K.C. Vijaya Kumar
Teams are remembered for their victories
Karachi: In a span of three weeks, India has inched closer to glory before blinking.
The loss to Pakistan in the Kitply Cup summit clash at Dhaka was deemed to be a wake-up call. Somehow that call has not been heeded and after the 100-run defeat to Sri Lanka in the STAR Asia Cup final on Sunday night, the old habit of stumbling at the last hurdle has returned to haunt.
“How many teams make it to the final on a consistent basis?” Dhoni may have asked but deep inside the skipper would know that no one remembers the runner-up.
Only victors matter
Dhoni and his merry band of youngsters also know how it feels to triumph against odds and relish the euphoria generated by an adoring public and corporates keen to share the visibility as evident in the welcome the teams got after the ICC World Twenty20 and CB Series triumphs.
Teams are remembered for their victories and not the individual numbers that its players can churn up.
Arjuna Ranatunga has just four Test and four ODI hundreds but his legend is built on moulding a Sri Lankan team that won the World Cup in 1996 and his unstinted backing of Muttiah Muralitharan.
India’s Asia Cup journey was built on batting glory and marred by lacklustre bowling. R.P. Singh bagged seven wickets with an average of 34.14 while Ishant Sharma got six costing 47.83 apiece.
Irfan Pathan, returning from injury and going through the horrors, got three wickets from three matches at an inflationary cost of 71.66 per dismissal.
Pragyan Ojha’s steady returns in the few matches he got and Ishant’s early overs in the final were some of the heartening aspects.
The pitches at Karachi, termed as the ‘best batting wickets in the world’ by coach Gary Kirsten, can deflate bowlers but the worrying aspect is that in the coming months, India will play on similar dust bowls under the sub-continental sun.
A tour of Sri Lanka, ICC Champions Trophy in Pakistan and home series against Australia are the immediate signposts that have been lined up and the quicker the bowlers adjust to the conditions, the better it is for the team.
India’s batting in the Asia Cup was a fifth-gear ride until the final meltdown against Ajantha Mendis.
Suresh Raina, Virender Sehwag, Dhoni and Gautam Gambhir are placed second, third, fifth and seventh in the tournament’s run-getters list.
And the moments of cheer have been the telepathy that exists between Sehwag and Gambhir though it is still early days to compare them to the Tendulkar-Ganguly combine.
Raina has made a good comeback but the ugly shot in the final did his cause more harm than good.
Dhoni has emerged as the batsman to bank on in the middle overs and his 327 from six matches had the best average in the tournament – 109 runs per innings.
Rohit Sharma had a lukewarm tournament and Yuvraj, except for a few lusty shots, had minimal impact. Yusuf Pathan, walking on a cloud thanks to the IPL, came crashing down as he perhaps forgot that in ODIs, batting hinges on consolidation followed by attack.
Robin Uthappa too muffed his chances and needs to recoup. A batsman of pedigree in S. Badrinath is hovering in the wings and the selectors’ gaze might shift.
The team’s fielding too left a lot to be desired and it is strange that young legs are tiring fast. Team India needs to buck up.
And with the fatigue-factor cropping up and Dhoni letting the cat among the pigeons with his “wait and watch” answer to a query on whether he will be rested for the Sri Lankan tour, these are interesting times for Indian cricket.