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Task cut out for World Cup

In the end, Yusuf Pathan's blazing century made sure India did not round off their exciting tour of South Africa with a whimper. Subhash Rajta reports. How India fared in SA | Top 3 Batsmen of the series | Top 3 bowlers of the series

cricket Updated: Feb 10, 2011 14:09 IST
Subhash Rajta

In the end, Yusuf Pathan's blazing century made sure India did not round off their exciting tour of South Africa with a whimper. Yusuf made sure the deciding game did not prove to be an anti-climax, like the way India started in the Test series at the same SuperSport Park.

However, the way India's top order batsmen caved in on Sunday on a far less bowler-friendly pitch compared to the Test debacle at Centurion raised doubts about their level of batting confidence going into the World Cup.

While India will regret not winning their first ODI series in South Africa after going 2-1 up, there are lessons, as MS Dhoni said, to draw before heading into the World Cup in home conditions. Hindustan Times takes a look at the gains and concerns for the team.

Log on to www.hindustantimes.com/yusuf to see the photo gallery pics of Yusuf Pathan's innings against South Africa on Sunday.

Battingbatting

The batsmen were a huge disappointment as the team struggled to cross the 200-run mark throughout the ODI series. Apart from Virat Kohli and Yusuf Pathan, the rest were ill at ease against the pace and bounce generated by Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel and the rapidly improving left-arm paceman Tsotsobe. India's World Cup chances will hinge a lot on Dhoni, Yuvraj and Raina but the trio will be low on confidence. And Sachin Tendulkar, Gautam Gambhir and Virender Sehwag would be returning from injuries and could take time to get into the groove. However, the skipper wasn't concerned.

"It's a matter of one or two innings. A run of low scores does play on your mind, but it happens. We play 30 to 35 ODIs in a year, and form can fluctuate in that period," he said. Murali Vijay and Rohit Sharma, both injury replacements at the World Cup, disappointed in the series.

Fielding fielding

The team would be proud of its fielding efforts, especially catching. Some spectacular catches were pulled off and even here Kohli led the way with breathtaking catches in the slips and close-in positions.

Although injuries have somewhat slowed down Tendulkar, Sehwag, Gambhir and Yuvraj, they will still be crucial on the field with the likes of Suresh Raina - perhaps the best outfielder in the side - and Kohli leading the way with their youthful exuberance.

Tail-enders tail enders

The performance of the tail-enders was positive. Harbhajan Singh and Zaheer Khan shared crucial partnerships in the Test series and were equally impressive in the ODIs. They won India the Cape Town ODI and Zaheer held his ground again to share an almost match-winning partnership with Pathan on Sunday.Bowling bowling

"If we can bowl like this in the World Cup, I will be really pleased," said Dhoni, giving a thumbs-up to the bowlers. Zaheer and Harbhajan were the standout bowlers in the Test series and they continued in the same vein in the ODIs. Coming off the intensely fought Test series, keeping up the intensity wasn't easy, but the duo kept at the job. "Harbhajan is bowling as well as he ever has. We are using him in the Powerplays, death overs and he's delivering for us everywhere," said Dhoni.

Zaheer, too, has been at the top of his craft. Apart from being a constant threat to the openers with the new ball, he's been superb at the death and batting Powerplays with his variation. He won his battle against Smith regularly.

Munaf Patel, too, was impressive and picked up wickets with his stump-to-stump line, just back of the length deliveries and clever change of pace. The part-timers also did admirably. Yuvraj struggled with the bat but bowled well to pick up five wickets and was the most successful spinner in the series. If India go in with four bowlers, his left-arm spin would be a bonus.

Silver lining silver lining

Not all was lost in batting. The biggest positives were the showing of the in-form Pathan and Kohli. It was largely because of their superb effort that India could give South Africa a run for their money. The two were not certain in the XI, but it will now be impossible to keep them out.