India playing its last league match against Windies today and many of the Indian cricket fans and Indian media who added the tag of FAVORITES before the start of world cup, already decided that our team’s performance is below par and they are not good enough to win the world cup this time. Well, I think its too critical and too early. Maybe the patterns of the recently held world cups from 1996 to 2007, with the exception of 1999 might have created some illusion in them with Sri lanka dominated right from the word go in 1996 and Australia dominated the cups 2003 and 2007. But the world cups were won by the teams less fancied and had few good days like India in 1983, Australia in 1987 and 1999 and Pakistan in 1992.
Was our team done too bad as portrayed in media? No,is the answer. We won the first game against Bangladesh comfortably as expected. Second match was a tie against England . We won the 3rd and 4th matches against the associate nations Ireland and Netherlands. In all the above matches the batting was good even though it went downhill from the first match. Bowling and fielding were consistently mediocre combined with apparent lack of energy.
But in the 5th match against South Africa both batting and bowling is exceptional till 40th over of each innings. Even though we could have got 330+ easily, 297 itself proved to be too much to handle on that night. Bowling and fielding were for once charged up with no easy runs were conceded. Its a great improvement to see the energy flowing through the team which was sorely missed in the matches played before.
Dhoni as captain played smart by running the middle overs with the part timers preserving Harbhajan for the death overs. It worked with Harbhajan got crucial wickets whenever the game seemed to run out of India’s control. Maybe if the team won on that day this trick would have been appreciated. But its not that kind of day for Dhoni whose one misjudgement of bowling Nehra in the last over was magnified. Dhoni had his reasons for picking Nehra as he had the experience of bowling the last overs in some of the past games where India emerged successful. The only negative being he is not in his best of form or fitness. Yet its worth a try and see whether he is up to it and the end result is, he surely not. The experiment backfired and I hope it won’t be repeated.
From the past 5 matches the only thing I can infer is, our bowling and fielding were getting better and there should be no worry on our batting as it can take care of itself. Its just an off day against South Africa with none of our big hitters clicked. For sure, there will be no another day the same thing will happen.
Lets see the conclusions made out of previous matches:
Kohli and Pathan were wasting their chances and Raina has to come in:
Raina has to come in and there is no doubt in that considering his hitting prowess in perfect batting conditions and his ability to think and bowl. But to be fair, Kohli and Pathan were played out of their batting positions in the last 4 matches and its too harsh on them to call that as failures. We know Pathan can bowl few overs but he is not a thinking bowler. One among these two should make way for Raina but its a tough call.
Not winning consistently and convincingly:
The only time Indian team was in such mood was during their 8 games winning streak in 2003 world cup. I have never seen Indian team steamrolling their oppositions (To win convincingly a team should have better bowlers and we don’t have). Even to the lesser known cricket nations the respect shown by men in blue was admirable.
On an optimistic tone, sometimes too much of domination is not good as it will bring complacency with it. Now with the kind of form our team is in, complacency won’t creep in and the team will know they have be at their best to beat any team. That’s a blessing in disguise.
R Ashwin should play:
For once everybody got right in this one except Dhoni. His blah-blah-blah’s like ‘No 2 off-spinners in XI’ or ‘We must see how much a player needs the game’ theories for not picking up Ashwin are garbage. With the Indian bowling at shambles it will be better to use your better bowler than pick somebody who is not consistent.
With the last game happens today, it provides an opportunity to get a settled XI before moving into the knockout stages. I could see India is as much as favorites as the other 7 teams who qualified for Quarters.