ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 / Features

India v Ireland, Group B, World Cup 2011, Bangalore

Reversing the scales key in Bangalore clash

In a battle that is no longer David v Goliath, India need to focus on the minute details that almost cost them the England game while Ireland need to perform big

Sharda Ugra in Bangalore

March 5, 2011

Comments: 7 | Text size: A | A

Kevin O'Brien warms up during Ireland's training session, Bangalore, March 5, 2011
Kevin O'Brien has infused Sunday's clash with greater significance © Associated Press
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Everything in Indian cricket works on scale. Being the biggest and most widely-supported when the last World Cup came to Asia, it has gone on to becoming the richest, the most powerful, the most influential, the most vociferous, the most strident. In the same period its team has become the most successful in the country's history (minus the minor matter of a second World Cup win) and inched its way up various ranking ladders.

In Bangalore on Sunday, India meet a country where cricket is not even among the nation's top four sports, with no footprint on terrestrial television, where resources are stretched thinner than butter on a supermodel's toast, travelling supporters' numbers can't fill the Chinnaswamy and Sunday's match will just their third ODI under lights.

Yet when the two meet on Sunday in Bangalore, in a match that has gone from being shark versus sardine to giants versus gate-crashers, India and Ireland need to reverse these scales.

India must execute small and Ireland must perform big.

Against England, India's performance in the field was without the energy required of a side defending 338. Or wanting to win the World Cup. No matter what was happening to its bowlers, singles leaked through like cheap plumbing, and twos were handed over as generously as millionaires do loose change. India's ground fielding is never athletic, but last Sunday, it was wasteful. Batting first, India produced more fours and sixes than England but far fewer singles and twos. Even if India put out of memory the incomplete single from Munaf Patel on the last ball of their innings, it is a chart that should make them cringe. They should aim to never see its like again.

Even before England began chasing, India set themselves on the back foot through the manner in which their end overs were paced with the rapid loss of wickets and a good number of leftover dot balls. In a game which ends in a dead heat, when one side has 134 dot balls in its innings and the other 116, what does that say about the squads? Is it a reflection of the quality of the batsmen, the efficiency of the bowlers or what one team could do in the field against another? Or is this an illustration of the parity? Before answering that question remember, arithmetic never lies.

When the question about India's low turnover was put to MS Dhoni this afternoon, he said the dot balls didn't matter if 338 had been scored. On Sunday, none of this nitpicking may matter because India meet a team that can be matched man for man, record for record and of course, numbers for numbers. Do the math, India's fans may holler. India may get the result they desire out of the Sunday game but to regain their aura, they will need do what Jack in the nursery rhyme was asked to do: be nimble and be quick. So when the real candlestick turns up, muscle memory is what will helps them jump over.

The Indians these days train and work in a happy bubble of camaraderie, their football-volleyball-Usain Bolt routine on Friday leading to much laughter among the squad. They are well-cosseted by a ten-strong support staff and the tournament format that is intended to shepherd them into the quarter-finals at the very least. With all this, there is no good reason for them to pay so very little attention to the details in their match against England.

On Sunday, India entertained, as they have always done. They got the crowd on its feet as they have done throughout their history. Yet, only when an entertaining India links arms with efficiency, buffers its style with substance, do they set themselves up for a clinical sequence of victories.

Ireland are one of India's lighter-weight opponents when compared to two of the three that are lined up for the hosts within the next week. It will be the biggest stage the Irish have ever been on and it is why they must produce a performance that is memorable in both size and scale. Trent Johnston had told ESPNcricinfo that the Irish "liked to mix it with the big boys, to go out there and take them down every now and then." Cricket has experienced Ireland's 'every now and then' and so now.the Irish, whose freshness has been infectious at the World Cup, must walk onto the field believing they are on equal terms. To prove that they are more than a romantic 'story' that pops up every few years, who've gone from being amateur darlings into professional contestants.

It is a harsh requirement for a team that must scrap every season for survival and relevance in the world game. But if Ireland want to fight their way onto the FTP and double the international matches they play every year, they must play the match of their lives in Bangalore. Even if they believe they have just done so three days ago.

