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Five questions after watching India vs SA

The implosion of the batting and some baffling moves concealed a few promising signs for India, writes Soumya Bhattacharya.

columns Updated: Mar 13, 2011 20:57 IST
Soumya Bhattacharya

What more can one say about Sachin? We know the answer to this one: Nothing, really. Just for the record: One shy of a hundred international hundreds, he played an innings of controlled aggression, and phenomenal strokeplay. If the first half was more scintillating than the second (the first fifty came from 33 balls, and the remaining 61 runs from 68), you can’t ask for more from a man who opened the innings and was out with the score at 267 in the 39th over.

Why was Virat Kohli not sent in at No 4, and why was Yusuf Pathan not held back? India’s constant shuffling of the order is baffling. Kohli hasn’t had a proper bat after his century on World Cup debut against Bangladesh. He isn’t a finisher; Pathan is. Things might have been different had Yusuf and Dhoni played the final four overs.

When will India sort out the business of the batting Powerplay? Several teams have struggled with it, but India – as contenders for the title – really don’t have much more time to sort this out. Thirty runs came from the Powerplay overs yesterday, and four wickets were lost. Should the Powerplay have been taken when Tendulkar and Sehwag or Tendulkar and Gambhir had been batting?

Will India continue to bowl and field as they did when South Africa opened their innings? The fielding had purpose and energy for the first time in the World Cup. Zaheer Khan continues to excel (the penultimate over of the SA innings, in which he gave away only four runs, was a textbook lesson on how to bowl at the death). Harbhajan looked to take wickets and was sharp in his fielding (the runout he pulled off in the 44th over was smart). The debate about whether he ought to have bowled the final over is unlikely to go away. The fielding dwindled in intensity towards the end: SA were allowed, time and again, to get easy twos; Gambhir dropped a catch, as did the usually reliable Yuvraj.

What on earth was that Bollywood tamasha during the break? As if the cliché-ridden commentary from former players weren’t bad enough… Movie stars mouthed worse clichés during the break to flog a film. I mean… Really.

Soumya Bhattacharya is the Editor of Hindustan Times, Mumbai. He is the author of You Must Like Cricket? and All That You Can't Leave Behind --both memoirs on how cricket defines India -- and the novel, If I Could Tell You. His books have been nominated for national and international literary prizes. He can be reached on twitter at @soumya1910