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India’s bad-dream day

Port of Spain, March 18: Long after the players had climbed into the team bus, a grim-looking man strode out of the dressing room. Greg Chappell’s face was dark, his lips were pursed, and he was in no mood to oblige the odd autograph-seeker.

The players didn’t disappoint their fans, though, with some even posing for pictures.

Back home, the players’ pictures were burning today and few would have asked the coach for his autograph.

Scenes familiar since the last World Cup, when India had suffered an early defeat against Australia, were being played out from Patna to Jaipur to Jalandhar.

Mobs burnt effigies of skipper Rahul Dravid — who wanted to claw back from the hole and forget the “bad dream” — and scapegoat Virender Sehwag. In Ranchi, fans pulled down a part of the boundary wall of a house Mahendra Singh Dhoni is building.

Aman Vashist, a student in Ahmedabad, voiced the average fan’s grouse: “The cricketers are rich, glamorous men who don’t play well because they are busy endorsing biscuits, cars and shoes.”

In Port of Spain, the sponsors are dreading the prospect of a World Cup without the powerhouses from the subcontinent, cricket’s commercial hub.

Pakistan was sent packing by Ireland last night while the loss to Bangladesh has not only made survival difficult for the Indians but taken it partly out of their hands.

Company representatives looked downcast long after Dravid’s men had left the Queen’s Park Oval, with the captain admitting the defeat was one of the lows of his career.

“Whether it is the most disheartening or not, I don’t know. It is up there with some of the defeats I’ve had as a player and as a captain,” he said.

“We’ve got to win the remaining matches and win well. We’ve learnt our lessons. If we can pull ourselves from the hole, I guess we can forget this as a bad dream.”

In India, former players called for the out-of-form Sehwag, who lasted six balls yesterday before dragging one into his stumps, to be dropped.

“Before this match I believed he should be tried. But the way he got out, I am in two minds,” Ajit Wadekar said. “Bermuda could be the last chance for him.”

The Blues hope Sehwag will fire tomorrow, when they need to win big. A senior player said there would be no shake-up.

India now has a net run rate (average runs conceded per over subtracted from average runs scored per over) of –0.139, behind Sri Lanka (+4.860) and Bangladesh (+0.139). If Super Eight contenders tie on points, the rate will decide the issue.

“We’ve been in this sort of a situation before, and hopefully, we can come out this time too,” the team senior said.

He was referring to the furore after the group-stage defeat to Australia in the last World Cup, shortly before Sourav Ganguly’s boys turned things round and reached the final.

There is no such solace for Pakistan, where fans and former captains were swept by anger and disgust.

Imran Khan and Rashid Latif called for skipper Inzamam-ul Haq and coach Bob Woolmer to be sacked while Intikhab Alam hit out at the “mind-boggling” selections. Mobs burnt players’ effigies and conducted mock burials, terming March 17 a “black day”.

“We are less ashamed than Pakistan at least,” Nazakat Khan, 33, tried to console himself in Delhi.

Teams for today’s match:

India (likely): Sourav Ganguly, Virender Sehwag, Robin Uthappa, Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Yuvraj Singh, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Ajit Agarkar, Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan, Munaf Patel.

Bermuda (from): Irvine Romaine, Delyone Borden, Lionel Cann, David Hemp, Kevin Hurdle, Malachi Jones, Stefan Kelly, Dwayne Leverock, Dean Minors, Saleem Mukuddem, Steven Outerbridge, Oliver Pitcher, Clay Smith, Janeiro Tucker, Kwame Tucker.

Umpires: Aleem Dar and Ian Howell.

TV umpire: Daryl Harper.

Match referee: Alan Hurst.

Match starts 7 pm (Indian time)

Written with agency reports
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