Monday, Jul 08, 2002
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A place in the final is a just reward for Sourav Ganguly's men, who have played as a team. However, it is important that the Indians do not lose momentum.
They will have to play the remaining league matches will all seriousness. Winning is a precious habit that should not be lost.
After a very long time, an Indian side has performed consistently well in the first four matches of a one-day competition. It is a heartening sign.
The win over Sri Lanka at Edgbaston was set up by the bowlers. I was extremely pleased with Aashish Nehra's opening burst, and he is one youngster who has grabbed the opportunities that have come his way. It was Nehra's spell that pushed the Lankans on the defensive.
He was my Man of the Match. Sadly, the performances of the bowlers seldom get recognised in the ODIs. Dravid came up with a fine innings, but then, an Indian win was always on the cards after the Lankans were restricted to a total below 200.
The pace trio of Nehra, Zaheer and Agarkar has bowled with purpose in the series, setting aside fears that existed before the tournament that their relative inexperience might hamper India's chances.
Agarkar always had the ability to perform in conditions that aided swing, but the lack of discipline in his bowling was a worrying factor. He has shown a marked improvement in this department.
Dravid's effort confirmed the fine form he is in. He is an extremely committed player, who strives to put his best foot forward when the team requires it.
In the past there have been instances of Dravid being bogged down, but in this series, he has not only played the sheet anchor role to perfection, but has also pushed up the rate of scoring whenever the situation called for.
However, the Indians would definitely be hoping for a better start in the remaining games. The early loss of the first four wickets almost let the Lankans sneak back into the game, before Dravid and Yuveraj Singh got together for what eventually proved to be a match-winning partnership.
India got away this time, but such a disastrous start might prove costly against a better attack. In a big game, like the final, it becomes that much more difficult to stage recovery acts.
The top-order will have to apply itself.
India should not make matters more difficult for itself as was seen in the last two matches against the Lankans. The chase will have to be planned better.
The Sri Lankans, out of the tournament, have a lot of work to do. Their batting appeared in a mess, and they do have to reorganise from here. The attack is bound to be strengthened when Muralitharan returns, but though Vaas and Dilhara Fernando bowled well at Edgbaston, the Lankans do require more teeth in pace. The one advantage Lanka has is that it is still a good fielding side.
Finally to the issue of Tendulkar's batting slot. It has been written earlier in this column and I would like to reiterate again that Tendulkar has to open the innings. That is where a majority of his runs have come from, and that is where he invariably makes a big difference.
- Krish Srikkanth
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