Beaten in the last match and disgraced throughout. That would be the most appropriate summation of India�s tour of Australia. There will, quite clearly, be many relieved faces when the team boards a Malaysian Airlines flight to Kuala Lumpur, en route to Chennai tomorrow afternoon.
Not that ending on a winning note would have changed much, but some of the players could have regained much confidence. Of course, India would have salvaged some pride, too.
However, even that was not to be, though India did take the final league game of the Carlton and United Series to the last over. In the context of India�s performances over the past two months, it will be remembered as an �achievement.�
That�s a tragedy, yes, but we have to live with it.
�Losing never makes things easy... We wanted to win (today), but our bowling in the last two-three overs wasn�t upto the mark. Still, we fought well, getting 80 runs in last ten overs and forcing the match itself into the last six deliveries,� remarked captain Sachin Tendulkar.
Incidentally, all three first XI players � Sourav Ganguly, Anil Kumble and Jacob Martin � who were on the injured list, were not fielded. On returning home, Sourav may even have to undergo surgery on his right knee. If it does come to that, Sourav could head to England for surgery.
While Sachin had one more defeat to answer for, Steve Waugh again had that look of contentment. �We did have hiccups, but achieved what we wanted to... I accept, though, our batting ought to have been better (towards the end) and shouldn�t have conceded 80 in the last ten overs,� the Australian captain said.
Australia have set themselves a target of winning 70 per cent of the games. In this tournament alone, they have seven wins (in a row) from eight matches. It�s a phenomenal run but, as Steve accepted, best-of-three finals (against Pakistan) �will be a very different ball game
To return to the day�s action at the WACA, Sachin won the toss and chose the option all captains would have gone for in sweltering heat � set a target, rather than chase one.
With Sourav not around, V.V.S. Laxman opened with Sachin, but if anybody expected him to end the one-dayers in fashion similar to the Test series (an absolutely brilliant 167 in Sydney), another disappointment awaited.
In fact, Laxman fell to Brett Lee�s first delivery, an away-swinger. That was a double blow as Sachin himself had departed on the same score, claimed by a beauty from Damien Fleming, who is brutally effective even if he doesn�t have a Media-savvy image.
Hrishikesh Kanitkar and Rahul Dravid were forced into early repairs, and while the pair did add 81 for the third wicket, it wasn�t enough. The partnership ended when Kanitkar�s flick was well taken by Ricky Ponting.
Devang Gandhi, next in was also next out, failing to make the maximum of one more opportunity. Ironically, till he got out driving, Devang gave the impression he would at least end the tour with an innings of substance.
On the other hand Dravid, the stand-in vice-captain, probably produced his finest innings for some weeks now, getting to 65 (109 balls, 6x4) � his third half-century of the series � before falling to Shane Lee.
At 145 for five (40th over), the canvas was far from inspirational. But the team�s most gritty player, Robin Singh, found an ally in Samir Dighe and they added 73 as the Australians wilted in the heat � Brett even had to go off, to recover from mild heatstroke.
As an effort, then, it truly was remarkable helping India post a total which was not many runs short of being competitive.
Robin fell for 45 (61 deliveries, 2x4), just shy of his third half century of the tournament. He does have limitations, but would still have fared better than most in the Test series. Sadly, he has been branded a one-day specialist, but it�s time that label was reviewed.
For the record, Sachin lauded Robin�s consistency, at No. 6, and Steve also had much praise: �We have high respect for him,� was how the Australian captain put it.
All the regular bowlers collected a wicket each, including Shane Warne, for whom this was a comeback match. He wasn�t at his bamboozling best (�a bit rusty,� opined Steve), but hitting peak form won�t exactly be too much of an effort.
Australia began in pretty blazing manner, with Mark Waugh getting most of the runs (and strike). The breakthrough, however, came quicker than expected � Ajit Agarkar inducing Adam Gilchrist to cut into Robin�s hands.
Mark himself fell next, trying to late-cut one that came quicker from Sunil Joshi. For the underrated Joshi, today�s was his first game of the tournament and he got a wicket on ball No. 2 itself.
Indeed, Joshi was impressive throughout � later claiming Ponting � and it�s some food for thought whether regularly playing him as the second spinner could have made some difference to India�s campaign.
Ponting, one of the top contenders for the ACB-instituted Allan Border Medal (to be presented tomorrow), was the next to go but, by then, he and Michael Bevan had consolidated on the start provided by Mark.
Bevan, who remains a sensational one-day batsman, looked like being there till the finish � delayed by 34 minutes because of rain � but Sachin, at short mid-wicket, brought off the day�s best catch to end his stay.
By then, though, Bevan had recorded his 30th half century, his 71 coming off 92 deliveries with nine boundaries.
