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One Step Backwards


India going out of the tournament in itself is not so alarming - hey, you should have expected that the first time someone mentioned the F-word...favourites. But in going out, they seem to have raised shades of the ghosts we thought were buried in the 90s and early 2000s.

The recent great optimism surrounding Indian cricket on the field has stemmed from the fact that in the last few months (or years), the Indian team has been beaten, but only by teams better than their own, or those who have performed better on the day. Seldom have they shot themselves in the foot, or looked un-bullish, un-aggressive, confused, not confident while playing, a symptom that bring ominous and disturbing memories from the 90s, the years of mediocrity. Whatever the result, they have always tried to be the Bull Elephant, always going for the kill. They always seemed to believe they were the most powerful guys in the room, even when they were not. Against England, and in this tournament at large, they have looked like they didn't really believe they were the strongest side on show, when they clearly were.

A stand-out point of the Indian 'renaissance' was that the 'new India' didn't tremble at gun point, it went ahead and seized the trigger, or at least, continued doing the best it could. Overseas conditions were supposed to have been conquered, in fact, turned to India's advantage with its new breed of seam bowlers. The short ball was now supposed to be a friend because it was easier to dispatch for a six than, say, the yorker.

The worrying fact is not that the team went out of the tournament early, that happens to the best of us (read Australia). The concern is that just while we had assumed we had moved on from certain slush pits, it turns out that our pants are still not entirely clean of the mud yet. The biggest treasure Indian cricket has unearthed in the last four years, M.S.Dhoni, suddenly looks stained.

This is no cause to dismiss several months of progress yet. It is just an indication that the team still has a long way to go. Indian teams in the past have been good in bits and pieces, good enough to win a World Cup, for instance, or be Number 1. But they have never been good enough to sustain it. That, then, should be the true measuring scale of this Indian team's mettle - can they make this just one blemish in a sea of successes, or will the last few years become the few successes in a series of failures, a pattern that stretches back to the earliest days of Indian cricket.

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