October 3, 2012 · 0 Comments
Given the form that they were in, if Australia had managed to beat Pakistan, then all India had to do was beat a demoralised South African team. But despite being annihilated by India in the previous game, Pakistan beat Australia against all expectations. The result left India to win with a difference of either 31 runs or 24 balls against South Africa. The latter option would have been preferred, given India’s dexterity in chasing down complex totals. Sadly, that didn’t work either.
Put in to bat, India now needed to script a stupendous performance in order to restrict a formidable South African line-up. But three quick wickets and things didn’t appear that bright anymore. The crease was then occupied by Yuvraj Singh and Rohit Sharma. While one’s place in the team was questioned right from the time the squad was announced, the other was already considered by few people as liability. But they poked, prodded and then timed their way to a 32-run partnership. That stand was by no means a game-changer, but it definitely appeared to have pulled the team’s mood out of doldrums.
After Yuvraj fell, Rohit carried on, tenaciously putting his mind to the task, but he too soon succumbed. The duo by then had laid a perfect foundation, and it was now up to Suresh Raina and Mahendra Singh Dhoni to propel the total. They did precisely that, managing to add around 40 runs in the last four overs. A total of 152 was a praiseworthy one considering the conditions, but the bowlers would have their task cut out, since they could afford to give the South Africans nothing more than a run-a-ball in order to help their side qualify.
That, as we all know, wasn’t meant to be. The whole of Pakistan celebrated, deservedly, when Robin Peterson pulled a short-pitched ball to pinch a single as the South African total crawled to 122. At that moment, you could sense the agony of the Indian players. Kohli, who masterminded several victories, appeared aghast, and must’ve been distraught at the fact that he failed when his team needed him the most. The kind of character he is, he wouldn’t play the blame game.
But even if he intended to, could he – or for that matter anybody – point a finger and say, “We were ousted from the tournament because so and so didn’t perform?” Not really, because as much as the selection committee was criticised for picking players based on reputations and emotions, the eleven players who took field during every game had given it their all. India won four of its five games in the tournament, but not one Indian player looked appreciative of that fact.
Clearly, they wished for a berth in the semi-finals, but the game against Australia had cost them dearly. Perhaps on another day, things would have been different; all of Dhoni’s strategies would have clicked and not a single soul would have complained. But as is often said, cricket is a funny game. That one hour of bowling against Shane Watson and David Warner, where nothing worked for the Indians, played a big role in stifling their progress in the tournament.
There is no point in blaming the rain or ground conditions or team combinations for that loss. Every side goes through a bad phase, when clicks. Why, even the four teams that have made it to the semi-finals have had poor passages of play during the league stages and the Super Eights. It’s just that sometimes things work in your favour and sometimes they just don’t. The South Africans were knocked out of the 2007 ICC World T20 under similar circumstances, and they were understandably gutted. This time around, it’s India in those shoes. If anything, the unusual tournament scheduling can cop a little blame, but it’s better to accept the fact that that’s how sport works. The four teams in the semi-finals deserve all the praise, while the Indians should be satisfied that they played tough and competitive cricket right throughout the tournament and missed qualifying for the semis by a whisker.
Also, India can undoubtedly draw a lot of positives from this edition of the World Cup, the biggest coming in the form of Yuvraj Singh. When the Krishnamachari Srikkanth-led selection committee included him in the squad, they drew a lot of flak for giving way to emotions and sentiments in the process. But as Aakash Chopra said in Twitter, “an 80% fit Yuvraj turned out to be better than the most India have. He, alongside, Kohli have been assets to the team.”
By the looks of it, the duo don’t seem like mellowing-down, and if they can carry this form into the remaining formats, then it’s safe to say that the Indian batting line-up looks sturdy, at least for the next three years.
By Web Editor