Team India & a pretty long jinx

Last Updated: Wed, Jun 23, 2010 11:20 hrs

A quick quiz question: When’s the last time India won outright in an ODI final of a tournament featuring four or more teams? Can you easily think of any such instance? It hasn’t happened recently. It hasn’t even happened in the last 3-4 years. We were the ICC No. 1 team recently and that must have come on the back of many big wins, right?

You wouldn’t believe me if I told you that the last such instance was the Asia Cup of 1995, would you? Chasing 203 for victory, we scored an easy 206/2 in a mere 33.1 overs. And then it all went silent. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I can’t think of any instance in the last 15 years. 

Asia Cup

You may point to Sachin Tendulkar’s Operation Desert Storm of 1998 at Sharjah. But that was a triangular like the NatWest final at Lord’s, 2002. Then there’s Sourav Ganguly’s ICC Champions Trophy in the same year. But the final was washed out and we were declared joint-winners. There’s the World Cup win of 2007, but that’s T20. MS Dhoni also beat Australia 2-0 in the 2008 Commonwealth final, but that was also a triangular.

As tournaments get bigger, India recedes more and more into the past. The last 5-nation tournament final victory was the Hero Cup of 1993. The last one at par with a World Cup was the Benson & Hedges World Championship of Cricket in 1985.

Curiouser and curiouser

The funny part is that we were an inconsistent ODI team from 1983-1995. Remember our 0-5 thrashing by the West Indies immediately after our only World Cup victory. We used to lose bilateral ODI series regularly on foreign soil (and also at home). But despite all of that, we managed to win around six tournaments featuring 4 or more teams (1983 World Cup, 1985 Rothmans Trophy, 1985 Benson & Hedges, 1988 Asia Cup, 1993 Hero Cup and 1995 Asia Cup)!

Of late, we have become more consistent in ODIs, winning more bilateral series abroad and finally capturing the ICC ODI No. 1 crown (albeit briefly). But victories in ODI tournaments larger than triangulars continue to elude us.  

There was something called the “Finals Jinx” when Ganguly was captain. He won only one final outright out of the dozen-odd India played. It doesn’t seem to have totally gone away.

What will happen in the Asia Cup 2010 final?

While you can analyze all the factors and give a post mortem when a team leaves a tournament early, there is really no rational explanation for something that lasts this long.  

We have got a taste of that in this edition of the Asia Cup itself.  

First India brushed Bangladesh aside by knocking them down for a paltry 167.  

We then prevailed in a thrilling humdinger with Pakistan. The pendulum kept swinging both ways and India won with a thrilling six off the second last ball. A team is in top form if it can finish off close matches. 

FIFA World Cup

Pakistan was knocked out of the tournament. MS Dhoni became the No. 1 ICC batsman. India regained its No. 2 ranking. A perfect day!

But in the very next match India crashed from 189-4 to 209 all down. While Maharoof bowled a great spell, nothing explains the loss of the last 6 wickets for just 20 runs. There were no demons in the pitch for Sri Lanka and they chased down the target in just 37.3 overs. One only hopes that such collapses don’t happen in the all-important match on Thursday.

There’s only one way to beat a jinx: Let’s just hope a few good men from India stand up and win the final.  

It’s been long overdue.

It will also be a huge first step for 2011.

The author is a Bangalore-based journalist and blogger.