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Sunday, March 06, 2011

World Cup 2011 - Yuvraj's all-round skills help India win

Yuvraj Singh batting at Adelaide OvalYuvraj Singh - allrounder
India reached the top of their Group after a not-so-easy win against the Irish team. They did not have it easy as they would have liked to. The bowlers were troubled by a lengthy partnership after two early strikes. Similarly, their batting was rattled when they were little more than hundred for four wickets. Experience was one weapon missing in the arsenal of Ireland - if only they had it, the match would have been closer. There was no lack of effort though - the fielding and effort to support the bowlers was tremendous. Also, the pitch helped the Indians more today - hint of generous turn was on offer for the slow bowlers (the pitch seemed to resemble the warm-up matches once again).

The Indians went with an unchanged lineup today and opted to field first - Dhoni had hinted that this was his preferred way to go before the match. Zaheer Khan put his hand up and got the initial breakthroughs for the team to put the Irish back on the ropes. His standard trick, that of bowling two balls away from the batsman and then getting it back in, worked today. Even in his latter spells, he was consistent and on the dot. That could not be said of his partner, though. The selection of Munaf Patel somehow generates a feeling that Dhoni is on the defensive and likes to go for a steady bowler rather than one who can take wickets. Patel again went for runs and hardly bowled half his quota. Dhoni, in his mind, must now hope for one of his bowlers like Munaf or Nehra to get injured and ruled out of the tournament - for, that is one way to bring back Praveen Kumar (if he is fit) to the team. The team is missing PK at the top of the attack when he could complement Zak and get critical breakthroughs regularly. For now, Munaf has to make way for Nehra in the next match.

Dhoni usually gives his players a long rope and backs them to the hilt - Piyush Chawla is also facing the same generosity right now. But, MSD will soon realize that Piyush's lack of match practice is haunting the team clearly. The pitch was offering turn and it was for all to see in the very first over of Chawla but the leg-spinner did not help his cause by not sticking to a good line and length. Forget taking a wicket, giving away seven runs every over was not on considering the pitch conditions. Similar to Munaf, Chawla has to make way for Ashwin in the next match.

There is no point in blaming only the younger spinner when the senior spinner in the team, Harbhajan Singh, continued to bowl on an average manner. The figures might look good against him on the scorecard but bear in mind that the bowler was operating against the Irish team who do not have much experience against spin. Dhoni supported his bowlers by giving close-in fielders regularly but somehow the mindset that the spinners are operating are not the same that someone like Shahid Afridi or even Imran Tahir is trying. It was finally left to the all-rounder of the day, Yuvraj Singh, to salvage the situation for India.

His fielding has gone down and he is no longer as mobile as he used to be few years ago but his bowling has gone up a notch - an area that has kept him in the squad compared to Suresh Raina. He was bowling with pace that would ensure that the balls would stand up even more than normal. Check out the shot that Porterfield hit while getting out, for example. Yusuf Pathan also chipped in with seven overs so that the bowling of Patel was not required later in the innings.

In the reply, Sehwag and Gambhir fell early in their innings. Sehwag was again beaten by a ball that stood up, making him play early. Gambhir guided the ball to the fielder within the circle on the leg-side and could not believe the accuracy of his shot! Sachin and Virat Kohli came together and produced a good partnership - they managed to get rid of the initial butterflies and rotate the strike to keep the scorecard moving. As is his wont, Tendulkar got out to a youngster once again - he wanted to go for a review badly but his partner was not so keen about the same (rightly so, one must add).

Kohli was run-out in a mix-up with Yuvraj - probably the only blot on the copybook of Yuvraj Singh today. Yuvraj's running with his skipper was more confident and comfortable - probably the lack of partnership with Kohli was a factor in their misunderstanding. The young lad must have surely eyed another big score in a chase but it was not meant to be. Another fifty-plus partnership between Yuvi and the skipper meant that the target was being depleted slowly and surely. The departure of the Indian skipper after a typical knock of busy-ness at the crease, meant the arrival of Yusuf Pathan.

Pathan very clearly outlined why he is important to the team - a reasonable ask of forty one in little less than ten overs was reduced in the space of four balls by sixteen runs (a boundary and two sixes of Dockrell). Once the task was made innocuous, both the batsmen just kept their heads and took India to victory. Yuvraj completed the double of scoring a 50 and five wickets.

In passing, I would like to congratulate the Irish team for their performance today. They did not disgrace themselves on the field after the highs against England. With proper exposure, they have a role to play in future World Cups (though ICC might still keep them out by having only ten countries participate). What the ICC should instead concentrate on, is to ensure that players like O'Brien's, Dockrell are not poached by the English cricketing team. If this goes on, it would mean a further setback to the team's future hopes.      
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