Two days after India won the second ODI to tie the series against South Africa 1-1, I am still in a state of disbelief. How they could have pulled off the one – run victory when
* they were defending a meager total of 190
* SA were at one point in the chase 152/4 and needed only 39 runs to win with 6 wickets in hand
* SA at 188/8 needed only 3 runs to win with 2 wickets in hand and more than enough overs to go.
There is no denying that India had a large amount of luck in getting the win . A rank bad umpiring decision , an unnecessary and inexplicable move by Smith ( in taking the batting Power Play ) that backfired , some irresponsible batting by Duminy and the middle order, the collapse of SA’s long “tail” …all these played a part in the improbable victory . I can’t imagine all these things happening in the same innings and yet they did. It must have been torture for the home crowd to watch a certain victory elude the Proteas ; they must have been in a state of shock as things unraveled.
At the same time one has to give credit to the Indians tenacity and, above all, to Dhoni’s captaincy. It took guts to keep attacking fields when the margin for victory was so small. Usually , in such situations , it is the Indians who lose their nerve ; this time, to their credit , they didn’t.
Now that the euphoria of this win has begun to wear off , it must be admitted that the prospects of winning the series look very bleak . In fact , India may be hard put to even win one of the remaining three ODI’s. SA are formidable on their home pitches where Steyn and Co. are so effective. After their shocking defeat in the second ODI , the Proteas will have blood in their eyes and will be looking for revenge . To make matters worse , the Indians list of injuries grows longer by the minute. Sehwag, Gambhir and Praveen Kumar were already out and now Sachin Tendulkar has returned home .On the bright side , it will allow Sachin in particular to rest up for the World Cup ; he has had to play far too much cricket and he is 37 years old. It also will give some of the youngsters a chance . Let’s see if they are up to it. I don’t care if India lose all the remaining ODI’s . With the World Cup just a month away , all I hope for is that there are no more injuries.
The Indian squad for the World Cup has just been announced and it is as follows: MS Dhoni (capt & wk), Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina, Virat Kohli, Yusuf Pathan, Harbhajan Singh, Praveen Kumar, Zaheer Khan, Ashish Nehra, Munaf Patel, Piyush Chawla, R Ashwin.
The one surprise inclusion is legspinner Piyush Chawla.The rest of the 15 practically wrote themselves in with their recent performances and one can’t quarrel with their selections. The batting is a nice blend of experience and youth. Gambhir , Tendulkar, Raina and Kohli are dependable while Sehwag, Yuvraj , Yusuf Pathan and Dhoni can be match winners on their day. Rohit Sharma’s exclusion is a mild surprise but he has been given chances galore and has failed to seize them . In the bowling department , I am glad to see the selectors drop Ishant Sharma ( who needs to work harder if he wants to regain his place ) and Sreesanth , both of whom are erratic and leak runs regularly. Zaheer is Zaheer and Praveen is economical while Ashish Nehra and Munaf are the best of a bad lot. In the spin bowling department , Harbhajan is an automatic and R. Ashwin has come on strong ; Chawla , as I’ve said, is a surprise. I would have thought that Praghyan Ojha or even Amit Mishra would be picked ahead of him . Since his dream debut in the U-19 squad , Chawla has not fulfilled his immense potential and has not played in an ODI for a couple of years now. Reports from the Indian camp suggest that he was picked because he can also bat a bit but this doesn’t make sense. We already have Harbhajan who can do that and Zaheer who can plunder a few runs on occasion. Was it really necessary to pick a bowler because he can bat a bit ? On subcontinental pitches , where India’s weakness against pace is not such a big factor , this would seem to be an unnecessary luxury.If the top 8 don’t produce with the bat it is inlikely that # 9 can do much.
Still, this one selection is not a big deal , even if one doesn’t quite see the logic of it . What is crucial to India’s chances of making an impact is how well our injured players are able to bounce back and regain their form.Which is why , all I want is for India to get through the rest of the South Africa tour without further mishaps , never mind the results.