So India lost to Bangladesh in its first outing in World Cup 2007 in an embarassing manner. While the defeat is hard to stomach, the manner of the defeat leads me to despair. No doubt there will be many a post-mortem conducted. Effigies will be burned by angry mobs. Heads may roll. I suspect that the aftermaths of this earthquake will, unfortunately, be felt by quite a few people connected with the scene — particularly if India doesn’t qualify for the Super8.
India can still qualify. But the team will need to play like it can. I have not lost hope, although I will understand perfectly if many Indian fans tune off at this point in time. The team has let its fans down in a terrible manner.
However, more importantly, the team let itself down.
Today, a different Team India took centre-stage. What we saw was a tentative, unsure, unconfident team that went through the motions in a rudderless manner. And that is the bit that is hardest to stomach.
There are a few key ponits in the game when I went “huh?”.
- The self-belief of Bangladesh: No one can and should take away from the way the Bangladesh team played. They played with fire. They played with self-belief and agression. They wanted to win more. They won. This was a huge step forward for a young team. I was certainly impressed.
- Batting first after winning the toss: Bangladesh are good chasers. The ball darts around a fair bit in the initial overs. CricInfo suggests that Dravid can’t be hanged for his decision to bat first. But this was a mistake. It was a costly mistake. Dravid said he misread the pitch. I think he also misread the opposition. India should have had first use of the ball on a “tricky” pitch that played less and less tricky as the match progressed! This is not about “hindisght”. I watched the game with a few friends and all of us went, “India batting?”… My own view is that Dravid misread the opposition and said he’d bat first. Clearly, underestimating the opposition was wrong. Winning the game was more important.
- Opening with Sehwag: This was a terrible blunder that could be put down to a inexplicable combination of obstinacy, denial and foolhardiness. The team should have opened with Uthappa and Ganguly. Sehwag should have been played lower down the order. This wasn’t a time for bravado and foolhardiness. Winning the game was more important. Both Vish and Mahesh have pointed out that this was a blunder. Sehwag appears to be at a strage cross road in his career now. I suspect he will not play the next game. Yes, the other batsmen failed too. So, it is not perhaps right to blame this one decision as a turning point. But it certainly was a silly decision, whichever way you look at it.
- The team not setting a realistic goal/target: One got the feeling that the Indian team went into the game with an aim of scoring perhaps 260+. On this pitch, perhaps a score of 230 would have sufficed! A direct result of this misreading perhaps led to the mind explosions that Yuvraj and Ganguly had. Agreed. Up until then, they had played brilliantly to set right a ship that had been rocked. But the book isn’t finished unless the last chapter has been penned! Ganguly and Yuvraj played shots that key/set bats should not have played. This was a mistake that everyone else did too — Tendulkar, Sehwag, Dravid, Uthappa, Agarkar, Dhoni, et al. However, the shots that Yuvraj and Ganguly played was all the more galling, given that they were set; they also had the match under some semblance of control at that point in time.
There are other reasons like dropped catches, etc. But the above are the key ones in my view.
India can still make it to the Super8 phase. The journey is incredibly hard though. They have their backs to the wall. They will have to play incredibly well and hope for other favourable results to take them home.
I suspect the Sehwag journey will stop temporarily. I suspect Harbhajan will warm the bench for a few games.