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Shame, Indian Cricket - a team of jokers !!!
India are almost certain to follow Pakistan out of the World Cup after a 69 run defeat by Sri Lanka in Trinidad.
India's World Cup 2007 run all but ended today after the convincing victory by Sri Lanka. Barring a highly unlikely victory of Bermuda over Bangladesh two days from now, India are out. The fighting spirit. Losing the toss and having to bat first on an overcast wicket is a challenge at outset. I believe the Sri Lankan bats men took that challenge well. Once India got Jayasuriya for 7, the Indian fans would have thought that was it for Sri Lanka. (mind you Jayasuriya was out for a duck in the first ball in the crucial semi final in 1996!)

Before the match Rahul Dravid was asked what would happen to India if they lost. He answered that they were not even thinking of the possibility. Now he needs to think about it. Many others will also need to look for some answers. 

From the time colored clothes made their debut in the World Cup in 1992, this is probably India's worst World Cup, though the seventh place finish in 1992 would be a close contender. I say this is the worst considering the expectations and the supposed caliber of this team. A look at India's performances in the last four World Cups reveals a very interesting picture.

In many ways, the 1992 World Cup was transformational. Soon after 1992, many long and successful careers ended and a significant regrouping took place within the Indian team with Sachin Tendulkar becoming the batting backbone and Azharuddin consolidating his captaincy. In 1996 though we reached the Semi-Final, it was considered a disappointment given that India was a big favorite playing at home. This also resulted in some changes, most significant being the emergence of Rahul Dravid and Sourav Ganguly, and Tendulkar's captaincy. The 1999 world cup was largely dull though we managed to reach the Super 6 phase. Major changes resulted after that with a foreign coach (John Wright) taking charge for the first time and Sourav Ganguly becoming the captain. This brought about a fresh dynamism in the Indian team and the one day team with Rahul Dravid as the wicket keeper looked solid. As a consequence, 2003 was clearly the best world cup we had after 1983 and India was only second to a flawless Australia. 

Robin Uthappa appeared to have been given a license to attack, as he carved Chaminda Vaas for successive boundaries in the fifth over. 

But he was brilliantly caught and bowled by the wily left arm seamer two overs later with the score on 25. 

Sourav Ganguly seemed to be playing more of an anchor role, having made only two twos and three singles in his seven from 23 balls. 

But in the 11th over he tried an ambitious lofted drive and it skewed to mid-off where Muttiah Muralitharan ran round smartly to take an agile catch. 

Virender Sehwag assumed the role of aggressor and lofted Vaas back over his head for an imperious six. 

Murali was introduced into the attack after 16 overs but endured a difficult opening over, with two wide and a long hop which was dispatched to the cover boundary. 

Sehwag and Dravid recorded their fifty stand from 61 balls and had reduced to requirement to 157 from 27.1 overs. 

But Sehwag edged Murali to slip and two wickets fell in successive overs to all but seal India's fate. 

Yuvraj Singh called Dravid for a quick single to backward square but the skipper refused, and despite a wayward throw, bowler Sanath Jayasuriya ample time to remove the bails, with Yuvraj way out of his ground. 

Mahendra Dhoni departed first ball and did not even need to look at the umpire when he was beaten by a quicker one from Murali that nipped in and trapped him in front of middle stump. 

Dravid then injured his foot and had to bat with a runner, but still managed to smash five fours in an over from Lasith Malinga. 

He was dropped on 58 by Russel Arnold at backward square but next ball lofted Jayasuriya to the irrepressible Murali at long-off and the last hope was gone.

Now this! 

What now for the Indian players? I suspect this debacle will usher in some important changes. Senior players will need to introspect. This is especially true for Sachin Tendulkar. It pains me to write this, but he is fast becoming a liability to the team. Maybe there is still time for a graceful exit. Dravid and Ganguly have surely some cricket left in them, though I doubt Dravid will continue as captain. Maybe it's a good time for Yuvraj. I surely think that a change of guard has to take place with management and administration handed to the next generation. Greg Chappell will almost certainly go. It's probably time for an Indian coach. 

Painful as this early exit is, there is a part of me which senses some good coming out of it. In the last two or three years Indian cricket is being successfully and rapidly morphed by various vested interests into a sort of sensational marketing machine. The BCCI has become a lucrative body with high profile politicians throwing in all their might to control it. Media, with its constant look out for sensationalist talking points, also played a big role by coining terms like "Team India" and "Men in Blue". As a result a realistic connection between team's performances and fans' expectations was destroyed. 

Ground realities being disregarded, desires, passions, and emotions were exploited. It looked as if people were cashing in while the going was still good. Widely covered stories in the media of people shaving their heads, offering prayers for the team, naturally led to the ridiculous reactions to the loss. Now a national calamity will be declared and a multitude of theories will be offered as explanations. Much has been written about the financial disaster that will befall if India fails to reach Super 8. I see that as one bright spot in this gloom. It might bring in some much needed balance to cricket following in India. 

The fact of course is it's not a calamity. Indian cricket team just failed to do well in a World Cup. Surely a very disappointing experience, but by no stretch of imagination a calamity. The obsession with the cricket team's fortunes to the exclusion of all sensible thought is a dangerous national malaise. Maybe this disaster will remedy it.

That Bangladesh will progress to the Super 8 is a testament to both how well they played in their group matches, but equally, how badly India played and how uninspiring they have been in this competition. Sri Lanka, however, look in superlative form and although they will always be underdogs to the likes of Australia and South Africa, on their day they look more than capable of upsetting even the best teams.



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