Is it Law of Averages or Consistency?
Itís high time the Indians learnt some vital lessons
By K. Srinavas Rao

When India lost to the West Indies in the finals of the Coca-Cola Cup concluded recently in Harare, Zimbabwe, many felt that the law of averages caught up with the Indians. After winning their entire league matches pretty convincingly, India were favorites to lift the winners trophy, however they were defeated by a better organised West Indies. This is not for the first time; India has lost the final after winning all their league matches. They fell to the same fate in the Pepsi Tri-series in India against Zimbabwe and Australia in 1998 where they lost to Australia in the finals. More recently in the ICC knock-out tournament where they played brilliant cricket to blast Australia and South Africa out of the competition only to lose to underdogs New Zealand in the finals. In fact, India now has lost the Finals of a tournament seven times in a row since November 1999.

A team has to be consistent to win all the matches in a tournament and better organised to win the final. Consistency is one factor that divides a good team from a great team. This is a reason why teams like South Africa, Australia are from a different league as compared to others. And they always reserve their best for the big games. That is the hallmark of a truly great team. Aussies won 10 matches in a row against West Indies and Zimbabwe to win the Tri series at home in Jan 2001. They also won 8 matches in a row to win the World Cup in 1999. Sri Lanka won all the matches in the Tri-series held in Sharjah against India and Zimbabwe to lift the trophy. South Africa did the same against India and Pakistan in 1997 in Sharjah and also against India and Zimbabwe in 1996-97 where they won all the matches they played. It happens very rarely that India wins more than 2 or 3 matches in a row. That is where consistency factor comes into picture.

The year 1998 had been a great year for Indian cricket as they had won 5 tournaments. But there was not a single tournament where they had won all the matches, not even in the series against Bangladesh and Kenya. In fact, there has been only one tournament in which India won all the matches it played and won the title. It happened in World Series cup in Australia in 1984-85. Since then, India has on many occasions scraped past to the finals and won the all-important match. Like, they did in the Sharjah series in 1998, when Sachin Tendulkar single-handedly won the cup for India. Although, India has won many tournaments, one can find only a few where they played good cricket consistently.

When a team wins all the league matches in a tournament, they tend to relax a bit in the finals and that is where they are caught off-guard and the opposition blows them off. One can remember this happening to South Africa in the World Cup 1996. Favourites to win the cup, South Africa started by winning all their 5 league matches pretty convincingly and without much fuss but buckled under pressure when it mattered the most. In the Quarterfinals, they were up against West Indies who were just coming to terms with a shock 69 run defeat to debutant Kenya. And without doubt, everyone thought it would be a cakewalk for South Africa. But, that was not to be as they were taken aback by a massive onslaught launched by the brilliant Brian Lara. South Africa went on to lose the match chasing a huge score. More recently, Pakistan fell to the same fate when they lost to Sri Lanka in the finals of the ARY cup in Sharjah. Pakistan won all their league matches against the Lankans and the Kiwis thanks to some great knocks by the desert king Saeed Anwar and the gifted Inzamam-ul-haq. But, in the finals the Lankans ripped them apart by some brilliant cricket and went on to win the cup by just winning one league match and the final. So, Pakistan who even after winning 4 matches couldnít win the cup as the Lankans after winning just 2 matches including the all important match, lifted the trophy.

When a team is playing in a tournament where each team plays the other twice or thrice, it gives each team an opportunity to win the tournament as they can study the strengths and weaknesses of the opposition very well and make the gameplan accordingly. India, in the last few years has lost in the finals after winning all their league matches on two occasions. If analyzed closely, the opposition teams on both occasions had a specific gameplan against each player and the team as a whole. Indians were taken aback and completely outplayed on both the occasions. The team playing better cricket in the final would emerge as winners. One-day cricket is not for those who go by form and past performances. If a team wants to win a tournament, they have to perform when it matters the most i.e., in the FINAL. So, the next time when a team loses the final after winning all its league matches, you can be assured that the reason is not the law of averages, but it is the teamís CONSISTENCY.

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