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Brilliant, boys! (But a bit bizarre)

- Knocked out, Dhoni smug

Colombo, Oct. 2: When push came to shove, Pakistan shook the twin towers of the World Trade Centre here. India collapsed under the weight of a huge ask — to beat South Africa by at least 31 runs.

India did gasp to a one-run victory, with a solitary delivery remaining, but that made no difference to the World Twenty20’s bottom line. Yuvraj Singh was adjudged the MoM, not that the award put him on cloud nine.

Had the circumstances been otherwise, the game would have been remembered as a thriller. Unlikely now.

It’s ironical that the country with the most high-profile T20 League, offering the biggest bucks, continues to flounder in the format internationally.

India won the inaugural World Twenty20, in 2007, but Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s men have done nothing since. Early exits in 2009 and in 2010, followed by again falling in the Super Eights.

Strangely, Dhoni defended his team. “It has been quite a satisfactory performance.… I didn’t expect another match (Pakistan versus Australia) to have such an impact,” he said.

(At the presentation, Dhoni termed India’s performance as “brilliant”, blaming just about everything on the rain which hurt the team in the Australia game.)

It was somewhat of a bizarre day at the R. Premadasa Stadium, as Australia got walloped by Pakistan, but still topped the group.

Mohammed Hafeez and Co. finished second on an inferior net run rate.

So, the semi-finals feature hosts Sri Lanka-Pakistan on Thursday; Australia against the West Indies on Friday.

Pakistan’s 32-run win took South Africa out of the equation and challenged India to live up to their high standing. They didn’t.

“Let’s go out and express ourselves,” had been a Dhoni comment at the toss, which he lost, making the ask that much tougher.

There were moments of delight, from Suresh Raina, Yuvraj and Dhoni himself at the end of the innings, but one didn’t sense that it was a matter of life or death for the XI from India on the park.

The way Pakistan went about their business was quite stunning. But, then, they’re most dangerous when cornered.

Imran Khan’s legacy lives on.

Having seen Pakistan bowl 18 overs of spin, Dhoni should have brought back the experienced Harbhajan Singh. A second specialist spinner may have made the difference.

Ravichandran Ashwin was the sole specialist spinner, but Rohit Sharma was introduced before him! Looked quite odd.

The last set of selectors recalled Lakshmipathy Balaji on the strength of his showing in this year's IPL. But why wasn’t the highly promising Ajinkya Rahane rewarded similarly?

Most feel that the absence of an opener in the reserves is allowing the regulars, Virender Sehwag and vice-captain Gautam Gambhir, to take it a bit easy.

That the opening combination (Irfan Pathan opened with Gambhir twice) never got off to a rousing start had a telling effect.

A best of 24 leaves a lot to be desired.

The new selection committee also needs to give the bowling line-up, particularly in the ODIs and the T20 Internationals, much thought.

It’s worth noting the impact made by the young Mitch Starc and the even younger Pat Cummins. There are other examples as well.

When asked if captains had a shelf life, Dhoni replied: “I live in the present and don’t think that far ahead.”

Eighteen months ago, after the World Cup success, Dhoni had been the toast of millions. The very disappointing run thereafter has altered the canvas.

To talk of another captain.…

“It’s not that I have to cheer for South Africa.… Sukoon se khana khayenge aur aakhri match dekhenge.… Our job was to beat Australia convincingly and we’ve done that…. The rest isn’t really in our hands,” Hafeez told The Telegraph before the India versus South Africa game.

Hafeez is going to sleep peacefully too.


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