Ever since the world cup schedule was drawn, the 3110th one day international match was tagged as a marquee contest and the mouth watering ingredients of top forms, star players, venue shift and ticket controversy had cooked up for a humdinger but the probable top of the table clash did not present itself with any side effect clauses. However more than 12 hours after the high voltage dramatic finish that India and England transpired to produce at M. Chinnaswamy, Bangalore, emotionally drained minds, exhausted bodies, weak knees wanting for more and floating feelings gives a silhouette of the palpitation and tension that the participants went through courtesy the classic nail biter.
The hangover takes the thoughts back to the intense images of last evening and immediately the mind springs to action for a post mortem of field placements and permutation and combination of what would or would not have happened had an extra run been scored with the bat or a few extra runs saved on the field. On one side of the fan’s psyche, the feeling is flamboyant for being privileged to have witnessed 599 deliveries of an epical entertaining episode between two strong cup contenders but the other half, that of a parochial cricket lover is busy pacifying the soul for having got out of jail, after all with ordinary fielding and without any firepower to cause real time threat to the Englishmen, the bleed blue boys managed a tie from the jaws of defeat.
A few years back a score of 338 runs posted by the team batting first would have eliminated the anxieties of betting racquets, knowing exactly where to place their penny on but in 2011 on a flat sub continent track, with the evolutionised batting technology any score below 350 is just par. India was presented with an opportunity on a platter to set a total beyond reach but their inability to press the pedal and seal the advantage while being on the driver’s seat overshadowed the little master’s obsession for centuries; around which the batting revolved. Similarly when an international team was made to look like a club side while defending a comprehensive score, few questions cropped up immediately. With bowling resources as thin as setting Sun’s rays, this match removed the mask and exposed the naked reality of India’s bleak possibility of winning the cup that matters.
If MS Dhoni and boys have to do justice to all the hope that has been pinned on them then this was a much needed reality check to shake them up and the result communicates that there is a lot of ground to cover and editions to make. Though it was a good ploy to play three spinners yet the point could not be driven home on a ground which has produced India’s top two leg spinners. Piyush Chawala might be well backed by the team management but the sight of him coming to bowl with sweaty palms, nervous looking face and then delivering more than 51% of his quota of the deliveries on the wrong half of the pitch is not pleasant for a buoyant fan who has planned his calendar around 2nd April 2011.
With a mammoth total on the board, a much more attacking field was the need of the hour so that the bowlers would have got the license to go for the kill right from the outset, instead it was more of a defensive field and the runs kept leaking till the 40th over as Andrew Strauss through his classical innings along with Ian Bell sensed the crack in the wall and drove it open. A few more men in the ring would have changed the context of the game as was seen when a man at short mid wicket was placed for Yuvraj Singh’s left armers in the 41st over. Immediately the number of dot balls increased the pressure and the gap in the equation expanded forcing Strauss to opt for the batting power play. The batting power play once again proved to be a nemesis for the batting sides in both the innings. England’s crumbliness after the departure of Ian Bell and Andrew Strauss off successive deliveries was understandable considering the pressure that had been built in by the packed 40,000 crowd but what went wrong with India?
Sachin Tendulkar and Gautam Gambhir and then Yuvraj Singh and MS Dhoni set the ideal platform for the lower middle order batsmen to come and play a flurry of shots but that was not to be as against the run of play, the momentum was lost and in a space of 33 runs 7 wickets tumbled. This is one area India has to be careful in the remaining matches and cannot afford to slip up because this is where the team’s strength lies. However between all these glitches lies the minor issue of applying common sense and making it a mandate in the dressing room to bat out the 50 overs. Zaheer Khan’s thought process while facing the penultimate ball of the innings needs to be questioned. He not only got run out trying to force a second run when it was not on but also ran one short. He is no Harbhajan Singh and in situations like he was in, application of basic cricket brain should have taken precedence ahead of trying to go for the glory. There will be lifelong speculation of what would have happened had Munaf Patel got the strike and scored a boundary off the last delivery of the Indian innings but for now Ajmal Shahzad has become a household name across India and will always be an answer to various trivia questions that will be designed around that six, he hit off Munaf’s third ball in the 100th over of the match. The value of the point earned or lost from this contest will only be known depending on who finishes as group topper of the league stage and who their opponent is for the quarter final.
All in all, by the time the 5158th run of the 10th cricket world cup was scored and 4th tie of world cup cricket was secured, cricket had become richer and it augurs well for the competition. Special kudos have to be showered on Karnataka State Cricket Association for having fought their ways amidst controversies to facilitate a thrilling encounter and the energetic people of Bangalore deserve a round of applause whose sporty behavior has been rewarded with two top class world cup matches that are now a part of the cricketing folklore (read 1996 world cup Quarter Final match between arch rivals India and Pakistan).
On a personal note, I made up my absence at the stadium by teaming up with old mates in front of the television, with whom I have watched cricket matches for nearly 10 years now and the experience was tantalizing. Like a true adrenalin cricket junkie my mind is still fixated on yesterday and I have refrained myself from switching on the television today because then the high would lower and bubble would burst as no other cricket match for some time to come can present the extremities of the pendulum swinging from one side to another periodically. It will take some time for normal services to resume.
Link to the match - http://www.espncricinfo.com/icc_cricket_worldcup2011/engine/current/match/433568.html
28th February 2011, 5.06pm
P.S – MS Dhoni is one of the shrewdest international cricket captains and a smart strategist. The technical points in this piece are mere observations from the other side of the white line and in no way intends to question MS Dhoni’s on field decisions. The writer is well aware that it is a different ball game altogether once you step inside the boundary.