India need to regroup quickly

Dhonis men will have to show a lot resilience against Lanka in their next tie

India need to regroup quickly

 Indian batsmen faltered against the efficient bowling of New Zealand on Tuesday night and the Men in Blue need a vastly improved effort against Sri Lanka in their second match of the Triangular series on Monday. Reuters

Not since October 2000 in Sharjah, when they were bowled out for 54 chasing 300 for victory in the tri-series final, have India been as humiliated as they were by under-strength New Zealand at the Rangiri Dambulla International stadium on Tuesday.

In the interim, India have suffered several heartbreaks, have been crushed and embarrassed, lampooned and criticised; on Tuesday, though, they were buried in a heap of errors, each department vying with the other for inadequacy and in dismal execution of undoubted skills.

One thing’s for sure -- Tuesday wasn’t a reflection of India’s cricketing might. Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s men are much better than their abject surrender, by a massive 200 runs, to a New Zealand side that had nothing to lose, and had plenty to gain – including respect. That is, however, scant consolation.

It will need a remarkable effort from here on for a team that allowed the opposition to amass 288 after being reduced to 28 for three, and that was skittled for 88 in admittedly challenging batting conditions, to pull itself up and win through to the final. High on their list of priorities must be pride in performance, oodles of determination and self-belief but most importantly, the self-realisation that they let themselves, and their legion of fans, with their tepid insipidity. India lost the match the moment they allowed the Ross Taylor-Scott Styris partnership to blosoom. Well as New Zealand’s stand-in skipper and the experienced Styris batted,

India let the duo dictate terms by bowling on both sides of the wicket and making it impossible for Dhoni to check the flow of runs. Dhoni himself was culpable of a missed stumping to give Styris a fresh lease of life, and the normally reliable Suresh Raina put down a reasonably difficult chance offered by Taylor; otherwise, despite considerable help from the track, India’s spinners hardly made an impression on the pair.

Dhoni and coach Gary Kirsten ought to be most worried, however, at the seeming lack of commitment in the field. The one-day outfit, especially here with some of the senior stars missing, has age and, therefore, agility on its side. Or so was the general belief.

India’s fielding standards have never been consistently exceptional; on Tuesday, they went comprehensively south, some of the supposedly ‘best’ fielders leaving the basics behind in the changing room as they donned Santa Claus attires. It was heartening to see the injury-plagued Yuvraj Singh man the point region for the first time in a long while, but his performance at his favourite position left a lot to be desired, even if he wasn’t the only one that let himself and the team down.

And what of the batting? The less said, the better. Three of the top six fell in the slip cordon, static feet and hesitant minds allowing seam and spongy bounce to unsettle them. India might not have had a realistic chance of scaling down 288, but the likes of Rohit Sharma and Yuvraj himself, not to mention Raina, could have done with time in the middle with an eye on the rest of the tournament. Despite twin hundreds in Zimbabwe, Rohit is by no means a certainty when the team is at full strength. Yuvraj has been recalled after being dropped for the Asia Cup, and needs a good run to re-establish himself in the pecking order.

Instead, by showing no stomach for battle, apparently casually tossing their hands away with ambitious wafts, they did their perhaps unjustified reputation as good-weather ponies no harm at all.

The argument that no player wants to fail, and that everyone is focussed towards winning, will cut no ice in a situation as this when, collectively, India failed to bat out 30 overs. If you are only as good as your last performance, India are a long way short of flirting with ‘goodness’.  The silver lining is that they can’t do any worse than Tuesday.

They have shown resilience in the past; now is as good a time as any to dig deep, introspect in the long gap before the next match against Sri Lanka (Monday) and restore a semblance of pride.

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