From the publishers of THE HINDU

VOL.32 :: NO.47 :: Nov. 21, 2009

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CRICKET / FOCUS

Anatomy of a defeat

M. S. Dhoni’s men failed at crucial moments and never found the spark that could ignite a winning campaign. K. C. Vijaya Kumar analyses the performances of the Indian players in the Hero Honda Cup series against Australia.

PICS: S. SUBRAMANIUM

Sachin Tendulkar, as always, continues to be the torch-bearer of Indian hopes.

India nearly had the number one slot within its grasp. However, as a good collective performance proved elusive against Ricky Ponting’s men, the challenger slid down from the second spot and is now placed third in the One-Day Internationals’ totem pole.

Australia, with a depleted side, won the Hero Honda Cup series 4-2 and gained the requisite self-belief that will come in handy during the 2011 World Cup in the Indian sub-continent.

M. S. Dhoni’s men failed at crucial moments and never found the spark that could ignite a winning campaign. Sachin Tendulkar’s luminous 175 in Hyderabad lent pathos and it reiterated the India story through the seven-match series — so near, yet so far. And as rain washed out the seventh and final one-dayer in Mumbai’s Dr. D. Y. Patil Stadium on November 11, it is time to assess the players. From the 15-member squad, 13 played in the series while Amit Mishra and Sudip Tyagi were resigned to lug the drinks’ cart.



While skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni enjoyed the first-half of the series, Ravindra Jadeja has to fulfil his promise.

A not-so flattering report card follows…

Sachin Tendulkar, 6/10: It is a measure of the man’s greatness and consistency that he continues to be the torch-bearer of Indian hopes. Tendulkar’s 175 in Hyderabad emphasised that the genius within remains intact. Pity, the Indian team failed the maestro yet again. In the remaining five innings, Tendulkar scored just 100 runs and though an iffy decision went against him in Mohali, the Mumbaikar would be the first to admit that he could have done better.

M. S. Dhoni, 5.5: The skipper enjoyed the first-half of the series in which he scored a 124 in a winning cause in Nagpur. A match-winning partnership with Yuvraj Singh in New Delhi also promised greater things to come. Dhoni, like his team, inexplicably suffered a slump in Mohali and Hyderabad before briefly reviving himself and the Indian innings in Guwahati. In the end, it proved inadequate. He presented a picture of candour and weariness in his media briefings. The captain is struggling with a team that failed to pull its weight. The man from Ranchi still remains a street-smart cricketer and has backed the youngsters in his team. It is time for Gen-Next to live up to the faith he reposes in them.

Ravindra Jadeja, 4.5: The young all-rounder did take his time to find his batting muscle but as a left-arm spinner he did ask a few searching questions to the Australian batsmen before his guiles were video-analysed and understood. A mixed bag of six wickets and a lone fifty with the bat, hints at an unfulfilled promise. Hopefully the tide will turn and he won’t panic like he did in the final overs of a futile chase in Hyderabad.

Harbhajan Singh, 4: The off-spinner, who often takes flight against the Aussies, was the highest wicket-taker for India with eight in his kitty. However, he neither fitted the strike-bowler nor stock-bowler slots and despite finding his feet towards the end of the series, was never a threat to Ponting’s men. Strangely his feisty batting that lent spine to India in the earlier matches, ebbed away while his bowling arm found its spin and spite in the last set of matches.

Yuvraj Singh, 4: The dapper southpaw played five games after recovering from a finger injury and his 78 in Delhi fashioned a fine victory on a tricky pitch. However a freak dismissal in Guwahati and an inability to get going in the other clashes meant that India often sorely missed its force-multiplier during the batting power plays.

Gautam Gambhir, 4: The diminutive batsman who packs a punch began well with two fifties before a Ponting pull cannoned into him in Delhi. Gambhir missed the next game in Mohali. He came back for the remaining games but failed to get going as India struggled for the right propulsion atop the order.

Suresh Raina, 3.5: The left-hander’s shortcoming against short-pitched bowling is now well documented and he was tested by the Aussie speedsters. Raina did marginally well with two fifties in the series but for a youngster, who was rated as one of the five players to watch out for in the not-so distant past by Wisden, the road ahead has to be full of runs, not sighs.

Praveen Kumar, 3: The player from Uttar Pradesh might well fancy the all-rounder tag. He averaged 40 with the bat and in tandem with Harbhajan Singh, nearly derailed Aussie hopes in Vadodara. However, as a seamer, Praveen’s impact was minimal despite his change of pace and a fighting spirit.

Ashish Nehra, 3: The left-arm seamer remained comical in the field, vulnerable with the bat and in his prime role of being the pace spearhead, took seven wickets but at an avoidable economy rate of 6.08. In the absence of Zaheer Khan, Nehra was expected to guide the pace attack. He failed to measure up.

Virender Sehwag, 3: The dasher atop the order, coming back from a shoulder injury, seemed in fine fettle during his brief tenures at the crease. However, Sehwag never seemed to get over his Twenty20 mode. A string of cameos followed right through the series and India never got the perfect starts it hoped for. A measly yield of 138 runs meant that a strike-rate of 115.00 reflected a fifth-gear cruise cut short by brakes that failed.

Ishant Sharma, 3: The lanky speedster offered hope with a semblance of rhythm in the first few games and scalped five wickets before losing the plot in Mohali in a spell of 5-0-42-0 as the Australian batsmen went after him. His ability to hustle batsmen remains undiminished but a tendency to fall away in his final delivery stride sometimes means that a boundary-ball is just around the corner. The selectors need to nurture the youngster as he remains India’s most potent ally for a fit Zaheer Khan.

Munaf Patel, 2: Riding into the team on the back of a zestful Irani Trophy performance, Munaf played the last two games, grabbed a lone wicket and was often looking lost as the Australian batsmen tucked into his deliveries.

Virat Kohli, 1.5: The Delhi youngster does have the requisite skills but the world is not an easy playground for 20-year-olds with bright eyes and brighter dreams. Kohli, who remains a fringe player when the Indian top-order is fit and in form, got just two games but he never capitalised on them. In Vadodara, he prematurely gave the charge to left-arm spinner Adam Voges and in Mohali, when he had the chance to guide the chase from the pivotal one-drop position, he nibbled at left-arm seamer Doug Bollinger. Kohli scored 40 from two matches and will have to work hard to retain his spot.



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