Sachin’s lesson on how to pace an innings: Not that we needed this particular innings for that particular tutorial, but Tendulkar – in his sixth World Cup – showed us again why he is the most durable batsman of all time. He had 32 dot balls in the first 50 that he faced, and he
finished at more than a run a ball. Wonderfully paced, and singleminded in his intent to bat for long. The towering sixes with which he attacked Collingwood and Swann epitomised how batting savagery can be made to look even more savage because of a phenomenal cricketing brain.
There is hell to pay if a huge total isn’t converted to an even huger total: India lost their last seven wickets for 33 runs. After having got to 236 for 2 in 38 overs, they failed to make the batting power play in the final ten overs count for anything. It could have been complacency (“We have enough runs on the board”); it could have been messing around with the batting order (Kohli in at the fall of the second or even third wicket might have been an idea, with Dhoni and Yusuf being around for the final five overs), but the travesty of the batting at the death gave England a chance. Had India got to 370 – as they ought to have – the game would have been beyond England. It’s precisely what Australia in their pomp would have done.
India’s bowling relies too heavily on Zaheer Khan: We knew this, of course, but we realized in this game the extent to which we depend on Zaheer. Bafflingly, he bowled his first spell without a third man or a fine leg and conceded runs, but his burst in the 43rd over halted England, who were strolling to victory.
India can’t field like this and hope to get away: It was only in the closing stages of the game that Indian fielders showed any purpose and energy. Catches were dropped; chances of effecting runouts squandered; too many runs were given away because fielders didn’t bend or dive; the ones in the ring rarely attacked the ball and prevented singles – one of the reasons why England was able to keep going at such a canter all along. This India team fields better than some we have had in the past, but it is nowhere near the world’s best.
One needs to reassess the list of favourites: England, after being a dreadful ODI side for a decade, have shown that they are ready to take on the best at their game. India, who have conceded more than 600 runs in two games against teams that aren’t ostensibly favourites, need to re-examine their own status as bookies’ favourites. This isn’t a knee-jerk reaction after one game. This Indian side has great grit and resolve and strives to come back from impossible situations. It’s batting is one of the best in the world. But can the bowling and fielding really hold up in knockout games?
[Soumya Bhattacharya is the author of the internationally acclaimed memoir, You Must Like Cricket?. His (sort of) sequel to that book, All That You Can’t Leave Behind, was published in India by Penguin. It is published in the UK this month with the title, Why India Can Never Do Without Cricket. He is the editor of Hindustan Times, Mumbai.]