Well that’s that. India’s batting let them down in a major way and we are now officially out of the tournament. As expected, the English bowlers bowled it “around the earholes” of the Indian batsmen with good effect; we managed only 59 off the first 10 overs. It is pretty pathetic to be in an international side in any format of the game and not be able to play short deliveries. I guess it points out a major shortcoming in the Indian domestic cricket structure.
Rohit Sharma and Gautam Gambhir failed once again as Sharma unluckily pulled one onto his stumps. I suppose the loss of Sehwag is beginning to show here–a part-time opener can go only so far. It may have been worth surprising the English, who had obviously made “bouncer” plans by sending in an unconventional opener, such as Yusuf Pathan. However, Dhoni left his “thinking out of the box” to make another ‘brilliant’ move. Gambhir looked in fluent touch for once, though, so I suppose that is one positive.
I haven’t seen an Indian batsmen play so pathetically against a short ball as Suresh Raina today, since the days of Sourav Ganguly. Not something you’d expect from one of the 5 cricketers named as the cricketers of the next century by Wisden. All the same. It appears he did not work on facing the short delivery in the nets, since he looked even worse against it than in the game against the West Indies. And instead of putting the pull shot out of the playbook, he decided it would be more intelligent to attempt it and obviously holed out. Sigh. This is the downside of picking “youngsters” I suppose. They do some really stupid things on the way up their learning curve.
Next came Dhoni’s “mastermind” move. Ravindra Jadeja. In my earlier post, I conceded that Dhoni may have made a correct choice by picking Jadeja, but any thoughts of that quickly vanished after his pathetic display of batting today. I believe Dhoni had sent Jadeja in to play the same role as England had sent Mascarenhas in to play: get some quick runs at the cost of a relatively cheap wicket. Unfortunately, Jadeja neither got quick runs nor got out nor rotated the strike. If his performance in the warm-up game against New Zealand was bad, this was downright unacceptable. I said after that New Zealand game that I hoped Jadeja was no where near our starting XI. I was wrong. I change that now to say that I hope Jadeja is never near an Indian international cricket squad in his life. He’s just not good enough–not for Twenty20 anyhow. He has now displayed that he not only lacks the ability to finish games, but he doesn’t have the ability to build a base for someone else to finish the game. He clearly shouldn’t be opening, so the only way I can see him in the game is as a pure bowler. I actually think Irfan Pathan would have been a hell of a lot useful with the bat than Jadeja was, today. All the same, it was still Dhoni’s mistake to send Jadeja in instead of coming in himself. As a result, Yuvi didn’t come in until the equation was too imbalanced (11+ runs per over required) and hence he was negated.
Yusuf Pathan showed why form players should be pushed up the order. Dhoni continued to struggle with the bat, but the two made a valiant effort to save the game, and got within 3 runs. Yusuf, in particular, hit a one-handed six to get the equation down to 9 from 2, but was only able to dig out a block-hole delivery the next ball to secure the win for England. Yuvi, who looked in good touch, was dismissed by a quickfire stumping opportunity by Foster off Swann, and that was honestly where we probably lost the match.
A lot of the current crop of batsmen seem to display no on-the-field intelligence. Jadeja, for example, pulled 5 out of 6 balls in a Stuart Broad over. 3 of them were miscued and 2 of them he missed. In the age of innovative paddle shots, reverse sweeps galore and walking across the stumps, it is absolutely unacceptable that you stand in your crease and get eaten up by bouncers. You’ve had 2 days to plan against it and if you aren’t comfortable pulling it, think about other ways to counter it!
This was again in evidence in the penultimate over bowled by Stuart Broad. Broad bowled in the same area every single ball. The commentators knew what he was going to do, so the Indian think tank should definitely have had that knowledge. Yet Yusuf Pathan and Dhoni both stayed on their leg-stump guard and tried to hoick it to the midwicket boundary every single ball. Seriously? Move across the stumps. Walk down. Take guard inside/outside your crease. Don’t just follow the pig in front of you on the way to the slaughterhouse!
After everything is said and done, the two glaring points of this match and this tournament was our poor fielding and our inability to play the short-pitched delivery. If you simplify the match naively, India would have won this game if Harbhajan hadn’t bowled one down the leg side on the last ball of the over, and Yuvraj hadn’t misfielded it. We gave away 5 runs on that ball and we lost by 3. England saved at least 15-20 runs more than us in the field, which is not acceptable seeing that we are not lugging around any of our “seniors”. These are all youngsters and should be at the peak of their fitness and athletic ability.
I will be supporting the Lankan team now. Mendis, Murali and Malinga seem to be the package that could just stop South Africa on what appears to be a clear path to the championship now. Sri Lanka’s batting still depends heavily on their openers firing, but their bowlers seem to have the ability to defend almost any total, regardless of how low it is. It’ll be interesting to see how their semifinal and perhaps final opponents address that problem.