The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Sourav should have batted first

Like most Indians tonight I am disappointed at failing to cross the final hurdle. It was a case of so near and yet so far.

Frankly, the match was as good as lost once the Australians put up that huge score. Our three-pronged pace attack had bowled superbly during the tournament but failed to deliver when it mattered most. They displayed a lot of josh but little hosh!

Repeatedly they bowled short of length to the openers instead of pitching the ball up and trying to move it off the seam. They also gave them enough room to play their shots. In their zeal, they conceded too many wides and no balls too. It resulted not only in extra runs but extra balls as well, which the thoroughly professional Aussies made full use of.

I cannot support Sourav Gangulyís decision to field first. Iím not trying to act wise after the Aussies have come up trumps. We should always play to our strengths and not weaknesses. Chasing in the final is always tough and it only adds to the pressure.

If we had batted first and even reached something in the region of 220-240, we could have made a match of it. A couple of early wickets and the Aussies would surely have succumbed to the pressure. Instead, they were made to bat in an open frame of mind.

True, the wicket was doing a little bit but that was no reason to adopt such a defensive strategy. The Indians simply buckled under the onslaught and found no escape route.

I am in no way trying to suggest that the Indian youngsters were done in by the lack of big-match temperament or that the mentally-stronger Aussies psyched them out. Zaheer, Nehra, Yuvraj, Kaif, Harbhajan have played enough cricket over the last few years to gain experience.

The pace trio bowled excellently in the earlier games and deserved to be in the team. There was simply no place for Kumble though Harbhajan extracted enough turn. Ponting was simply fantastic and awe inspiring. Our best chance to get him was when he had just come in and Harbhajan was bowling. Ponting and Damien Martyn planned their partnership superbly and took the game out of Indiaís hands. Initially they relied mainly on the singles and twos, and as the slog overs neared, launched into the offensive.

The Indians may have lost the final but I am really proud of Sourav and his boys. The hard work they have put in over the past few months hasnít gone unnoticed. They played brilliantly and their performance has really been something that will remain etched in our memories.

I donít wish to compare this effort or the team to our 1983 squad. These sort of comparisons are irrelevant.

Gavaskar, Mohinder, Vengsarkar, Kapil were the best in their time. You had five-six allrounders, who were equally good fielders, who could tilt the scales any moment.

But, at the end of the day, hats off to Sourav & Co.

(Madanlal was the second highest wicket-taker of the 1983 World Cup)

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