It could not have been possible anywhere in India. Eden Gardens, the largest Indian cricket ground, can hold only 65,000 fans. On Sunday, most of the 86,876 at the MCG egged India on.
The bald patches in the stands that began to surface half-way into South Africa’s chase were caused by quite a few leaving early — South African fans who didn’t see much hope after AB de Villiers was run out, and some Indian fans who felt the rest of the match would be predictable. Some MCG members too retired to the members’ lounge to gulp down a few beers.Inside the ‘bowl’ (what they call the playing area here), India registered a 130-run win over South Africa and are off to a flying start in trying to defend the title. The four teams that await India in Group B now are UAE and West Indies at Perth followed by Ireland and Zimbabwe in New Zealand. One more victory can take India to the quarterfinals but given their form, India look set to top the group and avoid Australia and New Zealand in the battle for a semifinal berth.
India only set a decent target and the rest of the job was done by the fans of Indian origin, those mostly settled in Australia and New Zealand and around 15,000 travelling from India, the USA, England and Singapore.
The Indian bowlers, who had drawn flak for three months in Australia, again showed that if there are runs on board, they are not as bad.They bowled better than they did against Pakistan. The area of concern for skipper MS Dhoni that India were conceding too many boundary balls early on, was addressed with just two fours hit in the first 10 overs.
South Africa wilted under pressure. A chase of over 300 runs, something that is yet to happen at the MCG, a noisy crowd that at times even drowned words of encouragement from the batsman to the non-striker, the Duckworth-Lewis par score that kept flashing on the gigantic scoreboard — the Proteas were way behind once Hashim Amla was out.
The showers did not arrive at the MCG but news that West Melbourne experienced thunder showers, hail and winds exceeding 100kph, loomed over the match. What set up India’s second win was Shikhar Dhawan’s knock and his two century partnerships, the first with Virat Kohli, who threw his wicket away four shy of a 50, and then with Ajinkya Rahane, who had a point to prove to his skipper that he could score at more than run a ball after MS Dhoni had promoted Suresh Raina ahead of him against Pakistan.