| Irfan Pathan on way to his 31, in Colombo, on Friday |
Colombo: Virender Sehwag cut a forlorn figure in the dugout towards the end of the match. Forced to sit out, his presence could have had a psychological effect on the Australians.
At least, Mike Hussey and his team thought as much. The Indian think-tank, no doubt, differed.
The decision to leave out the opener will continue to be debated upon. So will be the strategy to go in with five bowlers. Perhaps these will hold significance in the light of Friday’s nine-wicket defeat.
If Pakistan are sitting high on confidence after their thrilling victory against South Africa, India have left themselves with very little room for error in the next games. For them, the remaining two ties will be must-win matches in the World T20.
“It’s good to be in a situation where we must win all matches… There will be no complacency,” explained Mahendra Singh Dhoni.
The Indians had perhaps wasted more time and energy on deciding their team combination than dealing on the Australians’ weaknesses on the eve of the Super Eights match. It showed in the performance of the two teams on Friday.
While the Indians huffed and puffed their way to reach to 140 for seven, the Australians played true to their plans to inflict the drubbing inside 14.5 overs.
There was no stopping Shane Watson and David Warner. While being calculative and destructive, they tore apart the myth surrounding the spinners. A desperate Dhoni was forced to use eight bowlers, but to no effect.
Only two sixes in the Indian innings compared to Australia’s 10, tells the story of the day. The drizzle and the wet ball may have made the task of the spinners slightly difficult, but one must have to admit that the Aussie openers were too good on the day. Zaheer Khan didn’t look enterprising and the less said the better about Irfan Pathan.
For Watson, who scored 72 off 42 balls with two boundaries and seven sixes, this was his third consecutive Man of the Match award. Warner (63 not out off 41 balls) was also not to be left behind as the left-right combination made the task of the spinners difficult.
The 133-run opening partnership was their second century stand in a T20 International this month, and the Australian record for any wicket.
For both the batsmen, the Indian spinners are no longer an unknown commodity as would have happened a few years earlier. The IPL has opened the doors, and as Watson conceded later, tackling Ravichandran Ashwin and Harbhajan Singh wasn’t too difficult a task.
The circumstances and the events that unfolded during the Pakistan-South Africa match must have prompted Dhoni to go in with three specialist spinners in Harbhajan Singh, Ravichandran Ashwin and Piyush Chawla. But he had never taken the rain factor into consideration.
In hindsight, a reshuffle of the batting order could have done India a world of good. But the team management is known for their unwillingness to experiment too much.
Gautam Gambhir and Pathan, however, made sure the momentum wasn’t lost during their three-over stay at the wicket. The start wasn’t bad but the regular fall of wickets in the middle overs made the task of the other batsmen difficult. If Pat Cummins was difficult to get away with his pace and accuracy — the pacer’s four overs yielding two for 16 — Shane Watson continued with his wicket-taking spree.
Cummins’ brilliant footwork came to the team’s aid as he ran out Gambhir. The opener’s 17 from 12 balls had helped India wrest the early initiative. But what followed was near disaster.
Virat Kohli top-edged Cummins and then Yuvraj Singh, Pathan (31 off 30 balls) and Rohit Sharma fell in quick succession, the last two off consecutive deliveries. Kohli’s superb form has been the reason behind India’s recent success and his dismissal was certain to press the panic button.
The Aussies didn’t have to rely much on chin music but precision and discipline was enough to run through the middle-order. Dhoni and Suresh Raina tried to repair the damage with a 30-run partnership, but there was hardly any commanding stroke from any of the batsmen.
But considering the murderous ways in which the Australians went about their task, even another 30 odd runs would have proved to be insufficient.