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22 Feb 2012

No Points For Loyalty

I have been loyal to the Indian Cricket Team since the first match at the Boxing Day series. It is true that I have had my share of rants and flashed anger but I did say, back in the days of the Test Series, that if I could afford it, I'd be at every single one of the stadiums to cheer them. In fact, I would have loved to be at the SCG (Sydney), Adelaide Oval, WACA (Perth), MCG (Melbourne) throughout the series. When the ODI started, that is just what I have done. 

I was at the MCG a couple of matches ago, cheering every odd 4 or difficult 6, as I watched us lose. When the team arrived at the Gabba and played the Aussies, I was there, knowing there was way too much pressure than our boys might be able to handle. I enjoyed the first session of the match until they threw it away in the slog overs of our bowling and sealed the deal with the first over of our batting. Gambhir, who was playing well until then, was either too caught up in his rift with Dhoni on who should get the credit for the earlier win/draw or just plain careless. Sachin may be playing alright but he hasn't been sticking around long enough on the field to make a difference, in the entire series.

Yesterday's match was no different. I entered the stadium as we faced the first ball, and by the time I was seated, we had lost one wicket. Sehwag's non-performance in this entire tour has been apparent to all but him. Sitting him out in the last two matches has been a very good call by Dhoni. With Dhoni out of the picture, his rotation concept was flung out the window and Sehwag brought in, along with the other 2 top order batsmen. A lot was riding on the man, who also replaced Dhoni as captain of the Indian cricket team. He failed us miserably. 

The top order batsmen started off well. Sachin was putting on his class act, until he was struck by a stroke of bad luck. Why does that happen whenever he's giving us a good game? Gambhir threw away his wicket too early, yet again. This was his one chance to prove to Dhoni, and whoever else cared, that he could win matches for India too. He could have got all the credit he needed but he chose to waste his one opportunity to get us those 4 points on the Tally Board. He should've have learnt from Sunday's match that the key was to stay on the field. He simply didn't wait to settle in, before flailing his bat about. 

The Kohli-Raina partnership started slow and steady but was looking good until Raina played a careless shot that sent him back to the pavilion. The match started to lean heavily on Kohli's shoulders after that. Unfortunately, he didn't last too much longer either. He was our highest scorer but that wasn't even enough to grant us a less disgraceful loss. A couple of easy catches dropped by SL man Chandimal had saved him earlier but if he expected the luck to carry him through to the end, he was asking for too much. Sehwag sent Pathan in to bat, before Patel and Ashwin, to hitch the runs up a few notches. The man tried but there was not much he could do, with little support from his partners. Patel walked away with a single digit score. Ashwin was looking good with the bat for a few minutes, only to join the ranks of the failures sooner than we could have afforded. A couple of Dhoni's classic sixes would have helped us greatly. The man was sorely missed on the field.

The bowlers had given away too many runs in the first session. Expecting them to salvage that in the batting arena was taking optimism to another level. In a blink, we lost Vinay Kumar. Yadav did well to take a couple of dot balls and let Pathan face the ball in a last ditch effort to close the gap. The first of those balls spelt doom for us. He was caught by the bowler Malinga. 

Sri Lanka was clearly the better team in this match. Their batsmen had taken knocked up 289 runs. In spite of a few fielding glitches, their bowlers served them well too. Kulasekara was truly deserving of the Best Player of The Match award, having claimed 3 key wickets, including Sachin Tendulkar's. 

With that, the noose around the Indian team's necks have been tightened. A win in this match would have increased their chances of reaching the finals. The loss meant that it can be any team at the finals, depending on how each of the next few matches play out. India has slipped from the top to the bottom place at the Points Table in just 2 games. We will have to win both matches coming up and pray that Sri Lanka will lose at least one, to make it to the finals. It is not impossible but not one bit easy either, given how quickly we buckle under pressure. 

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