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India lose another heartbreaker. in more ways than one. November 4, 2006

Posted by Anand Ramachandran in sports.
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Damn.

You watch a whole game after a long time, and it just HAS to be a last-over nailbiter loss. Well, better than getting trounced by the 45th, with a bagful to spare – as we perhaps deserved to, on the strength of yesterday’s showing.

But what breaks my heart is this – the team got so many things wrong, it wasn’t funny. Even if one of them was done right, we might have sneaked it.

Five hopelessly wayward overs from Irfan Pathan and R.P.Singh up front quickly gave us a mountain to climb, right off the bat (sorry ’bout that). I believe Pathan has it in him to bounce back, hopefully sooner than later, but R.P.Singh looks out of his league at this level. Pathan showed a bit of pluck to come back at the death and bowl reasonably, collecting Lara’s stumps on the way. Singh merely added an assortment of embarrassing fielding manoeuvres to his profligate bowling, and came away India’s least impressive player on the park. In this game, that’s saying something.

The ground fielding was the killer, in my opinion. Lazy, lacklustre, and sometimes downright sloppy – the number of times Indian fielders miscollected, strolled up gently to the ball, or otherwise exhibited a lack of commitment made the jaw drop and the mind boggle. Batsmen and bowlers can take cover behind the convenient ‘bad conditions’ curtain, but there’s simply no excuse for a fielding display like the one India put on in this game. Why, boys? Why? A little bite and sting in the fielders’ body language, and it immediately begins working on the batsman’s mind. Should I chance the single? Maybe I shouldn’t play on the rise. Where are the weak fielders? Suddenly, it’s a different game. Against a team known for buckling under pressure, it would have been well worth a try. Even Raina’s grassed chance of Gayle didn’t hurt us as much as the ground fielding did – in all the subtle ways that are such a huge influence on a cricket match.

I admire Dravid as much as anyone, but I can’t help feeling he let it drift a bit in the middle overs. He should have been barking orders, clapping, shouting encouragement, mixing things up a little. Even if he wasn’t actually DOING anything differently, just being seen to be on top of things would have helped. When he did appear, it was a tad too late.

Sure, the batting failed – but the game was not yet lost at the dinner break. Sure, they could have picked Powar – but everyone’s a selector after the game’s done and dusted. We could still have won if we got a few simple things right when defending. Period.

‘THE HINDU’ gave us a lame report this morning stating ‘India goes down fighting’, or some such tripe. True, we did show great improvement in the latter half of the game, but the oh-so-close finish was greatly helped by some brainless batting from Morton, Lara and Smith. Even in the penultimate over, a single edged boundary from Lara or Smith would have made this game seem like a thrashing.

Lots of work to do if we’re to beat Australia, who will doubtless be primed and ready for a do-or-die match.

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