Shane Lee and Steve, looking for big score, followed Bevan and, briefly, a down-to-the-wire finish appeared likely. With two overs remaining, Australia needed 11. But the very first ball of the 49th over, from Jawagal Srinath, was down leg and Damien Martyn helped himself to a boundary.
Eventually, it came down to five from the last six (Venkatesh Prasad) deliveries. Again, the first ball was smacked for four, this time by Warne, and an Aussie win became a formality.
Years of experience notwithstanding, both Srinath and Prasad let the team down horribly. Sooner, rather than later, a rethink on whether reputation alone should guarantee a place is an absolute must.
Indians peeved with Match Ref
Meanwhile, the Indians are quite peeved with Match Referee Cammie Smith for not reducing Australia�s overs. �We are shocked he didn�t dock them a couple, for not bowling their 50 overs in the stipulated time,� observed coach Kapil Dev.
While it�s a fact the Indians were slapped a two-over penalty in Hobart, it�s also a fact that even they have, on occasions, got away with going beyond the 210 minutes� provision for bowling the 50 overs. Frankly, it�s a non-issue.
Following are excerpts
Q: On how he looks back on a disastrous tour
A:Everyone can see the result, it�s out in the open and I don�t have to say much... We lost the Test series and also failed to make the one-day finals... It�s very disappointing.
Q:On whether he will be relieved on boarding the return flight tomorrow afternoon
A:Not relieved... It�s not that I was scared of the challenge in Australia... I�ve played international cricket for over 10 years, and have never been scared of accepting challenges. As we are building a team, we have to be patient... The effort was there, but it didn�t work out.
[By repeating the �building a team� bit, Sachin actually said much about Mohammed Azharuddin�s future. It doesn�t call for too much of reading between-the-lines.]
Q:On pushing Australia close today, but still not making it
A:We need to toughen up... It�s only then that we will be able to cross the final hurdles that keep stopping us... This afternoon, we ought to have bowled better in the last few overs.
Q:On his own thoughts on the eve of the one-day series
A:Always knew it would be tough. Remember, we were up against the finalists of the last World Cup.
Q:On whether the youngsters, who failed, should be persisted with
A:When we have picked them, they should be given a chance. They must be made to feel secure. It�s only then their confidence will grow and, that will be reflected in their performance.
Q:On Sunil Joshi making an excellent impression, in his only match (today)
A:He has always been a fine bowler and there were times (during the tournament) when we thought of playing him... But, then, Anil Kumble had bowled really well in Hobart and Adelaide...
[Australian captain Steve Waugh remarked he was �surprised� Joshi hadn�t been played earlier. He added: �We�ve always had a high opinion on Joshi.�]
Q:On Robin Singh�s effort
A:He�s been very consistent and would always chip in with wickets, too... As for his being considered in Tests, well, why should that be ruled out?
Q:On whether more competition for berths is the need of the hour
A:Of course, that�s how it should be. In fact, the competition should be such it becomes difficult for a captain to pick the XI... There should even be healthy competition within the team.
Q:On the suggestions he will be making to the Board
A:There will be quite a few things to talk about... The nature of the wickets at home, preparing better for tours such as to Australia...
Q:Finally, on how he looks ahead
A:That must be done by leaving the huge disappointment back in Australia itself.
Steve, who also met the Media, was asked what the Indians should now be doing. He replied: �They�ve got to work hard and too much of chopping and changing shouldn�t be effected. If you pick somebody, also give him the confidence to perform... I suppose a couple of the Under-19 World Cup-winning boys could be considered...�
Meanwhile, the Australian selectors have retained the XIII (today�s playing XI plus Andrew Symonds and Ian Harvey) for the first two finals. However, should the SCG wicket (where final No. 2 will be played) look like one where the ball will turn square, then Stuart MacGill could be made the XIVth player.
Darryl Harper and Simon Taufel will officiate in final No. 1, at the MCG Wednesday, while Steve Davis and Peter Parker have been named to stand at the SCG, in the second final, Friday.
Should a third Australia versus Pakistan final be necessary, that too will be hosted by the SCG, next Sunday. Umpires will be announced in due course.
One understands the ACB, which went on record insisting Hair would be asked �to explain� his conduct in handing over an extraordinary letter to Match Referee Cammie Smith (on behalf of four other umpires as well), before the tournament, hasn�t been too pleased by what he said.
It�s interesting, though, that the four listed to officiate in the finals were the other signatories.
In the letter, the umpires denied they had a racial bias. Further, they were firm that should India and Pakistan have reservations, that should be sorted out at the very meeting � the customary pre-series session � where Hair stumped everybody.
