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Invaluable Lessons of Bowling and Fielding

March 31, 2011

I am partially disappointed with The TOI’s coverage of the World Cup semifinal cricket match between India and Pakistan held in Mohali yesterday afternoon. Although I do like the graphical representations of match turning points, the match scorecard with analysis and the batting analysis of Sachin’s 85 off 115 balls, but I cannot understand why TOI did not cover the main highlight of the match – bowling and fielding by both teams.

It is absolutely clear that the differentiating factor between the winning and losing side was their bowling and fielding. India won the match by sheer disciplined fielding and bowling. Honestly I have never been a fan of the team’s early foray with the bowl and their spread across the field. It was unlikely of the team improvising and adjusting to the changing pitch and bowlers bowling a straight line without giving an extra till the late overs. That was something that cricketers all across the world should add in their cricketing-lessons.

Pakistan’s dropped catches, failed leg-before-wickets and patchy bowling costed them invaluably. That showed how unprepared and nervous they felt in Mohali. This Mohali had been a lucky pitch for them the last 2 times they had played here against India. The Pakistani bowlers came back confidently towards the end to take the 9 wickets of the Indian batting. Among the remarkable dismissals were Yuvraj Singh’s bowled facing his 1st ball, Sehwag lbw and Virat Kohli’s catch by Umar Akmal, all bowled by Wahab Riaz. Wahab’s 5 wicket detruction was the highlight and saving grace for the rather sad Pakistani bowling and fielding. His career best would have won him the Man of the Match if Pakistan would have made the targetted 261 runs.

The lowest point for Pakistan was Umar Gul’s worst bowling performance ever. Giving away 69 runs in 8 overs lead Pakistan’s loss. Also Pakistani fielders faired badly when it came to catching Sachin’s weak strikes. It was only because of Pakistan’s bad luck that Sachin survived and made 85 which brought him the Man of the Match award. Fielding positions were another area where Pakistan got a setback. Fours could not be contained in the initial overs and even the ball over-throws was worrysome. As for the dropped catches, any Pakistani cricket fan would be outraged for such a bad performance.

As for India, Dhoni was right in praising his ‘boys’ for their bowling and fielding. When he said that he didn’t have to use an extra bowler because his major bowlers were doing their job was so true in more ways than one. It is unlikely that all bowlers click on the same day. But it happened yesterday evening. Such line and length is quite a treat. And the fielding … sigh! It was top order. Crisp and prompt. Absolutely mouthwatering. The ecstasy of watching the celebrations after every wicket is like you suddenly attained wings! Your eyes pop out and you feel like crying out loud with endorphins in blood reaching abnormal levels.

Let us take victorios names now. The Indian bowling line-up – Zaheer Khan, Munaf Patel, Harbhajan Singh, Ashish Nehra and Yuvraj Singh. All taking 2 wickets each. All maintaining splendid line and length. This is unnatural and unusual for Indian cricket. It might be that such figures were there before I was born (1983), but after that, I did not see such a phenomenon. Notable wickets were Yuvraj’s crippling of the Pakistani middle order, Bhajji’s bowling Umar Akmal out who would have been dangerous if left in the middle (he made 29 off 24 balls), also his sending the valuable Shahid Afridi back to the pavilion before he could damage the winning plans that Dhoni and his men were working on throughout the match was just wow! I must say I started my celebrations after Shahid was caught outside the 30 yard circle by a cool and confident Sehwag. Towards the end Nehra’s 2 quick wickets and in the climax Zaheer Khan chorusing the swan song for Pakistan by dismissing the steady Misbah-ul-Haq who was the only one who could turn Pakistan’s fate if someone in the down order would support him by staying in the crease, was a lovely treat.

Fielding was the best thing that India discovered they could work with in this match. Be it Suresh Raina, Yuvraj Singh or Virat Kohli. Their fielding positions were prim and proper and they did not disappoint. Catches by Virat and Sehwag were something to go back and watch again and again. It was the saving of 1 or 2 runs that I believe brought India closer to the cup.

I apologize for mixing a little salt in such a sweet but there are 3 moments in the match which notably made me scream with irritation. First, Yuvraj’s arm hitting the bales while attempting a run out, his conceding 15 runs in one of the late overs he bowled (the first ball went for a wide and a four!) and Ashish Nehra’s lousy almost-catch outside the 30 yard circle. Special apologies to Yuvi … you’re my most favorite player since you started playing . As for Nehra, sorry for the finger you hurt trying to take that catch.

I really hope that the men in blue learn from these invaluable lessons in bowling and fielding that they themselves scripted in this match. Wish them all the bestest of wishes for the World Cup Final 2011 on Saturday against the best bowling side in the world – Sri Lanka.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. YNM permalink
    March 31, 2011 11:09 PM

    Very well written; liked your in-depth analysis.

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