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In cricketing terms, India were dew... sorry, er... due to lose a match after four wins in a row. It was a Sunday, it was a day-night affair and India played with an inexperienced bowling attack. It was Sri Lanka's best chance of notching up their first victory in this Videocon Cup. While I give Sri Lanka all credit for winning this match, I must say that they played in favourable conditions under lights. Sri Lankans love chasing under lights and India were left defending a mediocre score of 285 without a strong bowling attack to defend it.
The Indians didn't play badly. Though tempting, it would be unfair to label them complacent just because they lost a game after winning four in a row to seal the series. It was only natural that they wanted to give the younger players an opportunity to go out there and show their mettle with a tough season ahead. And to be honest, I think they did a fair job under the circumstances. However, the hostility of the conditions under lights with the dew taking over the outfield proved too much for these young bowlers. Hell, even stronger bowling sides like Pakistan and Australia have struggled with dewy conditions in the subcontinent over the years. It was too much to expect these guys to bowl out Sri Lanka on such a good batting track. By the way, I've never been the biggest advocate of playing day and night games particularly in India, because the playing conditions change drastically in the evening and give one side or the other an unfair advantage. I say this not because India lost and Sri Lanka won in this instance, but because in the larger scheme of things it takes the competitive edge out of cricket by not providing a level-playing field. Then again, cricket administrators have never seriously looked into this issue in the past because it's the "spectacle" and the "show" of playing under lights which count, not the cricketing aspect of the matter. So they continue to brush this issue aside year after year.
I strongly believe that India lost the game in the first half of the match, probably at the toss. Even as early as when Yuvraj came out to bat and struggled to get the ball off the square, I knew that it was not India's day. Talking of Yuvraj, he seems to have hit a rough patch. The problem with him seems to be in his mind more than with his bat, because he appears to be unsure whether his job is to defend or to attack - whether to graft for his runs by playing himself in or to play his natural game by going after the bowling. In that confusion, he's not really been doing anything at all with the bat. Unlike Kaif, he needs a more clear cut role in the team, because he is not comfortable batting at any slot that is given to him. Maybe it's an issue for Greg Chappell to look into.
I cannot explain the feeling or why I thought that way, but somehow I knew very early on in the match that Sri Lanka had a 90% chance of winning the match. In other words, it was almost certain. The best illustration of this trend was probably when Dhoni walked out to bat and walked back in after facing just one ball. He was a touch unlucky with the decision, but it kind of exemplified the day's play - maybe because it was a Sunday and maybe it was because it was a day-night affair. Whatever it was, it was just that kind of a day when the Indian batsmen gifted away their wickets just when they were starting to get going. Maharoof, the supersub hit the jackpot by running up and bowling and getting four wickets just like that. I don't think I've ever seen a less deserved four wicket haul than that. Luck sided the Sri Lankans all the way and to be fair, they earned their share of it by playing good cricket all through.
All in all, I think the Indians would gain a lot from this defeat if taken in the right spirit. Even though Sri Lanka won, it was a tough fight until the final few overs and the fielding standards the Indians maintained were excellent, the run out of Jayawardena being the highlight. The young players have now got some exposure in tough conditions and this experience should help them get mentally tougher. If anything, this defeat should sting them really hard because that's the way you come back and motivate yourself to perform in the next match. Just look at the Australians: they've come out and mercilessly decimated a hapless West Indies team in the first Test match at the Gabba. Since the Ashes defeat, they have looked much hungrier for success because they absolutely hate losing. They appear that much more motivated to prove that they are the best side in the world. This new-look Indian team should learn a few things from that. Win or lose, the attitude is what matters.
Picture courtesy: news.bbc.co.uk
Posted on Mon, Nov 7, 2005 at 09:54 IST (last updated: Sun, May 24, 2009 @ 19:21 IST)