70 wickets in 7 games must not hide the fact that India’s bowling attack needs immense improvement, writes Aakash Chopra
There are only two teams that have managed to defend the World Cup title, and there’s a reason for it. Winning a World Cup is extremely tough but to defend the crown four years later in a different country and mostly with a different set of personnel in a constantly evolving world is even tougher.
India started their title defence in style and along the way, perhaps, surprised themselves with the way their bowlers bowled. They dismissed every single opposition in the first seven games and it won’t be an exaggeration to say that they bulldozed their way into the semi-finals of the World Cup. But then, they ran into a team that was simply superior in all aspects of the game.
Pacer Umesh Yadav appeals against an Aussie batsman during the semi-final on Thursday. PIC/GETTY IMAGES
For India to win Thursday’s semi-final in Sydney, few things had to fall in place starting with Dhoni winning the toss, India batting first and scoring in excess of 285. The reason why I say 285 and not 325 is that you must add at least 30-40 runs to the total in a knockout game of a World Cup, and that’s why when Australia scored 328, it was game over for India.
Australia started as firm favorites to win this encounter and their display of skills over 96.5 overs just validated that belief. They were clinical with the bat for the first 40 overs and even though they stuttered between 41-46 overs, Mitchell Johnson took their total in the ‘above-par’ range by some hard-hitting in the last three overs. That’s where it is imperative to address India’s bowling resources and their effectiveness, or the lack of it, in good batting conditions. In the three big games (Pakistan, South Africa and Bangladesh) Dhoni won the important toss and bowlers had a cushion of 300+ and the scoreboard pressure added teeth to the unit.
Belter at Sydney
The semi-final was the first time when India had to bowl first on a good batting pitch against a good opposition and the bowling performance showed that we are still a long way away from becoming a potent bowling unit. Seventy wickets in seven games must not hide the fact that there’s immense room for improvement in the bowling department.
India’s batting has been its strength but when you look closely at the way this batting unit has performed in this World Cup, you’ll find that the cracks were always there. It isn’t a coincidence that no Indian features in the top-five run-getters list in this World Cup. Virat Kohli started the tournament with a century against Pakistan but his performances tapered off as the tournament progressed.
If we count the knockout games he’s played in two World Cups (2011 and 2015), he’s yet to score a half-century in five outings. India’s fortunes in the big run-chase were hinging on his form, for he’s India’s best player in chasing. Unfortunately, his shot selection left a bit to be desired. Once Australia dismissed both him and in-form Dhawan in quick succession, it was going to be an uphill task for India to keep up with the asking run-rate while also ensuring that wickets didn’t fall.
In the end, it turned out to be a one-sided contest and one has to admit that the better team won.
Now, the hosts will lock horns on Sunday at the MCG and even though Australia appears stronger on paper, I’m putting my money on Black Caps to create history.
My money on NZ
If you win a game as close as they did against South Africa in Auckland, the group gets a feeling that it could go through a wall. In addition to that, they have an ultra-aggressive skipper in Brendon McCullum who has introduced a new brand of cricket to the world.
I’m expecting his attacking instincts to make up for the lack of match-winners in his side. Also, history tells us that playing against Australia brings the best out of New Zealand.
It won’t be a surprise if Australia clinches the World Cup for the record fifth time but getting a new World Champion will be better for the game. Go Kiwis!