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Death comes at the end

The Indians need to learn fast in the next two days. Else, they’ll be in trouble when they take on England and South Africa on Wednesday and Thursday respectively, writes Amol Karhadkar.

cricket Updated: Sep 17, 2007 04:22 IST
Amol Karhadkar

All good things come to an end. India had not lost a Twenty20 international when they took to the field on Sunday against New Zealand for their Super Eight match of the Twenty20 World Championship.

But, after their loss to the Kiwis, the average Indian supporter who was talking about the team lifting the trophy on September 24 now expects them to lose to England on Wednesday and be knocked out after playing South Africa on Thursday.

With India being virtually alien to the format, not many — even back home — would have billed them as favourites. Though, skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni stated it was helping the team in a way.

“If you look at it, there aren’t too many expectations on the Indian team,” he said after their 10-run loss to New Zealand. “No one is talking about us. This is good for us because there isn’t a lot of pressure and we are playing quite freely.”

Despite the loss, the players, especially openers Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir did play freely. It was disappointing to see the others succumb after an excellent start, when the Sehwag-Gambhir duo put on 76 for the first wicket in less than six overs.

“The way we started, chasing 190, was amazing. If we had capitalised on that, we would have won the game,” admitted Dhoni.

Most of the batsmen appeared clueless about the chase and Dhoni, who promoted himself to No. 4 after Sehwag and Robin Uthappa fell in quick succession, had to look around for singles.

“We made the same mistakes that we commited in the first game (against Pakistan),” Dhoni said. “We kept losing wickets. I had to play the kind of game that doesn’t come naturally to me. Somebody had to be there throughout the innings, somebody around whom the others could play.”

Despite the hiccups, the batsmen did end up with 180. The main reason why India faltered was something that’s been a problem since the NatWest series in England — bowling at the death.

The Indians conceded 78 runs in the last five overs, which eventually turned out to be the decisive factor. Neither Yuvraj Singh nor Ajit Agarkar, who has been the frontrunner in giving away runs under pressure, or S Sreesanth could manage to put the ball in the right areas.

“Bowling at the death has been an area of concern, both in England and here,” Dhoni said. “It is very important to bowl well at the death, especially in Twenty20. If you look at New Zealand, they made almost 80 in the last five overs. It becomes very crucial.”

Dhoni concluded by looking at the positives from the game.

“It was a close game, we were not outplayed,” he said. “We shouldn’t be thinking too much about the things that went wrong, though we must learn from them.”

The Indians need to learn fast in the next two days. Else, they’ll be in trouble when they take on England and South Africa on Wednesday and Thursday respectively.