The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Lee most exciting, not Sachin

Sourav Ganguly did the right thing by opting to bowl first when he won the toss at the Wanderers. Had Ricky Ponting won it, he would have done the same thing, and his bowlers would probably have bundled out India for 150 ó the conditions were so much in favour of the bowlers.

Walking off after the toss, Sourav would probably have been quite chuffed up since his seamers had served him well right through the tournament.

All that changed within the first 15 minutes of the match. The Indian bowlers were a little too tight and tense and this resulted in a very poor bowling performance. They hit a poor length and were far too short. In the first couple of overs itself both Matthew Hayden and Adam Gilchrist went hard at the bowlers, and this completely unhinged both Zaheer and Nehra.

If one bowler had said: ďHang on, what we need here is not extra pace, all we have to do is pitch the ball on a little area because the conditions will do the rest.Ē

Sadly for India that did not happen, and the Indian bowlers got worse as they panicked more and more. Even a consistent bowler like Jawagal Srinath was way too short and inaccurate on a big day. With the steady flow of wides and no-balls the Indians completely lost the plot.

The best part of the Australian batting was the way they sustained the run-rate established by Gilchrist and Hayden. The Indians were back in the game at 125 for two.

However, Damien Martyn played a wonderful hand in order to keep the momentum going. Ricky Ponting was struggling for his first 20-30 runs, but Martynís superb strokeplay ensured that the Indians did not get the upper hand at any stage.

Later, when Ponting came into his own, Martyn took a back seat and let his captain take control. This is the stuff of great partnerships and by the end of the innings, they had already won the match.

For the Indians, it all depended on Sachin Tendulkar. He had two options at the start of the innings. Either to look to play out the 50 overs so that he could launch an offensive against the fifth bowler and during the last 10 overs or he could play his shots in the first 15 overs and try to get his team to 130. He chose the latter option, and was going for premeditated shots. The four he hit was not a great shot, and the next one was pretty ghastly.

It was always going to be tough to take on Lee and McGrath and even Tendulkar could not pull it off. The body language was not good when the Indians came to bat. I donít know what was said at lunch but even Rahul Dravid was looking to go slam bang from the start.

Did Sachin finally deserve to be the Man of the Tournament' Well, the facts and the figures would suggest that, but Iíve often seen that statistics can give a wrong picture.

If one goes by instincts, Brett Lee was the most exciting player this World Cup. There are also lots of experts who feel Sachin never fires against the top drawn bowlers when it matters most, so that blot would remain in the final analysis.

Some day he will prove his critics wrong, but Sunday was not that day. The Indians have plenty to be proud of in this tournament. If they had been told that they would be finalists, just after their Holland game, they would have gladly taken it.

Even 18 months from now, they would be proud of the way they have played these six weeks. The Australians landed a knock-out punch Sunday, but the runners-up really entertained everyone till then.

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