Remember how pressurizing your board exams were? So many expectations from Mom, Dad, Grandparents, annoying relatives who haven’t spoken to you from ages and Padhos Wali Sharma Aunty. Well, multiply that by 100 million and you get the population of India. That’s the number of people counting on Dhoni’s boys to make the nation proud in the 11th edition of the Cricket World Cup.
I’ve never been one of the most avid followers of the sport. There were phases when I was crazy about it, as a child, and others when I couldn’t care less. The last few months though, I have been following India’s progress Down Under. Honestly, there wasn’t any ‘progress’ to follow. Time and again, India was failing a billion people; be it test matches or ODIs.
By the time the World Cup kicked off, a lot of people were skeptical about whether the current batch of players was worthy enough of representing the country at the biggest stage.
Not anymore, my friends. Not anymore.
After seeing off Pakistan in style and maintaining their perfect CWC record against them, the pressure was on India to break a vice-versa run of results against the South Africans. And BOOM! They Men in Blue did it. They beat South Africa for the first time in the Cricket World Cup. What do you have to say about that, Mauka boys?
Here’s how things went down today at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
India won the toss and chose to bat
Historically, South Africa haven’t been the best chasers of a score. And we all know how South Africa can choke on anything; especially if it’s some Indian spices disguised and fours and sixes. India winning the toss, mean that they would be put in that unfavorable situation once again. But in a big match like this one, statistics are just fancy numbers. With a bowling attack comprising of Dale Steyn, Philander, Morkel and Imran Tahir, the African nation’s bowling attack is nothing short of deadly.
However, coming into this tournament, Wayne Parnell’s inclusion in the squad had been a topic of much debate in the RSA camp. And he might have been the one who proved to be their undoing. Allowing 85 runs to be scored of his 9 overs, Parnell managed to get absolutely obliterated by the likes of India’s top order.
Kudos to Shikhar Dhawan, who managed to hold on to one end of the pitch for a prolonged period of play, and scored a career best of 137 runs. An equal amount of appreciation was earned by Ajinkya Rahane, who was ready to attack the bowlers from ball one. With a strike rate of more than 130, Rahane hammered the South African bowling attack. A special mention to Virat Kohli, whose 43 was over-shadowed by the other performances, but played an instrumental part in poising the game perfectly for India to go ahead and post a good score.
After our formidable batting line-up posted 307/7 on the boards, it was time for our much-scrutinized bowlers to put on their display. South Africa, much like India, got off to a slow but steady start. The scoreboard read 38/1 at the end of ten overs, and Amla and Du Plessis just seemed to be getting into a rhythm when India picked danger-man Amla’s wicket. De Villiers, who replaced Amla, brought some sense of security on to the pitch for the Africans, but was dismissed in the 23rd over. And then began trouble in paradise.
Faf du Plessis tried ever so hard to hang on to any rays of hope. But once he was out for 55, the South African batting toppled over like dominoes. Within a span of 44 runs and 12 overs, South Africa lost 7 wickets. And India managed to win a second game on the trot.
Not Aal Izz Well, Though.
While the overall performance of the team with bat & ball and even in the field was above par, a major problem which was identifiable in the team was the middle-order batting. In the 2011 World Cup, the attribute which contributed the most towards India’s victory was the middle order. This time around, however, Dhoni, Jadeja and Raina seem to have hit a sour patch. If the Indians are to put up a title fight, they can’t always rely on the top order to fire. Once the middle order starts working well, the runs can really pile up for India; especially with the abilities of the batsmen to hit the ball past the fence, into the crowd. And that’s when a billion Indians will really be ready with their boxes of firecrackers.
Thankfully for these billion fans, waking up early to watch games hasn’t been in vain and Team India has thoroughly entertained their fans. Between Kohli’s aggression to Dhoni’s calmness, there isn’t one moment of cricketing action which deserves to go unnoticed in this edition of the World Cup. With two comfortable wins in two games, and an upcoming game against minnows, U.A.E, India’s prospects seem much brighter than they did at the beginning of this World Cup. When India meet U.A.E. on Saturday, even the Sheikhs of Dubai probably won’t be betting their money against an Indian victory.
Let’s hope that this good run of performances from the Blue Boys continues and #BleedBlue & #WontGiveItBack continue being trending topics on Twitter.
By Lakshaya Soin