Lesson 1: 49th over. Opposition has 13 runs to win. You as captain have two choices for who will bowl the last over
Choice 1: Has not been part of the side regularly. Very iffy form coming into the tournament and not played in most games. Has so far given 49 runs in 8 overs without getting a wicket. Last bowled in the 36th over where he was taken off after an expensive 10-run battering. Having bowled about 13 overs ago, the man would be slightly stiff and hence might need perhaps one or two balls to get into rhythm.
Choice 2: On paper, definitely a frontline bowler for the team. Moody and temperamental, he has been largely disinterested throughout the tournament. One thing everyone acknowledges about the man, when he gets a wicket he becomes another bowler. Today he has taken three, affected a runout and, in general, been growling around the field like a tiger. Has bowled the 46th over where he gave away just 5 runs, is in bowling rhythm and pumped up.
Captain should take Choice 1.
Lesson 2: The World Cup is the ideal venue for indulging in the Dr. Phil-Oprah side of you, wherein you let a colleague find his lost groove and exorcise his internal demons on the largest cricketing stage possible. In other words, it is good cricketing acumen to persist with a man under a lot of pressure who “the whole world, including the media, has ridiculed” (we wonder why) because he “needs the confidence” (a confidence he ultimately did not get because he was really bowling poorly) while keeping a “tough character who can handle pressure” on the bench, depriving the latter of match practice and confidence going into the business end of the tournament. [Link]
We had thought that the team that wins the World Cup is often not the one which is the most talented but that which is mentally the toughest and brings their A-game consistently under pressure. Which is why the mentally strong should always be preferred over the one with the self doubt in matters of selection with those who are lost being asked to solve their problems on the shrink’s couch and in first class games. Obviously we were wrong.
Lesson 3: In game A, you get a solid start and take a disastrous batting powerplay which leads to a sub-optimal score and a consequent tie. In game B, you get an even more solid start and rather than experiment with taking the batting powerplay at a different time (like when the spinners are on, forcing the South African captain to bring his pacers on at a time he was planning to use spinners) just to see if that works (and considering we have had identical batting powerplay screwups in the 40th over vicinity before the Cup began also), you should take the exact same decision that you took in game A. You get identical consequences. Actually even worse. But hey….the official drink of the “phir se galti se mistake ho gya” shot and all that.
Lesson 4: The problem so far, we have been told, is that the Indian top order (one, two and three) has not batted as long as they should have. (Link). [Psst….one and two are the top two run-makers so far in the tournament]. The middle order (four, five, six and seven), in contrast, are doing just fine—scoring scratchy fifties, whirlwind centuries in practice matches against New Zealand and collapsing hush-a-hush-a-we-all-fall-down with pocket full of poses against the big boys.
Lesson 5: It’s all Sachin’s fault. Since we lost today, we can say “Selfish Sachin once again. He should have batted the full fifty overs. Look how he gave away his wicket once he got his century.” Which we know is rank Sachinistic unlike the other selfless players who gave their wickets away after getting five runs. If we had won and Sachin had batted through, it still would have been Sachin’s fault. “Selfish Sachin once again. See how he scores in the non-crucial matches (which we really do not care about winning), hogs all the bowling and refuses to let the middle order have a hit and get their rhythm for the vital games ahead.”
Lesson 6: Finally this is the THE BEST pump-up World Cup song ever. No not even Bappi-da comes close. (even though honestly Bappida might bowl better than Piyush Chawla and move more quickly in the field than Munaf). And I have been listening to it in a loop.
While I am sure Indian players will be singing “I am the bast bowler of the cup. I am the bast hitter of the cup. I am the bast keeper of the cup.” (at least for the IPL), as a fan when I ask myself “Who will win the Cup? Cricket Cup, World Cup?” I cannot, having seen the Indians perform in the last few games, believe “We will win the Cup. Cricket Cup, World Cup.”