The morning after England, Johnston said it would be "hard to top yesterday". For an instant, he looked towards the tomorrow and the idea of India made him smile. "But Jeez, if we beat India in Bangalore..." he trailed off, suddenly remembering the quixotic, up-ended words of his former coach Adrian "A D" Burrell and laughed, "then, you can tie the dogs loose." Those are crazy, antithetical, impossible words. But hey, in two games, Bangalore's World Cup has produced a tie and an upset. Who's to say that the contrarian is not the conventional here?

Sharda Ugra is senior editor at ESPNcricinfo

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© ESPN EMEA Ltd.

Comments: 7 
Posted by   on (March 6, 2011, 10:07 GMT)

We do not need to feed off on excessive criticism of our team. We are, what we are. We may not be the best athletes but we make it up in one way or the other. Journalism needs to be constructive even when it needs to criticise. Remember Harsha Bhogle and his comments on Stuart Broad in that crunch game against Ireland? He sent the message across without appearing to be overly critical and rude. Sharda has gained a reputation but her articles off late have been sullying that.

Posted by SoulFried on (March 6, 2011, 8:29 GMT)

@Bravo: Ever heard of the use of"irony" or "sarcasm". "Minor matter" isn't meant to be taken literally man!

Posted by KiwiRocker- on (March 6, 2011, 2:54 GMT)

There are warning signs all over Indian performance so far. Indian fielding is one of worse in the world and their bowling is not any better. India can not imporve their fielding as they have aging players who has been selected because of reputation rather than form. Suresh Raina and Yuvraj are sitting ducks against quality bowling. Teams like SL, Pak and SA will take overrated Harbhajan, inexprienced Aswin and tried and failed Chawla to cleaners. India seems to be relying on their top order to score runs. Indian middle order is either out of form or not good enough.India needs to raise their game although one feels that tie against England may haunt India as they may end up playing Pak or Australia in QF meaning an early exit for India. Indian selectors have been riding on individual form of players like Sehwag, Zaheer and kohli. Players like Ishant, Rohit, Ohja and even VS Laxman should have been selected.I hope it is not repeat of Nehru Cup 1989 and India watches others having party

Posted by KiwiRocker- on (March 6, 2011, 2:54 GMT)

There are warning signs all over Indian performance so far. Indian fielding is one of worse in the world and their bowling is not any better. India can not imporve their fielding as they have aging players who has been selected because of reputation rather than form. Suresh Raina and Yuvraj are sitting ducks against quality bowling. Teams like SL, Pak and SA will take overrated Harbhajan, inexprienced Aswin and tried and failed Chawla to cleaners. India seems to be relying on their top order to score runs. Indian middle order is either out of form or not good enough.India needs to raise their game although one feels that tie against England may haunt India as they may end up playing Pak or Australia in QF meaning an early exit for India. Indian selectors have been riding on individual form of players like Sehwag, Zaheer and kohli. Players like Ishant, Rohit, Ohja and even VS Laxman should have been selected.I hope it is not repeat of Nehru Cup 1989 and India watches others having party

Posted by BravoBravo on (March 5, 2011, 23:08 GMT)

Just to refer the sentence from Mr. Ugra article_"the same period its team has become the most successful in the country's history (minus the minor matter of a second World Cup win)". Just a thought_when the World Cup win became a minor matter for IND? Is it because the gap of 28 years is too long or their batting totally failed in 2003 Finals. Their batting fiasco in 2003 was humiliating and IND media put the blame solely on IND bowlers. It has nevere been discussed in any article that how much their star batsmen contributed to 125 run loss against AUS. My point is that this kind of articles which are full of self praise and without much elucidation or facts, are meaningless. If IND win against Ireland (non-test playing nation) in forthcoming match, now that will be a minor matter.

Posted by crazyuddie on (March 5, 2011, 22:03 GMT)

Isn't it true, however, that in the last 2-3 years India's dot ball percentage has been lower than most teams? I remember seeing an article (numbers game) saying India where second best only to Australia. If that is the case, then the last game was not the norm, but the exception. In which case, the tone of the criticism is somewhat unjustified.

(Dhoni and Kohli also, apparently, have low dot ball percentages, as compared to Yuvraj, Tendulkar, Sehwag -- both those batsmen didn't last long in that game -- and that should also partially explain the dot ball percentage.)

Posted by   on (March 5, 2011, 21:20 GMT)

If Ireland manages to win tomorrow, they will be the force to reckon. And India, please brush up your fielding and bowling skill....apart from Zak every bowler is below average.

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