Think back to the World Cups of 1992, 1996, 1999 and 2003. On each occasion, pundits, bookmakers and fans alike talked of India as a contender for top honours.
There is universal consensus: 'India has this great batting line-up, probably the best in the world... yeah, true, the bowlers are a touch inconsistent... yeah, there is the odd question mark about the captaincy... yeah, teams like X and Y are far stronger and more complete... true, the Indian team has various problems that could prevent it from doing well.... But....'
In one word -- 'but' -- lies the key to Indian cricket then, now, and always. To paraphrase, every truism about Indian cricket can be contradicted by another truism. Is India the best batting team in the competition? Yes and no. Is it the best bowling team? No. Is it the best fielding team? No. So, is it one of the favorites? Yes, of course.
That is the essential paradox: Any halfway decent analysis reflects deep, potentially fatal flaws; yet -- thanks largely to the pervasive hype machine powered by corporate India -- we set out for every Cup firmly convinced that we will bring back the Cup.
The 2007 campaign fit right into that template. The team was 'a blend of youth and experience.' The seniors -- Tendulkar, Dravid, Ganguly -- were 'the dependable core' of a batting line nonpareil. The bowling was composed of journeymen performers who could punch well above their weight.
And what of the fielding, our cricketing Achilles heel? Um. Ah. Well. 'We will compensate by smart fielding,' captain Rahul Dravid claimed, cryptically, when the comically geriatric nature of our fielding was brought to his notice.
The captain didn't have universal support; the coach was persona non grata; individual players had looming question marks about form and fitness -- and yet, by corporate diktat and popular consensus, we would 'bring back the Cup.'
Edward Lear was writing about us when he sang:
They went to sea in a Sieve, they did,
In a Sieve they went to sea:
In spite of all their friends could say,
On a winter's morn, on a stormy day,
In a Sieve they went to sea!
The thing with sieves is, they sink. We sank. Here's how:
Text: Prem Panicker | Photograph: Alessandro Abbonizio/AFP/Getty Images. Image: Indian fans watch their team lose to Sri Lanka at the Queen's Park Oval in Port of Spain, ending the country's World Cup campaign.
World Cup will be remembered for the wrong reasons
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