Centurion, Feb. 15: If the visiting Lok Sabha Speaker Manohar Joshi could, he would (at the break) have adjourned the SuperSport Park proceedings sine die. So embarrassing, after all, was India’s performance in what was billed as a potentially high-voltage World Cup Pool A shootout.
As it turned out, Australia took India to the cleaners, washing away some of Sourav Ganguly’s hopes of qualifying for the Super Six. So one-sided was the game that the capacity turnout, which included BCCI members from Mumbai and Goa, had reason to feel cheated.
The Australians were aggressive all right, the intentions announced when Brett Lee was asked to partner Glenn McGrath with the new ball, but the Indians played their part in encouraging an overtly all-guns-blazing assault.
After beating India black and blue (all out for a World Cup lowest of 125), the Australians knocked off the runs in under 23 overs, with Adam Gilchrist and Matthew Hayden improving their averages. The express speed of the victory “surprised” even captain Ricky Ponting.
Sourav feels “much cricket” remains and any of the teams could join frontrunners Australia in completing the qualification from the pool. But the (expected) decision against England, on the Zimbabwe issue, is bound to cause problems for India. (The ICC has awarded full points to Zimbabwe — See Sport.)
“Two slots are open,” Sourav remarked, adding he had “no answers” for the team’s repeated failures with the bat. “I don’t have the reason... We’re working hard at the nets, but nobody is putting enough runs on the board.”
It’s unusual for Sourav to not have answers and unless the batsman in him gets going, for the first time since last November’s ODI in Vadodara (versus the West Indies) where he got 53, more questions will keep surfacing. He did accept that, as captain, he has to take his share of the blame.
Sourav did well to claim the toss, yet he himself began the back-to-the-dressing room procession. If another poor shot cost his wicket, the Virender Sehwags and Mohammed Kaifs weren’t better.
Top-scorer Sachin Tendulkar (36) fell to a beauty — a slower one from Man of the Match Jason Gillespie — while Harbhajan Singh, the No. 2 contributor, showed guts in not being rattled by a Lee blow to his helmet.
But 125 is no total to defend. Not on an excellent wicket. Not against Australia.
Visibly pleased at pocketing four points, Ponting took a dig at the Indians’ batting. “I don’t think the order is an issue... It’s just that nobody in the top seven has consistently been getting runs….”
He also took delight in pointing out that the Indians confirmed they aren’t comfortable when the ball heads for the rib-cage or thereabouts.
The Indians leave for Harare tomorrow morning to launch the we-now-have-to-win-all-the-matches campaign.