Stats that does no good to India s morale ahead of the World Cup final

Sachin Tendulkar of India plays a shot during World Cup semi-final game against Pakistan Getty Images

As widely expected, India and Sachin Tendulkar have made it to Wankhede Stadium. The hopes and dreams of a billion not just any, but a blue billion as Nike will have you believe people now rest on 11 men. If they had it their way, Tendulkar would score a century and India would win a thriller.

But let s take a step back from that rose-tinted, myopic view of what Indian fans expect to see happen. India have never coped well with the favourites tag, and some basic statistical research will show how poor they have been in finals. So poor, in fact, that those notorious chokers South Africa will scoff at a team that has lost 16 finals since 2000. It begs the question: Do India have the stomach for the biggest stage?

Prima facie, the answer would be a firm ‘no . In 24 finals since the turn of the century, India have won just five. That s a dismal record. Scratch the surface and you find that India s bogey has been chasing. Of those 24 finals, India have had to chase 15 times. Ten of those chases were in excess of 270.

Since 2000, India s opening partnerships in finals average 36.73. There have been four centuries: Sourav Ganguly s 117 in the ICC Knock-out in 2000, Tendulkar s 117 not out in the first CB Series final of 2008 and 138 against Sri Lanka in the Compaq Cup of 2009, and Suresh Raina s 106 versus Sri Lanka in Dhaka in 2010. Only two others batsmen reached 90 in a tournament final.

Tendulkar s appetite for the big stage has often been questioned, but he can point to an average of 51.33 in finals since 2000, with two centuries and eight fifties, as compared to a career average of 45.23. The worry is that the Virender Sehwag averages 30.81 and Yuvraj Singh just 22.61 in finals. Those are distinctly average figures for such match-winners. When you consider that Yuvraj has featured in the most tournament finals for India over the last decade, it is all the more disappointing. After his unforgettable 69 against England at Lord s in 2002, Yuvraj only has two half-centuries.

To boot, India will be up against their nemesis when it comes to finals. In 17 tournament finals against Sri Lanka, India have won seven times and lost eight. Five of those wins came before 2000. Since the turn of the century, Sri Lanka have beaten India in finals seven times.

Sample some more numbers since 2000: In 20 finals, Muttiah Muralitharan has taken 27 wickets; Mahela Jayawarardene has scored 734 runs from 24; Kumar Sangakkara has 792 from 21. In 14 matches, Zaheer Khan has 12 wickets; Harbhajan Singh has 23 from 17; Sehwag has scored 493 runs from 18; Yuvraj has 407 from 22.

Granted this is a different Indian side, and one which doesn t look at the past very often, but there is a telling pattern to how India have performed in finals. For all the talk of touching greatness, India have consistently faltered at the final hurdle. This is their biggest test. This is what Greg Chappell spoke about in 2005 when he took over as coach. This is what Tendulkar has aspired towards for decades. This is what India dared to dream of in 2003. They have scaled the peaks of Test cricket, but each player knows that winning a World Cup has a different aura. This is the silverware that India have chased for 28 years. It doesn t get bigger than this.

Now, more than Johannesburg in 2003, India must clear the cobwebs of the mind. Only a handful of players remain from that disastrous final, and the challenge for them is to overcome the nerves, the memories, the immense expectations of their nation. India are indeed favourites, but that s not what they need to be told.

(Jamie Alter is a freelance cricket writer, having worked at ESPNcricinfo and All Sports Magazine. His first book, The History of World Cup Cricket, is out now.)

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