Reduce loose deliveries

  • John Wright
  • |
  • Updated: Sep 18, 2012 00:01 IST

Harbhajan Singh dives as he attempts to field a ball hit by Pakistan's Kamran Akmal, as Pakistan captain Mohammad Hafeez looks on during the World T20 warm-up match between India and Pakistan in Colombo. AFP/Lakruwan Wanniarachchi

Competing in tournament play is very different from your usual, often humdrum nation-vs-nation limited-over series. Tournaments usually consist of two stages. The first job is to drag yourself out of the group stage.

In the World T20 tournament, there are four groups of three teams each. In all but Group D - with New Zealand, Pakistan and Bangladesh - it is relatively straightforward to identify the two teams that will make it through. After the group stage, you expect Zimbabwe Ireland and Afghanistan to be on their way home.

There are, however, a couple of factors, which influence and lead to upsets that we see in tournament play. The first, the weather, is beyond any team's control. Against the minnows, the last thing any frontline team wants is a rained-off match and points shared.

The minnows' trap
The next possible banana skin is controllable - because it is about respecting all opposition. It's easier to "get up" when facing tough opponents. Problems arise when you play the so-called 'minnows'. Good tournament sides do not distinguish between their opponents.

With the practice matches now over, the team must be itching to get started. One can only read so much into practice games, but victories are more reassuring than disasters. In the game against Sri Lanka on a bouncy wicket with the loss of early wickets, India were in trouble. Then, Dhoni and Rohit Sharma got the best practice playing under pressure.

However, it was the bowling performance that would have provided the most satisfaction. Harbhajan was economical but Irfan Pathan's performance was the most encouraging. One of the most hardworking and whole-hearted cricketers I have coached, his effectiveness with the ball was always the key to becoming a top-class international all-rounder.

However, it was a different story on Monday where the batsman did their job but the bowlers didn't. Virat Kohli continued his magnificent run but it was the return to form of Rohit Sharma, which was the biggest bonus. Putting together a winning team is like fitting a jigsaw.

186 was a tough target and should have been defended. The innings of Kamran was magnificent but there were too many loose deliveries under pressure and the fielding needs to improve. It's interesting to note the number of sixes hit in the last six overs. At this stage of the game when you are defending, you have to be able to hit the hole so that the batsmen can't get under the ball to clear the ropes.

If there is a silver lining in this defeat, it is that it has highlighted the area where more improvement is required.

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The writer is former India coach


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