Neither India nor Pakistan responded, at the meeting, while Smith decided not to place the letter before his principals � the International Cricket Council.
But the letter severely embarrassed the ACB, more so as everyone�s first impression was that somebody in a position of authority must have given his unofficial consent. Of course, the ACB responded quickly enough, announcing an �explanation� would be sought.
Obviously, Hair has been singled out because he acted as the spokesman and, probably, encouraged his colleagues to jointly sign that letter.
Hair is the senior-most umpire on the ACB panel.
City 226. Wari 227/5 (Saikat Mukherjee 90 n.o.; Rajib Dutta 3/45). Wari won by 5 wkts.
Sporting Union 362/8 decl. Kumartuli 282/9 (Sanjib Ghosh 77, Kishore Mohanty 50 n.o.; Swarup Chatterjee 5/90). Match drawn.
Rajasthan 358/9. Town 271/5 (Ujjal Roy 91 n.o.). Match drawn.
Taltala Inst. 409. Belgachia Utd 311 (Sanjib Ghoshal 78, Sagnik Banerjee 76, Abhijit Sikdar 72; Amit Tiwari 4/101). Taltala won by 98 runs.
Paikpara 280. DKS 85 (Altaf Hassan 5/30, Subhash Mohanty 5/31). Paikpara won by 195 runs.
Gymkhana 311/8. Milan Samity 317/5 (Lalatendu Patnaik 100, Naushad Akhtar 100 n.o., Sourav Basu 44 n.o.). Milan Samity won by 5 wkts.
East Bengal 185. Shyambazar 109 (Dharmendra Singh 3/29). East Bengal won by 76 runs.
Itika Memorial emerged champions in IFA women�s soccer league. In the championship play-off final today, they beat Income Tax 4-2, via the tiebreaker.
Run for peace
Sabeda Bagan Club, Barisha, today organised a 10km run for peace. Swapan Biswas and Nandita Das were the men�s and women�s winners.
East Zone champions
East Zone won the all-India Ordnance Factories inter-zonal shooting championship in Ishapore recently. South finished runners-up.
Sub-jr national kho-kho
Bhadreshwar will host the sub-junior national kho-kho championship from Wednesday. Twenty seven teams will take part in the five-day meet.
BADMINTON: The Telegraph Merchants� Cup meet: Infar vs J. Thomas (6 pm); Chatterjee Management vs Assam Co. (8 pm); TCT Tech vs IMC Ltd (9 pm); Williamson Magor vs M.N. Dastur (9.30 pm). Matches at Saturday Club.
BADMINTON: Second day of Lalit Mitra memorial meet at Anushilan Samity indoor courts.
(With inter-state dividends)
1. Chaitanya Ratham Plate, Div-II 1,100m: (3-4-7) He Looks Like Grundy (Gallagher) 1; Tippler 2; Chilling 3. Won by: Hd; 2-1/2; (1-8.8). Tote: Win Rs 38; Place: 16; 16; 26; Quinella: 105; Tanala: 844. Fav: He Looks Like Grundy (3).
2. Chaitanya Ratham Plate, Div-I 1,100m: (9-3-4) Venus Star (Warren) 1; Abbattale 2; Celestina 3. Won by: 2; 2-1/4; (1-9). Tote: Win Rs 57; Place: 15; 10; 63; Quinella: 30; Tan-ala: 3,362. Fav: Abbattale (3).
3. Godolphin Barb Stakes 1,400m: (7-3-1) Arikana (Kader) 1; Native Quest 2; Honey Well 3. Won by: 1/2; SH; (1-27.2). Tote: Win Rs 21; Place: 14; 18; Quinella: 28; Tanala: 256. Fav: Native Quest (3).
4. Right Step Plate 2,200m: (1-4-5) Bette Noir (Appu) 1; Meri Merzi 2; Limerick 3. Won by: Nk; 1/2; (2-26.6). Tote: Win Rs 17; Place: 13; 39; 42; Quinella: 165; Tanala: 2,005. Fav: Bette Noir (1).
5. R. W. I. T. C. Cup 1,600m: (3-4-6) Blitz Craig (Shroff) 1; Raindeer Quest 2; Enigmatic 3. Won by: 4; 1-1/2; (1-39.8). Tote: Win Rs 19; Place: 13; 23; 53; Quinella: 61; Tanala: 1,060. Fav: Blitz Craig (3).
6. Prudential Champ Plate, Div-I 1,400 (7-1-2) Sunraycer (Prakash) 1; Illuminous 2; Covington 3. Won by: 1-3/4; 1/2; (1-28). Tote: Win Rs 116; Place: 32; 17; 31; Quinella: 217; Tanala: 5,329. Fav: Illuminous (1).
