India now get into the business end of the Twenty20 Cup after the flutters on Friday evening. It should suit them to face New Zealand in Johannesburg on Sunday where the ball comes on to the bat and you can hit through the line. In Durban, taller bowlers in seaming conditions would have given New Zealand a head start.
It’s a temporary reprieve though as India’s next two games of the Super Eight are again scheduled in Durban and South Africa and England have quality tall medium-fast bowlers. It’s got to be a good blend of defence and daring from the batsmen to be of any use. A leaf out of Robin Uthappa’s book would be most handy.
I am hugely impressed with this Karnataka youngster. Bowlers were on the rampage, the team was down to the last specialist pair, yet Uthappa looked a cat on the prowl. He made the bowlers blink and doubt their own stranglehold. It was a priceless innings and in the context of the game, an effort which I would put beyond many senior pros. With his effort in the bowl-out, he was my man of the match. Twice in two weeks, in conditions as different as England is from South Africa, Uthappa has shown skill, intelligence and courage. Not to forget the character, for this lad was on the bench for more than two months in England.
India’s fielding got a leg-up with so many youngsters in the eleven. It’s instructive to know that the average age of this side is only 21. Yuvraj Singh allowed little to escape at point and Uthappa had a good presence inside the circle.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni made good choices as a captain and his field placements were value for money. His demeanour in the bowl-out was relaxed; something which can’t be said for Shoaib Malik or his coach Geoff Lawson. Dhoni has a casual air about him that will help the youngsters relax and find their feet in the international arena.
Irfan Pathan had a stand-out game and Harbhajan Singh too, in my view, passed muster. Virender Sehwag would have another opportunity and despite the growing disenchantment of fans with the Nawab of Najafgarh, I would have him in my team any day. More so, in Twenty20 cricket where even a few blows can change the complexion of the game. To back my claim, just look at what the cameos from Pathan and Ajit Agarkar meant to the team.
I would back India to have the same batting order against New Zealand but when they return to Durban, they need to have technically accomplished men at the top. Teams usually have their best bowlers upfront in Durban, where early overs can be critical.