The racy, pulsating and befittingly inconclusive India-England encounter would have done a World Cup final proud. As often happens in such rare results, design and chance, perfection and flaws, the beautiful and ugly, tactical acumen and naivety combined to produce a match that left a fan satiated yet thirsting for more. The World Cup, whose format would test the patience of even the most die-hard fan needs more of such adrenal pumping, fist-clinching, breathtaking thrillers to keep the tournament alive before it moves into the knockout round.
The most abused cliché — the game was the winner — is not the purpose of this piece, the provocation coming from the uneasy feeling that India have lost far more than gained from this match.
The irony is that the hosts, if wanting to pass on the message of invincibility by putting up a display of awesome batting, have not failed in that mission. The failure has come in the world realising that no matter what India put on the board, that score can be achieved.
In the euphoric reaction to the batting exploits of Virender Sehwag in the opener against Bangladesh, most of us may have largely ignored India's loopholes on the field. Bangladesh not only responded by scoring nearly 300 runs but also made India’s bowling appear clueless. Had they been chasing a little less, it is not hard to imagine that the end result could have been embarrassing.
The tie against England may once again paper over that embarrassment but the disturbing fact is that our bowling at the moment is so uninspiring and the fielders appear jaded, ponderous and so slow that the future is not looking as bright as it did before the tournament began.
The Sreesanth story is symptomatic of what ails India at the moment. It never makes for comfortable reading when a captain castigates his bowler in full public glare. The mercurial, inconsistent Sreesanth was made to look a joker in the pack by Dhoni’s frequent criticism, who, despite all his flaws, can be a match-winner on his day.
This, probably, reflects Dhoni’s lack of faith in his bowling but also shows poor leadership skills. One would like to believe that no captain should humiliate a player in public and undermine his confidence.
As India move forward, they have to re-address these issues so that when the real moment comes we’re not caught napping.