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The Rediff Cricket Diary/Faisal Shariff

March 17, 2004

Post-match press conferences have long been an exercise in futility, but they seem to be reaching a new low.

Last night in Rawalpindi, after India succumbed after coming close to an improbable victory, skipper Sourav Ganguly sounded more bored than dejected.

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Asked what he thought of the match, Ganguly's retort was, "Didn't you see the match yourself?"

Asked what he thought of the wicket, Ganguly immediately gave it a thumbs down, saying it was not a good wicket to bat on.

Sachin Tendulkar supported him, "It was a tough track to bat on. The ball was stopping and coming on to the bat. Their bowlers were not giving the ball enough time in the air and making our lives miserable."

Contrast this with Pakistani skipper Inzamam-ul-Haq's post-match response to a question on the nature of the wicket. "It was a batting paradise," he said. "A perfect batting wicket."

So what was the wicket, after all?

Did Ganguly reckon it would be a tight series?

The answer, a short 'Yeah!'

Yeah, yeah, sure, sure, whatever.

Asked to assess the performance of the other batsmen, considering that the highest scorer in the Indian innings after Sachin Tendulkar (141) was Extras with 38, Ganguly said philosophically that that was the way the game goes. "If every batsman scores runs in every match, the tally would be 1,000," he joked.

Tendulkar yet again picked up the man-of-the-match award in a losing cause. He will probably go down in history as the man to have won the most man-of-the-match awards in losing causes.

All through the chase, Tendulkar said, he felt that India had a good chance to win the game. Referring to his dismissal off off-spinner Shoaib Malik, "The ball turned more than I expected it to. These things happen."

Dismissing the threat of reverse swing, Tendulkar said it was not something that was discovered two weeks ago and in the 14 years he has played international cricket, he had countered it well.

It has been 17 innings and 12 months since Ganguly last scored a century in a Limited Overs International. His last eight innings have yielded a total of 94 runs.

His defence: "I bat at number four. I have scored most of my hundreds at the top of the innings. Yes, as a frontline batsman I should score centuries, but the thing is that I am not opening the innings."

Of course, it would be impolite to point out that Yuvraj Singh got 139 batting at number five against Australia recently. (Ironically, Ganguly had opened in that game.) Or that Rahul Dravid, in the last 17 LOI innings, has scored six fifties batting lower than Ganguly.

Maybe these things also happen.

Ganguly said the match was lost when Laxmipathy Balaji was run out in the 49th over. But it was probably over when Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid were dismissed in quick succession. The 69 run partnership between the two best Indian batsmen was the perfect setting for them to launch an attack and finish the game.

It was left to Inzamam's sense of humour to salvage the press conference. A journalist asked, "Your running between the wickets has always been a problem. When will you sort it out?"

"Soon," replied the burly batsman and turned to the next question with a wry smile.

"What are you doing about the number of the extras the bowlers are giving away?"

"There is an improvement," Inzamam replied, deadpan. "In the last match, we gave away 38 extras, today only 37."

A veteran journalist interrupted the proceedings to give the Indian captain a lesson in the art of communication.

Though vice-captain Rahul Dravid had categorically said that Ashish Nehra would not play in Rawalpindi, the left-arm quick bowler made it to the final eleven on Tuesday afternoon. The journalist told Ganguly to be more accurate in passing information to the media.

Ganguly admitted it was a gaffe.

Officially, that was the only gaffe of the conference.

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