By BV Swagath
There was no contest at all in the second game this evening at the R Premadasa Stadium. India was completely outplayed by the Aussies. Just the two opening batsmen were enough for the Australians to thrash India in a huge 9-wicket victory. The Aussies raced away to the modest target of 141 with as many as 31 balls to spare.
India as per MS Dhoni was 20 runs short of the par total. I wonder even if India had got to 160, the result would have been the same. The Indian bowling was just plainly toothless once they were forced to bowl under wet conditions. Australia was lucky to get the best of conditions and all their bowlers used their variations with good effect.
By the close of the Indian innings, it started to drizzle around which made the ground wet. With just 140 runs to defend, India had no chance whatsoever as every time the ball rolled down to the outfield, it was only a soap returning back to the bowler. All the three spinners from R Ashwin to Harbhajan Singh to Piyush Chawla failed to get hold of their lines and lengths. Shane Watson and David Warner are too good to miss out on anything that was slightly loose. India’s spin bowling was turned out to be a big zero with the wet ball not turning an inch at all.
R Ashwin had messed up with his bowling with all those pauses in his run up. At the start of his spell, he has to concentrate on getting into a good rhythm and bowl his off breaks. Harbhajan and Ashwin have to look at using the slowness of the pitches to their advantage. Indian’s bowling is in their hands now and we got to see if they can live upto the expectations or not in the next two matches. One mistake from MS Dhoni was not to give the new ball to Irfan Pathan who is having some confidence in swinging the ball back into the right handers. Pathan, remember had delivered two early blows in the England match which opened the door for the Indians to take control of the game.
Zaheer Khan has to lift his game, he tried his best tonight but the pitch was too good after the rain for the Australian openers to make use of the pace. Looks like there is no other alternative for India but to keep trust in this old war horse.
India now has to dump the experiment of Irfan Pathan as the opener. A 30-ball 31 was not the kind of knock you would like to see at the top especially with six overs of field restrictions. I thought one major turning point was Gautam Gambhir getting run out as the southpaw was timing the ball sweetly and to lose his wicket at that point of time was a big loss. From the next game onwards, Sehwag will have to return back taking the place of Piyush Chawla.
One man who hasn’t been firing is Yuvraj Singh and it is only matter of time before he delivers something significant. Time in the middle is crucial for the man making his comeback after some gap. If India opts for the extra batsman which it should at the cost of Piyush Chawla in the next games, then the top order will have to show urgency. There is no point in posting totals of around 140-160 and hoping for miracles from the weak bowling unit that India has.
Interestingly whenever the expectations are high, this Indian team has come up with such bad performances. And when the expectations are not quite there like in the 2007 World T20 and just ahead of the match against England the other day, India has delivered outstanding performances. There is something that is missing in the team for now, perhaps a spark or something that needs to come from the leader MS Dhoni to lift the spirits of his boys. The upcoming match against Pakistan will tell us whether India is going to stay alive or not in this competition!