Okay, so we are off. All is as it should be, we have walloped Bangladesh (although, to remember 2007 – and other Favourites vs Minnows in non-cricket-World-Cup openers – we shouldn’t sound so smug). But what are – as the marketing bozos say – our takeaways from this one?
Being merely a bozo (rather than a marketing bozo), I can’t bear to utter ‘takeaways’ – unless it is in the context of food. So let’s just say:
Five things we learnt from India vs Bangladesh:
Watch the runs, watch out for those runouts: Sachin Tendulkar’s runout was a scandal. It was Bangladesh, and we got away. Had it been, say, England (as it will be in the next game on February 27), subsequent events may not have been so delightful.
Virat Kohli should bat at No 4: He showed great poise, controlled aggression, and the classic way to build an innings. Kohli is as suited for No 4 as for No 3. Given that we have the best opening pair in the world in Virender Sehwag and Sachin Tendulkar, and, therefore, Gautam Gambhir in at No 3, Kohli should stay at No 4 – even if Yuvraj rediscovers his batting form. An unbeaten century on his World Cup debut is worth talking about, but that’s not all. Raina or Kohli? On current form, Kohli every time.
Sehwag is trying to bat through the innings: As all of us fans have been hoping and praying that he one day would, Sehwag sees the possibility of his being there till the end - or almost till the end. How long have we waited for this? All his career, is the answer. Hobbled by pain in the latter part of his innings, and relentless in his savagery right through (from the first disdainful smack to the cover-point fence), Sehwag looked at one time as though he would at least break India coach Gary Kirsten’s record of the highest World Cup score. If this is what his mindset will be during this tournament, we have reason to feel thrilled.
Final five overs: Again, it didn’t matter given that the opposition was Bangladesh, but towards the close, India somewhat frittered away the huge advantage they had gained. In the final five overs, India scored 39 runs and lost two wickets. In the five overs before that, they made 55 and lost none. In tight games against heavyweight teams, not ratcheting up the intensity at the death of the batting innings might cost us the match.
Sreesanth needs a tutorial from Munaf with Zaheer looking over his shoulder: Exaggerated and extravagant, Sreesanth seems to have forgotten that he is not bowling in South Africa. Unlike Zaheer Khan or Munaf Patel, he made a hash of the swing, got charged up after he got hit, and pretended that he was Allan Donald. (Only to himself; no one else was remotely fooled.) He singlehandedly ensured that Bangladesh scored at more than 10 runs an over for their first five, and kept going at a canter for as long as he bowled. Contrast his bowling figures with those of his peers. Dhoni was on the ball: We’ll really miss Praveen Kumar.
[Soumya Bhattacharya is the author of the internationally acclaimed memoir, You Must Like Cricket?. His (sort of) sequel to that book, All That You Can’t Leave Behind, was published in India by Penguin. It is published in the UK this month with the title, Why India Can Never Do Without Cricket. He is the editor of Hindustan Times, Mumbai.]