The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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- Kotla crowd shames, so does team

New Delhi, April 17: Just as well Prime Minister Manmohan Singh saw the start and not the finish of the Kotla ODI, or Team India's performance would have been more embarrassing than the bickering between some cabinet colleagues.

That Mahendra Singh Dhoni was the highest scorer (24) speaks volumes about the spineless show by Rahul Dravid and Co. against Pakistan. In fact, the 159-run defeat is the biggest at home (runs-wise) versus any team.

Worse, it came on John Wright's last day. Even if the players themselves felt no shame, they ought to have thought about their outgoing coach who, among other things, taught each one of them nobody is bigger than the sport.

Incidentally, whatever his form and the views of stand-in captain Dravid, one Sourav Ganguly was missed.

Not that Pakistan was short on motivation, but President Pervez Musharraf's presence for the first 100-odd minutes proved inspirational ' the first 50, for example, came in a mere 5.2 overs.

Manmohan Singh, though, didn't have the same impact. So, one point more in Musharraf's bag.

Dravid didn't apologise to the fans for the team being such a big let-down in a match with sky-high profile. However, he did regret featuring in one of the 'worst performances' on Wright's day of farewell.

The 2004-05 season began nine months ago with India failing to make the Asia Cup final. It ended today with a 2-4 scoreline in the Pepsi Cup ' despite opening a 2-0 lead with handsome wins in Kochi and Vizag.

Actually, midway in the afternoon, it appeared the match may not be completed as a section of the Kotla threw bottles to protest against the appalling show. Luckily, sanity returned and the stoppage didn't exceed 16 minutes.

'I can understand the fans' frustration, but there are other ways of showing that,' remarked Dravid. Inzamam-ul Haq (who returns home tomorrow a super hero), though, chose to play down the incident.

Dravid lost an important toss, given the wicket's virgin nature, but the bowlers made it worse by neither being incisive nor bowling stump-to-stump.

Barring Salman Butt and Abdul Razzaq, all the specialists/allrounders delivered with MoM Shoaib Malik top-scoring (72). Inzamam didn't field owing to a back problem ' he requires rest for two-three weeks ' but his 68 accentuated Dravid's discomfort.

Despite a couple of dubious decisions, Pakistan still reached 303 for eight.

Only a blistering start would have kept India in the hunt, but neither Virender Sehwag (unable to profit from a no-ball dismissal) nor Sachin Tendulkar got going. Then, Dravid ran himself out and Yuvraj Singh also exited in the same manner.

Chasing 304 would never have been easy, especially as the wicket wasn't going to play true throughout. Yet, the express speed at which the Indians put themselves out of the match caused consternation and more.

While Ravi Shastri told The Telegraph Sourav should have himself declared he wished to play here, even if the board didn't take that initiative, Dravid felt the presence or absence of 'one-two individuals' is of no relevance.

'Cricket is a team sport and one-two individuals don't make a difference.... One-two individuals don't win a match, it's the collective effort,' Dravid insisted, adding he 'enjoyed and loved' the responsibility of captaining.

Those who claim to have 'protected' Sourav by not recalling him for the last two ODIs may feel relieved, but the regular captain will have to score whenever his next match is.

The three-month break, till the tri-series in Sri Lanka, could see sharp manoeuvring in some quarters.

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