| NEHRA: The new star on horizon
India lost the World Cup final inside the first ten overs of the match against Australia but they gained considerable ground during the tournament.
Australia proved the pundits correct when they added to their impressive recent record of wins by taking the final in a canter.
Adam Gilchrist intimidated the Indian bowlers on a wicket that offered the seam bowlers more than a modicum of assistance and from there it was all downhill for India. With each run made by the Australian batsmen the pressure was building on the Indian batsmen, especially Sachin Tendulkar.
One thing about this Australian team is that, apart from their talent, they are the best-prepared team in world cricket. They came to this World Cup with the intention of peaking for the final. Everything they have done in the tournament was aimed at being on top of their game for the Wanderers finale.
Even the setback of losing Shane Warne, then Jason Gillespie, has not been allowed to interrupt their preparation. Brad Hogg and Andy Bichel slipped into the team seamlessly.
Ricky Ponting and John Buchanan would not allow any negative thoughts to enter the minds of anyone involved with the touring party.
One of the main dangers for a player leading into a big game such as this is that he will have played the game over and over in his mind before the actual event. By the time he arrives at the ground he is mentally exhausted from having tossed and turned for hour after hour playing imaginary innings or bowling make-believe overs. We have all made that mistake!
It is only experience that teaches you to save your energy for when it is required. Either you learn that lesson early or your career will be a brief one.
Australia were the more experienced of these two teams with six players having played in the winning team in 1999 and it showed up early. The Indian players appeared much more on edge than their Australian counterparts.
India arrived at the final with great hopes of lifting the trophy from the supremely confident and focused Australians. The confidence gained from eight wins in a row since their loss to Australia had given them good reason for their optimism. Had not India’s recent victories been more decisive than Australia’s wins over New Zealand and Sri Lanka'
The counter to that was that they had not batted against an attack as powerful as that possessed by Australia nor had they bowled against as formidable a batting line up as the boys from Down Under.
Sourav Ganguly would have been delighted to have won the toss on a wicket sporting some moisture from heavy overnight rain. He will have wanted to avoid facing the likes of Brett Lee and Glenn McGrath for one thing, but it was also a chance for his attack to put some pressure on the Australian top-order.
After all, had not the Australians been struggling to get a good start'
What is often overlooked when sending the opposition in to bat is how much pressure it puts on the bowlers. The expectation is that they should take early wickets. This can increase the tension that, in turn, makes it hard to bowl with freedom and precision.
Some bowlers try too hard in this situation. Others are prone to succumb to the pressure. On this occasion Jawagl Srinath was the former and Zaheer Khan was the latter.
There were enough balls bouncing and seaming to suggest that winning the toss was an advantage. The trouble was that the bowlers could not hit a line or a length. By the time Gilchrist had reached his fifty and Australia their 100 inside 15 overs, the Indian team body language told a dismal tale.
A score of 350 plus was on the cards and you could feel the noose tightening on the Indian batsmen. More than ever India were going to require another masterpiece from the Little Master. He cannot always oblige. He is only human after all!
What this score did for the Australian bowlers was to take the pressure off them. A few early errors were not likely to be fatal so they could steam in and try to unsettle the Indian openers.
This Australian team has lifted the bar a little higher. No other country is remotely close to having the combination of infrastructure and preparation that Australia possess. Until such time as they do, or until some of the giants of this Australian team retire, I cannot see anyone matching their combination of talent and commitment to excellence.
India have made considerable ground during this tournament. Ashish Nehra is a new star on the horizon and some of the young batsmen show signs of developing into excellent players and Sachin is still Sachin.
There is much to look forward to for the Indian supporters, but they are still a long way short of being able to match the overall strength of this wonderful Australian team.