The absence of a coach was very evident as India went down to Australia at Adelaide. There was no devil in the pitch; neither were Australia at their best. The problem was within the Indian camp and it resulted mainly from some very poor shot selection.
The bowlers did well but the batsmen faltered. And here I thought the team missed a coach in the dressing room. To begin with, a coach would have ensured there were no needless experiments in the batting line up. For some time, India has embarked upon a course that does not suit the character of the team.
It is difficult to understand why the team management is persisting with Irfan Pathan at number three? And what is Robin Uthappa doing at number seven or eight? Strange decisions. Why are we taking Pathan for granted that he would deliver at number three. Pathan's elevation in the batting order is justified if the situation demands some robust hitting at the top. But there was no provocation for the team management to slot Pathan at number three when the target was a mere 204.
Uthappa is a front-line batsman and it is time he is entrusted the responsibility to be like one. It is unacceptable that he has to bat so down the order.
The decision to play five overs was great but not the decision to push Pathan. This mistake has put the team under a grave threat in the remaining part of the tournament, and quite needlessly. The captain of a team cannot afford to have strong likes and dislikes. He should take care when he makes public statements like "Yuvraj will play every match."
India made some basic errors when planning the chase. Gautam Gambhir looked in superb touch and he seemed to have been leading from the front in keeping with his splendid form. I was surprised when Gambhir failed to notice the fielder who had been placed precisely for that slash. Here, Gambhir failed in his responsibility. So did Yuvraj. In both cases, it was poor shot selection and it is one area that the Indians need to work hard upon.
To me, Mahendra Singh Dhoni made a big mistake by asking Rohit Sharma to come as a runner. If he had put a little thought, the best man would have been Sachin Tendulkar. Imagine a situation where one can use Tendulkar's experience on the field even after he has got out. I would have sent Tendulkar because his presence and guidance would have made the difference. By asking for Rohit, I am afraid Dhoni did not consider the state of the mind that the youngster must have been. He had got out playing a bad shot and I am sure that must have weighed heavily on his mind when he returned to the field as a runner for Dhoni. I am sure a good coach would have taken this decision.
I have been repeatedly saying that the team must learn from mistakes. Pathan can't be a cushion for anyone because there is no need. The bowlers have done an exceptional job by taming a strong batting line up like Australia. For the first time I am seeing a rare fear of failure on the faces of the Australian batsmen. All credit to the Indian bowlers for dominating the series with their enthusiasm. They have managed to put the Australians under tremendous pressure.
Australia too can pat their bowlers and it was indeed creditable that they won the match without Brett Lee. I know our lads well and I am sure they would take all criticism in the right spirit and look to improve in the coming matches. I still believe that this Indian team has the potential of stopping Australia from winning this tri-series. Each member has his role defined. Only they need to stick to their jobs because time is running out. One-day cricket is harsh and leaves little room for recovery if you keep repeating mistakes.
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