I'LL BE MENTALLY TOUGHER NEXT TIME I WALK OUT FOR 

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By FROM LOKENDRA PRATAP SAHI in Sharjah
  • Published 28.03.00
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Sharjah, March 28 :     Australia and the South Africans. Even New Zealand. And, of course, Courtney 'Gentleman' Walsh. It's been a season of records for just about everybody, save the Indians. After a superb 3-2 home-win over South Africa, the Indians even slipped in this Emirate. The season, then, has ended on anything but a high. In Australia, we had an incompetent team; here, it was incompetent cricket. Actually, India's campaign in the Coca-Cola Cup 2000 can be quickly summed up: One win, three losses. A top score of 174 for nine, in an unsuccessful chase. Conceding 93 runs in the last ten overs of a key match and two self-engineered run outs in a game which had to be won. The debit-list is long. On the other side is one embarrassing blank. "Yes, there's nothing at all to show from this trip... I do realise, however, one can't have the same drive everyday. Hopefully, everybody will be hungry for success in our next tournament (Asia Cup, Dhaka, from end-May)," remarked captain Sourav Ganguly, adding it wouldn't help allowing the acute disappointment to linger. Yet, talking to The Telegraph this afternoon, Sourav acknowledged he was "upset" not so much by the defeats per se, but the way India lost. "We were thoroughly outplayed in two matches (the opener against South Africa and the return-game with Pakistan)... Last night, though, it could have been different had we got another wicket at 50 for three..." Sourav, who should soon be retained captain till September (when the present selection committee's term ends), hasn't begun a detailed post-mortem, but the lack of application was too obvious to miss. It certainly didn't escape Sourav's attention. What is also clear is that a specialist batsman, in the middle, is required. That the captain himself flopped - "Don't think I've ever failed in an entire one-day series (a total of just 65)..." - didn't help. That Sachin Tendulkar, too, was a big failure (only 65 in four matches) made it worse. Sachin looked jaded and the two-month break from international cricket should do him, specially, a world of good. Of course, Sachin himself didn't exactly say he was looking forward to it. He just shrugged shoulders, while waiting to leave for Dubai with Ajit Agarkar. Sourav who, too, had plans of going to Dubai (with Syed Saba Karim) belatedly did acknowledge India's ouster hurt real bad. "I won the first two series' (as captain) and lost here... Defeats are inevitable but, as long as I win more and lose less, I'll be reasonably happy... I'll judge myself over a period of time and would like others, too, to judge me similarly." But had defeat taught him something? "One never ever stops learning... I suppose I'll be (mentally) tougher the next time I walk out for the toss." For now, Sourav is switching focus to Manchester and Lancashire: He leaves April 12 for his debut season at Old Trafford. Meanwhile barring Mohammed Kaif and S. Sriram, who left for home today so as to meet Ranji commitments for UP and Tamil Nadu, respectively, the rest of the team will depart tomorrow night after the CBFS dinner (in Dubai). Robin Singh, also of Tamil Nadu, wasn't accorded permission as technically India still had a slim chance of making Friday's final. For that to happen, though, South Africa would have had to knock off 169 in only nine balls! Coach Kapil Dev and physio-cum-physical trainer Andrew Leipus have suggested to the Board a conditioning camp be organised before the May 27-June 5 Asia Cup.