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Coca Cola Cup Final: Can India Complete The Miracle?

by P Rajan - August 5
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Two weeks ago I wrote that India and Sri Lanka would make it to the Coca Cola Cup final.

A few days into the tournament I looked like a buffoon as India made a mockery of form, losing their first three matches and looking more like the Batliboi Second XI I used to play against on boozy Sundays than a national team.

However I now find myself being compared to Nostradamus, for the Indians found some magical elixir and left their critcis (i.e. you and me) flabbergasted as they roared back to win their next three matches and a place in the final.

Which leaves us with only one conclusion: if you bet anything on this final you're insane. After all, it's evident, the incredible has become the ordinary, anything is possible.

Rahul Dravid, I know, will be shaking his head like a sage, for when we spoke midway through the tournament, he wondered why everyone was panicking. He said the pitch was a trifle slow and the young blokes required settling down but that things would fall into place eventually. One got the feeling that like a good team man he was saying things he was not quite sure he believed.

Still, it is the young blokes indeed who have done the damage, Yuvraj with a 98 and Sehwag with a clean 100 in the last two matches. But does it mean that much? The captain will say "See, I told you" but any skepticism is not totally unwarranted. After all, if you look at the evidence, the chances of Yuvraj or Sehwag firing in the final is remote.

For a batting country, India's scoring sheets have been dismal. Take a look:

Yuvraj: 6, 12, 28, 98
Saurav: 5, 69, 4, 0, 64
Laxman: 60, 17, 1, 87, 10, 0
Dravid: 15, 49, 27, 43, 47, 57
Badani: 2, 6, 11, 2, 35
Sehwag: 0, 33, 27, 0, 100
Khurasia: 12, 0
Sodhi: 18, 19, 9, 30
Dighe: 9, 11, 0, 3

Not a single player, with the possible exception of Dravid (who's topping the tournament averages with 59.50), has even flirted with consistency. Even if each player hung around and nudged his way to 30, all added up that's a decent score. But no, Yuraj and Sehwag keep on with their Viv Richards impersonations and Laxman, as one teammate put it, "is like Azhar, not consistent, but playing some beautiful, memorable innings".

The batting order seems to be changed more often than my wife's shopping list, every combination from Yuvraj/Ganguly to Yuvraj-Khurasia to Khurasia-Sehwag to Ganguly-Sehwag trying their luck at opening. After a 142-run first wicket partnership in their sixth and final league match, you might think the last named pair fits the part best. Except in their fifth match, both opened and were out for a duck. Go figure.

The truth is this: to win India needs a good batting performance.

And that's because, astonishingly their bowlers have been saving them. Despite spankings by Sri Lanka in Sharjah, here on their home ground, India actually has knocked them over in 2 of their 3 league encounters. And they've done that by keeping the Lankan score below 200 in those two wins: 183 when Lanka batted first, 181 when they chased. It follows that six of the top 10 names in the Best Bowling Averages are Indians.

But Sri Lanka, younger in years on the international scene, have improbably become better big-match players, more adept at stealing the thunder. Thus, despite indifferent form with the bat (but don't forget home advantage) it's hard to look past them in the final.

Which knowing my luck means that India will win.

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