Mumbai batsman's new stance and trigger movement that gives him the extra split second to play the ball, paying dividends, writes Amol Muzumdar
Strangely, India lost the opening ODI against South Africa at Kanpur on Sunday. I say 'strangely' because India controlled the entire game apart from the last three overs in both innings. It gives you some idea of how small the margin of error is in one-day cricket.
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India's Rohit Sharma plays an off-side shot during the first ODI against South Africa at Green Park in Kanpur on Sunday. Pic/AFP
South Africa started off gracefully with their two openers, Hashim Amla and Quinton de Kock. Amla with a bat in hand resembles a painter with a brush in front of a huge, green canvas. He was caressing the ball in the gaps before he was bowled by Amit Mishra's flipper.
Find that swing
While it was nice to see India play a leggie, the medium pacers have been disappointing, especially Bhuvaneshwar Kumar. He's a swing bowler who bowls at 130kmph. If he doesn't swing the ball, that sort of pace becomes ideal for batsmen to go big, so it's imperative for Bhuvi to find that swing again.
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When Amla was dismissed, the stage was set for AB de Villiers. He responded as only a genius would to the ever-growing demands. Very few players take your breath away by their strokeplay and AB is one of them.
India's reply to 303 was prompt with Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan starting off well. Rohit in particular was at his fluent best. He looks more assured with his new stance. He doesn't move at all until the last minute, keeping his bat high up.
He looks to go back and across, a slight trigger movement, enabling him to get that extra split second to play the ball. Gosh, he looks good when he is in such form.
Jolt from Tahir
The run chase was in control till the 46th over but a double strike from Imran Tahir jolted the Indians and set the ball rolling for the Proteas. It was followed by an over from young Kagiso Rabada.
There was a clear plan to bowl short in the death overs. Now this is something new. It's not rocket science that fast bowlers rely on yorkers and low full tosses towards the end but they didn't bowl any.
They pitched it short within the body plane. MS Dhoni was expecting one ball to be pitched up so he could send it into orbit, but he was out witted by a young gun. That itself is a big achievement.
I have heard some unpleasant comments on Dhoni lately, but I am not going to join the bandwagon simply because I still believe that he was and is the best man to lead India in the shorter formats.
In India, we always tend to go gung-ho with emerging superstars but it would be foolish to write off someone, who has enjoyed the Midas touch throughout his cricket life.