ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 / Features
Bangladesh v India, World Cup 2011, Mirpur
Normal service restored, somewhat
This was a mighty batting performance by the mightiest batting line-up in the tournament but India have a few crinkles to iron out
February 19, 2011
The crowd and the stage was befitting of a World Cup opener - and, when the home batsmen sparkled briefly at the beginning of the chase, the atmosphere too - but gradually the inevitable outcome of a gigantic chase homed in, batsmen abandoned the chase and the crowd resigned themselves to cheering the occasional boundary. The streets outside the ground weren't as charged as the night before but the partying continued in Dhaka. It isn't merely about the home team here: the World Cup is the real thing.
For the Indians, it went to script. A large total was mounted; so large, in fact, that it didn't stretch their bowlers at all. But the most interesting part of the plot was the unveiling of a new Virender Sehwag, restrained, patient, canny, and hungry. There were glimpses of this during the warm-up games, and he made good his pre-tournament promise to bat long. This was the longest he has ever batted in a one-day match, and inevitably it yielded his highest score. The 200 came tantalisingly close but Sehwag never looked over-anxious to get there. Was it because he didn't think it appropriate to take Sachin Tendulkar's record after having run him out?
Overall, it was a mighty batting performance by the mightiest batting line-up in this World Cup. The Bangladesh bowling was unthreatening but by no means was the pitch a belter. It was a typical Bangladesh pitch, low and slow. So slow that the real threat to the batsmen came from the risk of indecision. Bangladesh turned to spin after four overs, and the ball took so long to arrive that Virender Sehwag could have sung a song before playing it. Runs had to be manoeuvred, not bludgeoned. The Indians did it expertly, skillfully.
The wagon wheels tell the story (check out our brilliant new one). India picked up 152 of their 370 runs in front of the wicket on the onside. The arc between the bowler and mid-on is among the most difficult scoring areas but, on a pitch where the batsmen were forced to generate their own pace, Indian batsmen drove off the back-foot consummately. Sehwag, of course, hit a few straight down the ground with a flat bat.
Uncertain of his place in the XI before the World Cup began, Virat Kohli has cemented his place at the number four with an exquisite hundred on debut. By all accounts he is India's most improved batsman in recent years. Sehwag joined the chorus of teammates to speak about his maturity. Recalling that he had thrown away his wicket in the Champions Trophy match against Pakistan in South Africa, Sehwag pointed out that Kohli has scored six hundreds in the ODIs since then. His batting today was perfectly tempered, full of grace and timing and of cover-driving reminiscent of Rahul Dravid.
Bangladesh's decision to bowl was not inexplicable, and Shakib Al Hasan defended it stoutly but did betray diffidence. Two factors would have weighed on Shakib. The dew that tends to set in in the final stages of the match is potentially crippling for his spin-based bowling attack. And historically, most of their wins against top nations, including their two World Cup upsets, have come bowling first. In fact, that's how unfancied team usually sneak a win: they capitalise on opposition batsmen either underestimating their bowlers or just batting badly.
Bangladesh have a fair chance of making it to the quarter-finals in this World Cup. But to get there, they would need to believe that they are genuine contenders. They have a largely defensive bowling attack, and they must trust it to defend in these conditions. A team choosing to bowl first expects wickets off its bowlers, and there wasn't a sniff of a wicket-taking ball throughout the Indian innings today. The most sustained cheer from the crowd came when Virat Kohli under-edged a pull to his thigh and winced in pain. As if to keep the spirits going, they replayed the ball four times in quick succession on the giant screen, and the cheers grew louder. But for the most part, the crowd was left to feel the pain inflicted by Indian batsmen.
Abdur Razzak bowled a couple of good overs at the start and Shakib has developed a fast offside yorker that works at the death but Bangladesh had no option but to wheel away once the Indians got going. Rubel Hossain alone produced some spunk with clever use of the bouncer that Sehwag, and later Kohli, found difficult to put away. He went for only six an over despite bowling in all the Powerplays and at the death.
India can be relieved to have done the business expected of them but the bowling will remain a worry. They chose Sreesanth ahead of Ashish Nehra, who had been wayward, and Sreesanth delivered two spells full of sins: too full, too short, too wide, too far down the leg, and predictably a no-ball. Since playing four specialist bowlers is fundamental to their strategy, and they have nowhere else to look for a fast-bowling option, they might soon need to consider two specialist spinners.
On a turning pitch in Bangalore against England, that may not be the worst option.
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