would you want to pre-meditate paddle sweeps and make yourself look like a complete fool (this applies to AB De Villiers also)?

India managed only 73 in the last 10... and Dhoni has to take the flak for it. When you are entering in the 12th over, you are responsible for the slog over acceleration... more so if you are a captain. Dhoni's performances, with the bat as well as in the field as a leader, were extremely disappointing. Indeed, most of the players put in sad performances.

Harbhajan, effective in all the earlier matches, finally came across a man ready to take the attack to him in the form of TM Dilshan... and the result? Bhajji withered under the attack and helped Sri Lankans to a few more easy runs with flatter bowling. When you do not bowl to pick up wickets, it may work against South Africa or England, but it will not work everytime. You need to be aware of this fact.

I have already expressed my views of India's batsmen and their ability to play the short ones in here. A last word now on the IPL. I don't think it will be fair to blame IPL for this debacle. Even if the players would have been fresh, it wouldn't have improved their technique against short balls.

IPL is, like everything else in life, a mixture of the good, the bad and the ugly (that's Lalit Modi)! It has helped India unearth a pool of talent that even the administrators did not know existed. They got a chance to rub shoulders with their heroes... learn from them.

The only problem with the IPL is that it is scheduled just before the World Twenty20 leaving the players tired and exhausted. In my mind, it is clear that an ICC tournament is a lot more important than an IPL. So the IPL administrators should have been a little more sensible in their scheduling. I know they didn't have a big window... but had Lalit Modi been a little more cooperative with everyone else, then even ICC would have cooperated with him in creating a decent window for his brainchild.

Once the IPL fatigue wears off, and players of that team (SRT, RSD, Viru and VVS) return, the team will look a lot better... on paper as well as in results. I just hope that this time, true learning takes place. If this experience is also swept away under the carpet, as it happenned the last time round, then God help the future of Indian cricket!

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