The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Sharjah Syndrome hits India in Sri Lanka
- Winning takes practice' team’s down on confidence: Chappell

Colombo: The Sharjah Syndrome appears to have hit India in Sri Lanka. Just as it took aeons to beat Pakistan in that Gulf Emirate, after the 1986 Austral-Asia Cup final, it seems we may take an eternity to down Sri Lanka on home soil.

Tuesday’s defeat in the IndianOil Cup final was the fourth in succession, the sequence beginning with last season’s Asia Cup title clash. Clearly, Greg Chappell has much to worry, not least that Team India acted no different in his first assignment as coach.

“The match was there to be won... Winning takes practice and this team hasn’t been doing well in ODIs... It’s down on confidence,” is how Chappell reacted.

Till captain Rahul Dravid was around, he anchored as only he can... Ashish Nehra returned his second six-wicket haul... Virender Sehwag helped himself to the maximum (26) by an Indian in a single over... Even three run outs were effected...

Yet, despite all that and being superbly placed at 186 for two, India lost by 18 runs, finishing at 263 for nine. If not anything else, we’ve certainly mastered the art of losing finals.

At the awards ceremony, graced among others by Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapakse, Dravid quipped he had “visualised” receiving the winners’ trophy but had to collect the “wrong one.”

Actually, Dravid’s body language suggested his heart had been pierced. The selectors are set to give the captaincy back to Sourav Ganguly, but victory would at least have been statement-making.

For the record, Dravid offered a dead straight bat ' “no comments” ' to captaincy-related questions.

He did, however, speak on other subjects: “With eight wickets in hand, we were well-placed... Eventually, too much was left for the lower order...”

Dravid admitted his own run out (205 for four in the 39th over) was owing to an error in judgement on his part. The slide began with his departure.

It didn’t, of course, help that the lower order played such poor cricket. At the end, Anil Kumble was left 19 to get off the last ball from Chaminda Vaas.

That absurd equation summed up India’s finish to a tournament nobody would like to remember. And, there’s no point being critical of the captain and coach for dropping V.V.S. Laxman and fielding five specialist bowlers.

Given Laxman’s form, it’s unlikely he would have made any difference.

Mahendra Singh Dhoni, though, could have had he taken Sanath Jayasuriya on 19. Jayasuriya, who completed 10,000 runs, scored as many as 67.

The day’s best innings came from MoS and MoM Mahela Jayawardene, the Sri Lankan vice-captain. He was brilliant in the second league match against India, in Dambulla. At the Premadasa, he was outstanding.

Jayawardene found an ally in Russel Arnold and their 125-run partnership for the fifth wicket, in just 117 balls, propelled Sri Lanka to the competition’s highest score (281 for nine).

Captain Maravan Atapattu, who handled his bowlers imaginatively, complimented his men for a “team effort.” On the eve of the final, he told The Telegraph that the “pressure factor (of playing at home)” wouldn’t weigh him and the team down.

It’s the Indians who got crushed, with Sri Lanka confirming they deserve to be ranked well above India in the ODIs, at No. 2.

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