Arjun Raja is a NRIOL featured sports columnist. To read about Arjun Raja, please Know more.
What is the basic purpose of a one-day match? What does it all boil down to in the end? In my mind, it is very simple - scoring one run more than the opposing side and if a side is chasing runs, it is paramount that the batsmen realise that and play with responsibility until the target is reached.
However brilliant an innings the individual plays, if the team does not score that extra run, they end up as losers and that is exactly what happened in the India-Zimbabwe match.
Ramesh, Jadeja, Robin and Mongia all played wonderful knocks, not to forget Srinath in the end but none of them finished the job, and the job was to reach 253 within 46 overs. India were all out in the last ball of the 45th over for 250 runs thus wasting a full over with only 4 runs left to score.
But then there have been numerous instances when India has choked in a situation like this and snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.
How else can you explain the extravagant shots played by Ramesh, Robin and Srinath. Ramesh was determined to return to the hut once he had completed his fifty although Jadeja kept telling him to look for singles. A totally irresponsible shot at that stage when Zimbabwe were with their backs to the wall and all escape routes seemed to be sealed.
Also when we required 9 in 2 overs all it needed was putting bat to ball and playing the ball on the ground to reach the target. But Robin and Srinath looked to finish... the matching the penultimate over. Why don't the batsmen realise that finishing the match early does not bring any extra reward. A win even of the last ball counts for the same number of points.
India have a history of choking at the finish line and I can narrate two other instances in World Cup matches where we have lost from a winning situation:
Reliance World Cup 1987 v/s Australia at Madras -Lost by one run after needing 15 in 4 overs.
Benson & Hedges WC 1992 v/s Australia at Brisbane- Lost by one run from a similar situation.
These are World cup matches but we have lost countless games in other tournaments due to thoughtless batting.
This is not a new problem faced by Indian cricket. We have never had a batsman in the history of Indian one-day cricket who could be relied upon to finish a game, meaning carry the team until the target is reached.
A look at other consistently successful teams will reveal a batsman of such nature. A cool, composed player who calculates every run and knows when to take a risk and when to play for singles to win the game.
A few examples of great finishers are Javed Miandad of Pakistan -remember the famous last -ball six off Chetan Sharma at Sharjah in 1986 or his brilliant knock in the World Cup semi-final against NZ in 1992 just to mention a couple.
Another was Allan Lamb of England and in today's side Neil Fairbrother. Very cool customers who know that until the last ball is bowled, a match is not over.
Australia have Michael Bevan, already among the all time great one-day players averaging 60 plus in one-day cricket and before him Dean Jones. NewZealand had a great finisher in Martin Crowe, even Zimbabwe won a few matches due to the brilliance of David Houghton.
Aravinda and Ranatunga have "finished " many matches for Sri Lanka while Cronje and Rhodes have won many games for SA with their sensible batting, most recently in the match against India at Hove.
India and probably the West Indies are the only sides which consistently crack under pressure while chasing runs and this was proved today by India and more famously in the 1983 World Cup final when West Indies lost chasing a small score of 183 in 60 overs! Probably only Sachin and Lara through their sheer brilliance have won games for their countries but no one else comes to mind.
When is the last time, if there was ever a time whens Azharuddin (the most experienced one-day player in world cricket) won a match for India by remaining not out? I cannot think of any. As I said, there may have been numerous occasions when Azhar scored a brilliant 50 or hundred but did it win the game for India? That is the important question. Does your innings count for a win at the end of the day?
There is no excuse for India's defeat today. We batted miserably after having the match in our hands and deserved to lose. No side in World cricket would have lost this match and considering it was a World Cup match and a match which India was expected to win easily, the defeat hurts even more. The defeat to SA at Hove was acceptable but not this one. Plainly and simply an unacceptable loss.
On the bowling front it appears that Ajit Agarkar has been sorted out by most teams now and they pick him off at the rate of 7-8 runs per over, which is far too much for a front-line bowler. Also why on earth was he given 9 overs? He was bowled in three spells and was expensive throughout, so continuing with him was poor captaincy and cost us the match.
I am certain for the next game against Kenya, Agarkar will make way for either Chopra or Mohanty. And to stay alive in the tournament we have to beat Kenya, Sri Lanka and England in the remaining games. Read more
- Arjun Raja in Dubai, UAE1999
The views of this column are the author's own, and do not necessarily represent the views of NRI Online.