India once again looked the champion side it has proven to be lately. This match saw the welcome return to form of Viru, Dravid continued has run of form, and Dhoni showed once again that he is more than bull power. Very often victories give teams the luxury of overlooking the weaknesses. Here are a couple that were apparent.
Acceleration in the last 10 overs: This is an area India really struggled. India was well set before the last 10 overs but simply failed to step on the gas thereafter. The popular wisdom is that a set batsman must carry his bat through and play to the very end. This is a sensible strategy provided the team has a plan when both batsman are fairly set. In this case, we had both Dravid and Dhoni at the crease going into the final stretch. The right strategy should have been for Dravid to attack so Dhoni can bat to the end. Unfortunatey, both got bogged down and then both got out! For once, the team looked like they had no clear plan despite the captain being at the crease. Credit should go to the Pak bowlers who did a fine job at the death barring Yuvraj’s fine 24 run cameo.
Opening bowling attack: Irfan Pathan is an ideal “happening” cricketer. If you observe carefully, he is the kind who is almost always in the thick of action. He takes wickets or scores runs or he excels on the field (sometimes). But the truth is that he is always a player who is involved in the action. Ian Botham, Kapil Dev, Flintoff etc., all belong to this category. Irfan has shown all the right signs as far growing into this mould is concerned. On the other hand, its possible that his being in the thick of the action might result in his limitations not being exposed. Despite taking wickets, it appears that his bowling has rapidly deteriorated. He appears completely exhausted in his very first over! His speed has reduced significantly. He picks up wickets but the number of loose balls he sends down are pretty alarming. In the second ODI his first break was certainly a lucky one. Imran Farhat was unlucky to be given out lbw. If his wickets dry up, his opening the bowling might turn out to be a liability more than an asset.