India favourites? Hmmm...
The sellout crowd at the Ferozeshah Kotla was out to have fun — turning up in colourful clothes, fancy wigs and dancing on the aisles. Don’t blame them if they left with some discontent despite the satisfaction of virtually sealing a quarterfinal berth.
The laborious victory against Ireland could be accepted on the pretext that the team had an average day. But another wobbly batting display against another minor side like the Netherlands on Wednesday left a sour taste in the mouth.
It’s true that the Dutch were never in the game after India broke a promising opening partnership and kept them under control except for some late slogging from captain Peter Borren.
Despite slipping to 99 for four while chasing, India didn’t look like losing. The brisk start provided by Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag took care of the asking rate and the runs put on by the first two partnerships ensured that the target was never a concern either.
But winning such matches is not an end in itself. How they come also matter. Even if one treats the Irish experience as an aberration, the none-too-convincing ride past the Dutch was unexpected.
A team boasting of some of the most feared batsmen in the world shouldn’t see the top and middle order disappear in the matter of minutes against inexperienced side.
India had a chance to better their net run rate by the start provided by the openers. But the fact that they were forced into a repair job against a novice attack didn’t exactly cover the batsmen in glory.
This was their chance to rattle up some confident runs and be in the best frame of mind before tougher challenges ahead. Instead, there could be doubts when they take guard against Dale Steyn in Nagpur on Saturday.
“We were under a bit of pressure,” said MS Dhoni. “Coming after the previous match, where we were 100 for four, you can again say that this was a bad situation to be in. On the positive side, it gave some of our batsmen a chance to bat under pressure. This should stand them in good stead.”
Dhoni had a point. How his batsmen use this experience will determine the destiny of a billion dreams.