The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Sourav misses spin for the seam
M.A.K. Pataudi

Winning the toss and sending Australia in to bat was, psychologically, a step backwards. It was a defensive decision which handed the initiative to Ricky Ponting. It seems logical to bat first if your strength is batting and you have seven batsmen in the side.

It was a little overcast in the morning and that must have been a concern for Sourav Ganguly. He may have been worried that the ball would move around.In this respect, the Indians read the wicket wrong. While the odd ball did seam a bit, the wicket was more conducive to spin.

This being a special occasion, the seam bowlers appeared to be under a lot of pressure. They were overanxious and ended up bowling a wayward line. In the recent past, India have gone in with four bowlers and seven batsmen. Australia did the same. It was evident that against a formidable batting side, India were going to miss the fifth bowler and having to allot those 10 overs to non-regular bowlers. It was possible to have done this against many other sides but they could ill-afford to do so against the calibre of batsmen as Ponting, Adam Gilchrist and Damien Martyn.

You canít give enough credit to the Australian top order. A total of 359 on a heavy outfield as the Wanderers Sunday was worth 385. It was well beyond the capacity of the Indian batting side. Unless there was a miracle which could only have been provided by Sachin Tendulkar.

In hindsight, India should have played spinner Anil Kumble and dropped a seamer. But this, in practice, would have been a very tough decision considering the contribution of the quicker bowlers in the earlier matches.

The Indian batting relies heavily on Tendulkar. Once he goes, there is a sense of disquiet. He didnít play a particularly good shot. I feel he could have been a little more patient. If a realistic effort had to be made, someone among the top four Indian batsmen needed to play an innings like Ponting. And the way India went about the job, it seemed unlikely that they would ever achieve it.

Let us try and put this World Cup in perspective. The two best teams were, without any doubt, Australia and India. Australiaís strength lies in the fact that they never give up, an attitude the Indians must develop further.

Indiaís fielding and running between the wickets also need further scrutiny. While this has been said many times before, it needs to be repeated that learning to play on slow wickets and on hard dusty grounds and outfields, India will always be at a disadvantage when playing in countries like England, New Zealand, South Africa and Australia.

This is not the fault of the players. The BCCI has to provide better ground conditions. The standard of coaching is also pretty poor in this country. Coaches are churned out by the dozen from various institutes and the whole process becomes very mechanical. And, at times, even political.

The strength of Indian cricket lies in the passionate interest that millions of people take in the game. A huge number of young people play the game, though they may lack the facilities available in the more developed countries. This applies to all countries in the sub-continent.

But the crucial difference is that there is no shortage of funds for the development of Indian cricket. The talent is there but the professional attitude has to be cultivated. India should not be satisfied with individual performances.

To sum up the eighth World Cup, India stumbled in the beginning but picked itself up thereafter. Which in itself is a pretty good achievement. But the final result was justified. Australia were the better side. Australian sport is highly competitive and well-organised. If we want to compete and to win, we must organise all aspects of our cricket as professionally. As told to The Telegraph

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