I really feel the Indians looked a terrified lot when they took the field in the first one-day international against Pakistan. Their body language, the way the fours flowed, the helpless look on their faces -- Pakistan were cruising when they lost the plot.
I was disappointed with Saurav Ganguly, not because of the way he got out but the manner in which he abdicated responsibility in the field. He might have failed as a batsman but he still had a role to fulfill as captain. He needed to show authority, instead he appeared someone who was enveloped in his own darkness.
But the blunders of Pakistan were far more monumental.
I find it difficult to believe that Pakistan opened the innings with Kamran Akamal. He swapped position with Shahid Afridi who seemed such a waste at number seven. Then Mohammad Hafeez came at number six while he was batting at one drop in Australia.
It points to muddled thinking and players are not being allowed to grow in a role. The stop-gap method will not serve Pakistan cricket.
India at least have a settled order. The presence of fresh players like Mohammad Kaif, Yuvraj Singh, M.S. Dhoni and Ashish Nehra did bestow them with a certain energy.
But they would be first to admit it wasn't a safe total. In an India-Pakistan tie, a total of 280 is never safe. India mismanaged their last 10 overs when a 300-plus total was there for the asking. For all their hard work, it seemed the innings of Virender Sehwag and Rahul Dravid would go waste.
Arshad Khan was ready to go to pieces but suddenly batsmen after batsmen chose new ways of getting out to him. Don't tell me he was spinning the ball or the wicket was a minefield. It was terrible cricket.
Sachin Tendulkar was brought in to rush through the fifth bowler's quota but he reaped a harvest of five wickets. He was cramping batsmen for room who made the mistake of taking him on. The better option would have been to keep milking him for singles. It was there for the taking in the point and cover regions.
From time to time, he was sure to present a delicious dolly ball. But batsmen chose to take him on and perished. The more wickets Pakistan lost, the more they dug themselves in a hole.
The Pakistan batting looked bereft of any plan. If you want to hit at the point region, either you get the elevation which clears the fielders -- not possible on a pitch where the bounce was not a factor -- or you roll the wrist and try to hit along the ground. Three batsmen went this way while a couple more swept Tendulkar into the hands of the short fine-leg fielder.
Pakistan could have been a victim of overconfidence. The pitch was a belter: only common sense was required. Both India and Pakistan batsmen, in this series throughout, have appeared to suffer from attack of nerves.
If Australia is the example they follow, they ought to have noticed that the lower half of the world champions, the likes of Brad Hogg, Jason Gillespie and the rest just keep rotating the strike and at the end of the 50th over, they have a handy total.
I am particularly unhappy they don't seem to believe in the magic of singles. Once a batsman is in, he must try to bat the maximum. If you leave it for the new batsman, he would take time to settle and the innings and team would lose momentum. Time and again, this flawed method was seen in the Kochi one-dayer.
Unfortunately, we haven't seen good cricket from both the teams. It leaves me unfulfilled and I wonder if it is the case that the more we change, the more we remain the same.