One of the remarkable things about cricket, as different from most other sport, is just how much the conditions can make a difference. For India’s cricketers, playing away from home can be doubly challenging, for the kind of conditions you experience in most venues in India are simply not found, at any time of the year, in places like South Africa or New Zealand.
At the moment it is spring in South Africa, but it's next to impossible to predict just what the conditions will be like at any game. Given that the Wanderers and SuperSport Park are less than 50 kilometres away, it's amazing just how different the conditions are.
Kumar Sangakkara, the Sri Lanka captain, openly admitted that he was not the best judge of pitches, and a harsh observer would say this was played out, as he picked two spinners for a match where the seamers ruled the roost, and then dropped Muttiah Muralitharan for a match where he was forced to press part-time spinners into action.
For the Indian team, with their bowling attack struggling to make any sort of impact, this posed a particularly severe problem.
Just what was Mahendra Singh Dhoni supposed to do when his main spinner was off the boil and all but one medium-pacer finding it impossible to exert any control over proceedings?
Well, after India's first match, Dhoni was asked if there was something lacking in his captaincy, when Pakistan's batsmen ran away with their innings. With a straight face he replied: “The captain can't go out there and bowl for his bowlers. They have to bowl to the kind of fields set.”
On Wednesday, however, Dhoni sparked off an instant debate when he handed over the wicketkeeping pads to Dinesh Karthik and took the ball in the 17th over.
While it's a common sight to see Dhoni turning his arm over in the nets, he’d never bowled a ball in one-day internationals till then. Was it sheer arrogance, some asked? Was it because he felt there was no chance for India to make it to the next round? How would this affect the confidence of the main bowlers?
As with most things Dhoni, however, there was no ready explanation, but success was not far away.