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16-Sep-2009 05:08:00 GMT
Compaq Cup, 2009

Lessons to Learn From Lanka Tri-series

Mumbai: After the Indian team's triumph in Sri Lanka, Dhoni and his boys should be one of the favourites for the Champions Trophy. But not if they field and bowl like they did in the final.

While any tournament victory is good news for a team starved of success in multi-nation tourneys, India's Tri-series victory in Sri Lanka on Monday should be heartening. The win is all the more welcome as it comes just eight days before the start of the prestigious Champions Trophy, to be staged in South Africa from September 22 to October 5.

Historically, India have played well in mini World Cup in South Africa. They finished runners up to Australia in the One-day World Cup in 2003 and won the inaugural ICC World Twenty20 in 2007. India are placed in what can be called as the Group Of Death, with Australia, Pakistan and West Indies. But one would be silly to write off the MS Dhoni-led squad's chances of reaching the semis.

For that to happen though, the team needs to pay urgent attention to a few problem areas. The seam bowling is one. In the absence of the injured Zaheer Khan, who acted as a wonderful mentor to the raw Ishant Sharma, especially during the batting powerplays, the Delhi pacer appears orphaned and lost. He was disappointing in the ICC World T20, as he was still bowling a Perth length. In Sri Lanka too, he leaked runs bowling short and wide, bowling two lengths and on both sides of the pitch.

Left-arm-seamers Ashish Nehra and RP Singh, who made comebacks into the Indian team after their heroics in the IPL for Team Delhi Daredevils and Team Deccan Chargers respectively, have suddenly realised how different international 50-over cricket is to the T20 extravaganza.

Nehra was extraordinary in the game against New Zealand where he was the man of the match. But as has been the norm with him, he was back to his inconsistent ways in the two games against Sri Lanka.

RP Singh too appears to have lost his trusted allies, pace and zip. They served him well on the tour of England in 2007 and in the ICC World T20 in South Africa. But on Monday, some of his deliveries were in the 116-120 kms range. 

In the final, all three seamers went for well over six an over without completing their quota. Ishant's economy rate in fact was 7.28! This can't happen in a short tournament like the Champions Trophy as one bad day means you're out.

But Dhoni did on Monday. Keeping the win in perspective, he was pretty vocal in criticising the seamers, who were meat and drink for Dilshan.

"Dilshan relishes the short of length ball and can really hurt you. I hope bowlers have learnt and would not give him any width next time because that's an area where he can kill you."

"We made a number of mistakes and did not field well as a team. As the No. 2 team in the world (they rose one spot thanks to the win), we don't want to make mistakes and repeat them."

Dhoni and Yuvraj too seem to be back in form and with Dravid, sandwiched between them, the batting looks solid. The other strokeplayers in the team like Suresh Raina and Yusuf Pathan will also relish the two venues, Centurion and Johannesburg as both are grounds with true wickets.

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