Tuesday, March 20, 2007

India vs Bermuda: Recovery not Victory

Bermuda is a club side masquerading as an international cricket team. This isn’t out of disrespect for them. To the contrary, their infectious attitude while being severely punished might have won them some admirers. But their bowling is poor, their fielding atrocious. Every time they take the field the question is just how much will these whipping boys go for.

Forced to analyze a meaningless win
So ordinarily India’s thumping win against them today (by 257 runs – the largest margin in ODI history) would be a record to be enjoyed rather than analyzed for greater things to come. But such is the position the team finds itself in after its unexpected loss against a surging Bangladesh team that the tea leaves from this victory have to be spread out and read. Even it is only for solace.

There is one huge positive the Indian’s can take away from this game – their batting might have found its feet. For so long the problem area during the build up to the World Cup, the batting order has failed to deliver time and again. Today, they got everything right. And yes, even against Bermuda, someone has to go out and score all those runs. It’s not a titanic feat, but not one to be dismissed either.

Impressive Yuvraj
Of all the Indian batsman, the most impressive by far has been Yuvraj Singh. Tall, broad-shouldered, a sweet timer of the ball - he has bought purpose and energy to the innings whenever he has gone out to bat. Against Bangladesh, he was easily India’s best batsman. Despite Sehwag’s long overdue theatrics, he was once again India’s best against Bermuda. His growing maturity can be seen in the way he bides his time initially, knocking the singles, running hard to convert twos, gauging the nature of the pitch and reading the bowlers. There is a crackle in the innings when he is playing and that bodes well for India. His promotion today was also an indication that Dravid was thinking on his feet.

A sharp spell from India's premier seamer
Zaheer Khan’s bowling today was the other positive. Zaheer’s aggression often means he gets knocked around as he searches for wickets. But his strikes are invaluable. That ability was in danger of getting subdued after that morale-denting hiding handed to him by Bangladesh. Hopefully his sharp bowling today will mean he has rediscovered his ability to pester the batsmen early and consistently.

Questions unanswered
Zaheer aside, the bowling showed a lack of penetration (and all this is relative to the fact that we were playing Bermuda). Faced with the prospect of bowling the opposition out, the bowlers struggled to take wickets. You could see the enthusiasm evaporate from the faces of the bowlers right after Bermuda bucked odds to pass 100. Although Munaf was his usual tight self, the spells of Ajit Agarkar and Anil Kumble might be indications of trouble brewing. We need a new ball seamer who can back Zaheer up. In the two games we’ve played so far, Agarkar has made the case that it isn’t him. And Kumble’s bowling today, though statistically noteworthy, leaves the spinner’s slot wide open. Yet again.

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