Dhaka: The wait is over. Yuvraj Singh proved that it was just a matter of one innings as he played the lead role in the demolition of the Australians, in the World T20, on Sunday.
There was no thumping of the chest or any exaggerated show of aggression. Victory, achieved with 28 balls remaining, seemed like business as usual for Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s men.
It’s hard to pin point a loophole in India’s 73-run victory on Sunday. More than Australia lacking motivation, it was about India proving that they can be lethal even in a ‘dead rubber’. The middle-order showed they can be relied upon and the bowlers exploited the conditions to perfection.
That India were made to bat for the first time in the tournament could be seen as a blessing ahead of the knockouts. This was their chance to see how the batsmen respond when it comes to setting targets and if the bowlers buckle under pressure.
“It’s tough to judge the going in a T20 game… A total of three or four overs can change the complexion of a match. The course changes rapidly… But we have match-winners who can be relied upon,” said Dhoni.
If the bowlers were brilliant, the fielding, especially the catching, was encouraging in defending 159. With most sides struggling, the Indians had made it a point to have their fielding sessions under lights to get accustomed to the conditions. The results showed as there were no spilled chances.
The Australians tried to keep the run-rate going in their favour despite the quick dismissals of Aaron Finch, Cameron White, Shane Watson and David Warner. Glenn Maxwell tried his big-hitting ways with three sixes, but once he departed, trying an over-ambitious reverse sweep against Ravichandran Ashwin, it was curtains for the Australians.
If Man of the Match Ashwin did the early damage picking up three wickets in his first three-over spell, Bhuvneshwar Kumar stopped them in their tracks with a miserly opening spell of 3-0-7-1. That Amit Mishra, their most successful bowler, was brought into the attack after 11 overs reflected the accuracy and depth in the attack.
Even Mohit Sharma’s opening spell was impressive. His inclusion, in place of Mohammed Shami, was a bit surprising considering he hadn’t even played the warm-ups. There had been no official word from the team management, but the pacer’s fitness was under the scanner.
It was not until Thursday that he regularly started bowling in the nets. But the way he forced Watson into making a mistake showed that he too was up for the challenge.
One of the traits of champion teams have been the ability of players to stand up and take responsibility. If the top-order failed on Sunday, it was the chance of the hitherto untested middle-order to show character. While Yuvraj was fluent in his 60 off 43 balls, Dhoni provided good support during their 84-run partnership in 42 balls.
A lot has been made about Dhoni’s luck in ICC tournaments, but Yuvraj’s contribution has often gone unnoticed. Be it the triumph in the 2007 World T20 or the 2011 World Cup, the all-rounder has made the big stage his own.
His return among runs may mean a good omen for India, but more importantly, it is sure to provide Dhoni with some relief. The captain’s support has been encouraging, but more laudable has been the way Yuvraj has responded to the challenge.
Make no mistake the sight of the Australians always brings the best out of Yuvraj. Remember his unbeaten 57 that stopped Ricky Ponting’s men in Ahmedabad in 2011!
Yuvraj never showed nerves on Sunday and was content with rotating the strike in the early part of the innings. He took 21 deliveries for his first 13 runs but thereafter it was smooth sailing. Two consecutively pulled sixes over square leg in the 14th over was his first show of attacking instincts. Two more followed in the ‘V’ as Yuvraj and Dhoni made merry.
With Dhoni joining the party, 19 and 16 runs came off the 17th and 18th overs, respectively. But their dismissals in the next two overs, did restrict the flow of runs to an extent.
The bowlers, however, made sure that wasn’t of much consequence in the end.