June 15, 2009

India knock themselves out


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

Curse the excessive betting, blame the infighting or hold the board officials responsible it can’t hide the fact that the strongest outfit to have entered the competition has been knocked out in an unceremonious manner.

India stood head and shoulders above any other side in the shortest version of the game and probably it was a combination of too many factors that prompted their early exit against the run of play.

It was not for the first time that the Indians have been knocked over far too earlier than anticipated. They have perished this way more often than not whenever they were installed as the favourites or billed as the most potent side.

Cricket has the kind of following in India that’s unmatchable. The credit goes to their cricket enthusiasts for having learnt to be so patient over the years. May be they have become accustomed to watching their team slide when least expected to do so.

The manner in which India have surrendered to the West Indies and England in the Super Eight matches makes one feel bewildered. No cricket fan can easily digest the fact that India have knocked themselves out of the tournament by losing to these two teams in succession.

Didn’t it seem funny that England needed the gift of so many extras to reach a total that could be described as fighting? Harbhajan Singh, the most experienced bowler on either side, had become literally unplayable for the England batsmen who don’t come across such high quality of spin bowling in their domestic tournaments.

Harbhajan fired not one but two deliveries far too wide down the leg side in successive overs that meant the addition of 10 runs to the England total besides the opportunity of having a go at two extra deliveries. It can happen once but to have done it two times in as many overs was incredible to say the least.

His act looked all the more perplexing considering the fact that he had taken two wickets earlier in the over and the England batsmen were clueless. Why did he need to target way outside leg stump when a straighter one was more likely to the job is a question that would remain unanswered for eternity!

By the look of things, Yuvraj Singh, one of the best fielders in the world, appeared to have ensured by misfielding at short fine-leg that Harbhajan’s act of sending the wide was not wasted. Yes of all people it was Yuvraj who misfielded and allowed the boundary to take the England total past 150 that had earlier looked unlikely.

Everyone watching the action at the ground or on television in the comfort of their homes believed that India would still face no problems in chasing down the target of 154 in 20 overs in the must-win game for them.

But it became all too obvious only a few overs after the start of the Indian innings that something else was written on the wall. Nobody could dare changing the script. It was all over for India.

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