After narrowly missing out on almost snatching defeat against England, India managed it successfully this time against South Africa. So well did they manage to avoid victory that a couple more such displays and they could well go on to usurp South Africa’s unwanted tag of Big Match Chokers. There really is no other way to describe it, as well as South Africa might have played.
Sehwag started in his now customary manner with a four first ball – for the fifth consecutive match this World Cup (surely, some sort of a record?). And The Master strutted his stuff in a way only can – cold, calculated and elegant. In fact so well did they – and Gambhir, after them – bat that the mid-innings talking point was not whether India will get 350 or not, but how much beyond will they go and put the issue beyond doubt.
Steyn and South Africa had other ideas though. They first bowled India out for 296 inside 50 overs - unthinkable until even the 45th over – and then chased down the total in a professional manner, though not without a few speed bumps along the way.
Not all was lost for India either. The top three looked in good nick, the fielding for a change had some energy to it, and most importantly, Harbhajan looked to be getting some of his old nip back. This Indian team looks much more formidable with an in-form Harbhajan in it and that can only augur well for the future.
In a convoluted kind of way, this is also as good a time as any to get a loss out of the way than for it to come in the more important knockout stages of the competition. With India virtually assured of a place in the quarters, the loss wouldn’t matter much in the overall scheme of things, but a win would have done invaluable good to the morale, something alluded to in the earlier post as well.
As an aside, teams looking to get Sehwag out early have a tiny window of opportunity – the first ball. Surely, Sehwag has this at the back of his mind and if nothing else, he’ll go for broke in the first ball of the remaining matches. Not that he won’t at other balls, but one can’t be sure which ones those will be. One can be absolutely cock-sure about that first ball though. It’s a great time to be a punter! Watch out Roach, Sehwag might go for something predetermined, so a great opportunity to get him early.
Lastly and unrelatedly, let’s spare a thought for the Japanese tsunami victims. Every time you think it has bottomed out and can’t get any worse, that is exactly what happens. It’s Murphy’s law at its inverted best – or worst. They could do with all the positive vibes and energy we can pass. Spread it if you can. It doesn’t cost you much but is invaluable to our brothers and sisters in desperate need of help.