7. The Hindu Golconda Derby Stakes 2,400m: (3-11-6-5) Bonzer (Shroff) 1; Amazing Sail (Hughes) 2; Iglenook (Kader) 3; Elusive Emperor (Eddery) 4. Won by: 3-1/2; 2-1/2; 4; (2-31). Tote: Win Rs 35; Place: 15; 16; 13; Quinella: 69; Tanala: 318. Fav: Inglenook (6).
8. Prudential Champ Plate, Div-II 1,400m: (8-2-3) Salamanca (G. Khade) 1; Sugar Isle 2; Ascot Leader 3. Won by: 2; 1/2; (1-27.2). Tote: Win Rs 575; Place: 73; 32; 14; Quinella: 1,793; Tanala: 77,206. Fav: Agreeable (4).
9. Wind Song Plate 1,800m: (3-2-4) Awakening (A. Samad) 1; Inherent 2; Trouvaille 3. Won by: 3-1/4; 1; (1-56.6). Tote: Win Rs 65; Place: 22; 13; 24; Quinella: 80; Tanala: 856. Fav: Inherent (2).
Jackpot: Rs 1,77,814 (Carried over to February 5); (C) Rs 45,724.
Treble: (i) Rs 609; (ii) Rs 2,714; (iii) Rs 30,025.
Outer sand track
2,000m: Alternator (Kader) and Charlene (Rabani) in 2-28s; (400m) 28s. Former easily a head better. Splendid Pride (Merchant) and Dominate (C. Alford) in 2-28s; (400m) 27s. Former 6 better.
1,600m: Audible (Kader) and Assyrian (C. Alford) in 1-54s; (400m) 31 2/5s. Former 6 ls better. Cup Of Life (C. Alford) in 2-1 3/5s; (400m) 29s.
1,400m: Ironstone (Rb) and Too Soon To Tell (Manohar) in 1-44s; (400m) 27 3/5s. Both level. Tsavo (Rb) and Appear (Rb) in 1-51s; (400m) 31 Both level. Generous Present (A. P. Singh) and Armila (Surender) in 1-46s; (400m) 31s. Former too good. Aloritz (Kader) and Alygator (C. Alford) in 1-39s; (400m) 30s. Former far better and moved well. Amarante (C. Alford) and Adventure (Kader) in 1-40s; (400m) 29s. Former 4 ls better. Analogy (Kader) and Crucible (C. Alford) in 1-43s; (400m) 28s. Former far superior. Annella (C. Alford) and Affliction (Kader) in 1-42s; (400m) 27s. Former 4 ls better.
1,200m: Alvarada (Amil), Magnifico (A.P. Singh), Astoria (Rb) and Quizzical (Surender) in 1-26s; (400m) 29 2/5s. The last named was outclassed. Opera Star (Merchant) in 1-29s; (400m) 29s. Easy. Alocina (C. Alford) and Queen�s Logic (Kader) in 1-29s; (400m) 29s. Former too good. Artwork (Kader) and Aflicker (C. Alford) in 1-27s; (400m) 26s. Former easily in one length better.
800m: Whitney (Brij) in 57s; (400m) 30s. Alesund (Rabani) and Atacada (Islam) in 58s; (400m) 28s. Both level. Remember Me (Rb) in 55s; (400m) 28s. Fit. Alyssum (Kader) and Auctioneer (C. Alford) in 57s; (400m) 30s. Former better. No Regents (Rb) and Flaming Ferrari (Akhtar) in 56s; (400m) 27s. Both level. Internal Affair (P. Alford) and Ballot Lady (Gurang) in 56s; (400m) 29s. Work Order (Sher) in 54s; (400m) 26s. speedy. Prince Obolensky (Connorton) in 57s; (400m) 28s. Easy. Bul Bul (Engineer) and Answerable (Locke) in 56s; (400m) 28s. Former better. Time Of Times (Rutherford) and Go With The Wind (Gurang) in 1-0s; (400m) 27s. Former better.
600m: Tsaynen Blue (Shanker), The Stud (Rb) and Little Boy Blue (Rb) in 41s; (400m) 27s. First two were level.
1,400m: The Epicurean (Som) in 1-34s; (400m) 27 3/5s. Easy.
800m: Golden Heart (Rb) in 55s; (400m) 26 2/5s. Easy. Diplomatic Gesture (Rb) in 53s; (400m) 25s. Moved well. Noble Canonire (Rutherford) and Relative Shade (Merchant) in 55s; (400m) 25 2/5s. Former better.
600m: Global Harmony (Sher) in 43s; (400m) 29s. Strictly Royal (Rb) in 38s; (400m) 25s. Easy.