Deja-vu all over again!

2006 Sep 22 by DreamCricket

Once again, it was the big batting stars that fizzled out just when they needed to stand up and be counted.

"It's deja-vu all over again" was one of the immortal malaprops of baseball legend Yogi Berra.

It's doubtful if Indian cricket fans have heard of Berra. But they will surely echo his words after their beloved team once again failed to click in a crunch ODI match.

And once again it was the big batting stars that fizzled out just when they needed to stand up and be counted.

The DLF Cup in Kuala Lumpur has been a letdown from the start. The wicket was two-paced and the weather a nuisance. Certainly the Indians could be said to be the worst sufferers from the elements.

They were beaten by the West Indies in their first match on the Duckworth/Lewis system when just the bare minimum of 20 overs could be bowled. It was also the only game in which the batting really clicked and it is fair to state that had the match gone the distance, it is doubtful the Windies could have crossed India's total of 309 for 5, the biggest in the tournament till the final.

Ironically, that was also the only match in which the Indian bowlers failed to deliver, albeit over just 20 overs.

In fact if the Indian camp can take any positives back from this rather dismal show it is that the bowling appears to have finally gained some teeth. Ajit Agarkar has confirmed after his fine show in the West Indies ODI series earlier this year that after nearly 10 years in the side he is now the best of the medium pacers. And Harbhajan Singh was certainly the top bowler in the tournament.

The batting on the other hand, apart from Sachin Tendulkar is the area where the Indians will have to work harder. However, to be fair to them, the constant rain interruptions could at least be partly to blame for the dramatic loss of five wickets in just eight overs in the first (rain interrupted) game against Australia.

With the Champions Trophy just weeks away, the time for experimentation is now surely over. The decision to send Rahul Dravid as opener with Tendulkar proved to be disastrous. And by the time that was rectified in Friday's loss to Australia, it was too late.

The disintegration of Irfan Pathan as a front-line bowler is one of the most worrying aspects as India begin the run-down to the World Cup. His attractive 64 in the first game showed he is still an accomplished bat. But it is a strike bowler that he is being missed in the line-up. The sooner he regains his bowling confidence the better it will be for the team's balance.

India have now won just two of their last nine matches (including one No-Result). It is a dismal record and threatens to undo much of the good work which the Dravid-Chappell combine achieved in their first season together.

The Champions Trophy is rapidly taking on the shape of a make-or-break event for the home side.