When you bowl as inconsistently as the Indians did at Centurion on Saturday, it is bound to cost you. To go down by as many as 54 runs against an inspired Pakistan also makes advancing in the tournament that much more difficult, especially given that it is the Australians who are up next. Being the No 1 team in the world, the pressure was on the Indians and as a consequence they seemed more than a bit nervous.
The worst part was that the inconsistency in the bowling pervaded right through the innings. Ashish Nehra was the stand out bowler but he had no support, not even with the new ball. Both RP Singh and Ishant Sharma seemed to lack in confidence and in a crucial game, the last thing you want to be worrying about is your rhythm when running in.
It didn’t help the Indian cause that Harbhajan Singh had a total off day. He didn’t seem to have hit the right pace to bowl at. Whenever he was slow through the air, he drifted down leg and as and when he tried the quicker trajectory he was wide of off stump and even short. Perhaps, the 25-over wait before he was brought on had an effect.
The spinners bowled too short unlike their Pakistani counterparts. Both Shahid Afridi and Saeed Ajmal got the ball well up and thus got purchase from the surface. What also helped them were a couple of bold decisions that went against Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Suresh Raina. When Simon Taufel is around, you do expect these decisions. Let me put it this way, on such occasions, the bowler is not unhappy if the benefit is given to the batsmen and his appeal is turned down.
The Indian chase was jolted straightway when young Mohd Aamer got rid of Sachin Tendulkar. Also, when you are chasing so many, run outs are the last thing you need. Gautam Gambhir was batting like a dream but his effort to get back to the crease was poor. It showed the confusion in the Indian minds.
Rahul Dravid had to hold one end up and he did it well. In any case, the impetus was provided by Raina, who ensured that the asking rate never went out of control. So, Rahul’s job then was to just rotate the strike.
That’s exactly what both Shoaib Malik and Mohammad Yousuf did. Theirs was a lesson on how to bat under pressure. Malik is one of those batsmen who preserves his best against India and Saturday was no different.
Monday has to be different though. Losing by such a big margin does not bode well if and when net run rates come into the picture, but for that to happen, India have to get past Australia first and then the West Indies, who stretched the defending champions.
It’s a must-win game and the boys have to get their minds right and get back into the groove. Perhaps, the team management will look at a change in the bowling line up.