Arjun Raja is a NRIOL featured sports columnist. To read about Arjun Raja, please Know more.
With the score reading 120 for 7 wickets and Pakistan needing a further 76 to win, it appeared that the fortunes of the Indian team were changing for the better. However an all too familiar performance( especially if the opponents are Pakistan) saw them lose the game, the winning runs coming off the last ball and to make matters worse, they were byes.
With one ball remaining and one run to make, Indian wicket-keeper Dighe missed an underarm throw which would have run out Waqar Younis to atleast force a tie. On his debut his inexperience showed and he missed. He could be forgiven but not the rest of the team for allowing the situation to reach that far.
It just proves that the Pakistanis perform with 100 percent more commitment when they play India while the same is not true of our team. India when they batted first lost their last 4 wickets for only 9 runs and made the cardinal mistake of not batting the full quota of 50 overs. Comical running between the wickets ensured that. From 186 for 6 they crumbled to 195 all out in the space of just 8 balls. Remember the Zimbabwe game in the World Cup ?
That meant we lost a minimum of 10-12 runs by being dismissed in the 49th over which negated any advantage we could have gained since Pakistan were allowed to bat only 49 overs-a punishment for slow over rate
Having said that, a brilliant performance with the new ball by Agarkar and Prasad and a good steady effort by Anil Kumble and Srinath had us in the driver's seat. However Saqlain Mushtaq and Waqar Younis repeated their marvellous show as in the previous game against Australia to add 42 ... runs in 7 overs to win the game.
In the first session, India decided to bat first and lost Laxman early. Why on earth wecontinue to make the same mistake baffles me. Sending Laxman in was not required at all. He is basically a middle order player and could easily bat at number 4.
Sachin and Saurav have been such a successful opening pair that it is ridiculous to break them up. Sachin is the best batsman in the world and he loves to play his shots when the field restrictions are in place. Sending him in the middle order only hampers his game. He stops playing his natural game as he fears getting out will expose the weakest middle order batting line up in our cricketing history.
The same thing happened. Sachin went for 13, Kanitkar soon followed for duck and it was upto India's Man Friday-Robin Singh and Ganguly to resurrect the innings. Both scored fifties, Saurav making 61 and Robin but the rest of the batting failed again.
It surprises me that Kanitkar is picked as a specialist batsman, since better batsmen are on the bench and the World's most experienced one-day player is playing a domestic one-day tournament in Hyderabad. No clues for guessing- Azharuddin.
But then India has always carried a couple of passengers on a long tour and this time is no different.
A score of 195 was a smallish one on a lovely batting wicket and fast outfield but it soon became a healthy one as Pakistan's batting failed yet again.
It was only a marvellous innings from Youhana who made 61 to win the Man of the Match Award which helped Pakistan get out of a messy situation at 71 for 6. He received admirable support form skipper Akram -26 and Saqlain 27 n.o. not to forget Waqar with 13 crucial runs in the end.
Srinath took 4 wickets, Agarkar 2 and soon India were in a winning position. Few teams in the world would have lost this game. But that's exactly what happened to the chagrin of the Indian spectators in the stands and the millions of fans watching on TV.
It is time for the Indian team to take a close look at the team selection and the balance of the team. It may be a good idea to play Chopra instead of Kanitkar, push Laxman into the middle order, send Dighe up a slot and see how things go. Chopra is a good one-day cricketer and should not be made to twiddle his thumbs on the bench.
A recent example of a team winning from this situation is the semi-final of the World Cup in England last May when Klusener who needed to score one run in 4 balls to win the game for SA was not allowed to do so by a totally professional Australian outfit. The net result was a World Cup win at Lord's for the Aussies.
India 195 all out in 48.5overs:
Saurav 61, Robin 50.
Shoaib Akhtar 3 for 19.
Pakistan 200 for 8 in 49 overs
Yousuf Youhana 61.
Srinath 4 for 49.
Man of the Match- Youhana
Pakistan won by 2 wickets.
- Arjun Raja in Dubai, UAEJanuary 10, 2000
The views of this column are the author's own, and do not necessarily represent the views of NRI Online.For a listing of past columns by Arjun Raja, please Know more.