India need to guard against false sense of superiority

By Qaiser Mohammad Ali, IANS

Mumbai : India may have won the Twenty20 World Championship and the one-off tie of that version against Australia here Saturday, but the players need to guard against a false sense of superiority as the team still has a long way to go in One-Day Internationals and Test cricket.

Support TwoCircles

Let not the “picnic” version of the game, as Robin Uthappa describes it, give the India team a make-believe supremacy because they need to improve a lot in the more serious editions of the sport, say experts. For, didn’t Ricky Ponting’s Australia comprehensively win the ODI series against India 4-2?

Australia, ODI World Cup winners, were a far batter team in the seven-match ODI series while India rarely clicked simultaneously in all three departments – batting, bowling and fielding.

But the excitement of Twenty20, which comes with the accompanying razzmatazz, is such that Saturday’s win could create a false impression about the dominance of Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s team over Australia.

And when India play their next series, against Pakistan at home next month, they will have to make a fresh beginning, leaving behind the recent Twenty20 success behind.

They will do well to remember the result of the previous home series against Inzamam-ul-Haq’s Pakistani side that won the ODI series and staged a superb comeback in Bangalore to draw the Test series in 2005 when India strangely played ultra-defensively.

Although Inzamam has since retired and the Pakistani side will be a lot younger and, therefore perhaps short of ideas, India will have to maintain intensity throughout the three Tests and five ODIs. India will also have to remember that Pakistan would be itching to avenge their two defeats, including one in the final, at the Twenty20 World Championship in South Africa last month.

Against Australia, the margin of defeats – 84 runs, 47 runs, 9 wickets and 18 runs – were enough of an indication that India were the inferior side. Remarkably, despite all their off-field distractions, Australia maintained their focus on the job and lived up to the image of the world champions.

Batting failed India again. Not once did the home team touch the 300-run mark, which has become the benchmark in world cricket today. Their highest total was 299/7 in Nagpur, but despite that they lost by 18 runs.

In contrast, Australia’s totals were: 307/7, 306/6, 290/7, 283/7, 149/1 (while chasing they won by nine wickets), 317/8 and 193. The last figure was registered here in Mumbai when they had already wrapped up the series 4-1 and their motivation could have been low.

Individual honours for Australia went to Andrew Symonds, who was also involved in the unsavoury racial controversy (365 runs at a staggering average of 73), Matthew Hayden (290 at 58.00), fast bowler Mitchell Johnson (14 wickets at 18.57) and left-arm ‘Chinaman bowler’ Brad Hogg (11 wickets 22.63).

Australia’s high totals are a stark indication that the Indian bowling also came under the hammer. But it was poor fielding and dropped catches that contributed significantly to this. Bapu Nadkarni, the former India left-arm spinner, described India’s fielding lapses as “criminal”.

There were, however, some consolations – with Sachin Tendulkar (278 runs at 39.71), Yuvraj Singh (192 at 32), Dhoni (176 at 35.20), Sreesanth (9 wickets), Murali Kartik (8 wkts) and Zaheer Khan (8 wkts).

India will need to improve drastically in all the departments before the Pakistani team arrives in New Delhi in the first week of next month. But the time at India’s hand is short, and although the players earn a few days of well-deserved rest they will have to change their mindset and concentrate harder when the ODI series starts against Pakistan in Guwahati Nov 6.

Thankfully, there is no Twenty20 International against the neighbours to cause distraction.