The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Fielding made the difference
- Tri-series - Sourav Ganguly missing out on the final was a cruel blow

India suffered badly because of their fielding. I would rather say fielding prowess of the Australians alone helped the world champions to turn back Indiansí advance.

I think both India and Australia performed at par in both batting and bowling but in the end it was the hostsí fielding which sealed their fate in the game. No team can enjoy the luxury of dropping five catches which virtually means allowing the opposition to play with that many extra batsmen.

The one man most disappointed would be Indian coach John Wright. He doesnít expect any excuses for poor fielding from the players as he is the one who really puts his heart and soul into the fielding drills. A lot of time is spent on strategies with respect to the batting and bowling but somehow fielding is one thing which slips away from the main focus at times.

Australiansí fielding, in terms of runs saved, is like an extra player contributing. By the same token, Indians when they slip up are at minus one. I am sure we would have crossed the target if not for the fielding lapses.

The Kangaroos reiterated their supremacy as the world champions, played their cards well to beat India in the final.

Sourav Ganguly missing out on the final was a cruel blow. It wasnít a great start with Sourav sitting out on fitness count. He is such a big influence on the team and the stand-in skipper Rahul Dravid has always kept well behind the stumps when he has not many things in his head.

Born-again allrounder Ajit Agarkar and Zaheer Khan gave a wonderful start to the Indians, probably the best in the entire tournament, and got rid of the dreaded openers who for the first time failed in the series.

It wasnít easy for inexperienced Avishkar Salvi to come and play the only game of the tournament and, that too, the final. I felt Anil Kumble could have played a bigger role.

The Indian bowling on the whole was fantastic and Harbhajan, back into the side, tormented the Australians. Ever-improving Murali Kartik once again made inroads into the Australian batting.

Ponting rode his luck and made useful contribution but it was once again Damien Martyn, a very good player of spin bowling, who salvaged the sinking Australian ship. He has been magnificent on the tour and has countered our spinners extremely well.

Man-of-the-Match Michael Clarke certainly gained momentum during the series and peaked at the right time. Nothing can be a bigger asset to a team than to see a youngster make an impression so huge that he is adjudged man of the final. He showed a cool head and scored invaluable runs in the end which truly won the match for his team.

The Indian batsmen must be a disappointed lot. Virender Sehwag departed early which never made things easy. Nathan Bracken, who I thought was a strong contender for the Man of the Series, made good use of the evening dew on the wicket, along with bustling Brad Williams. The new ball really darted all over and it hampered the Indian batsmen.

Had it been one regular batsman at the wicket till the completion of 50 overs, the game would have been ours. Sachin Tendulkar got into his groove along with V.V.S. Laxman and Rahul Dravid and India appeared to be taking complete control.

Indeed, at the time of Tendulkarís dismissal, Indians were pretty much in the driverís seat. Yuvraj failed and Badani didnít capitalise on his good start.

Dravid must be extremely dejected with the end result. He did most of the things right like the bowling changes and batted sensibly until his unfortunate dismissal.

His exit signalled the end with Agarkar left stranded at the other end and watching his partners come and go in a procession.

Dravid, doing a three-in-one job, wouldnít hesitate to take the responsibility of defeat all by himself. It just means he is painstakingly honest.

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