Australia Go Down

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Sometimes, just sometimes, a weakness can come out to be a strength. And that’s when victories are made.

The critical moment of the India-Australia game for me was in the 37th over. The run-rate required was now 6.00, tough on a pitch like this. Dhoni had once again gotten out cheaply and that too at a time when a captain’s knock was sorely needed. Raina, who had been warming the benches  for most of the tournament and who had a bad match against the West Indies saunters into bat, with not really any kind of confidence or rhythm. The pitch had slowed down even further, India was slowly choking, the pressure of the occasion seemed to be sitting on their shoulders like a thousand Dolly Bindras and David Hussey, who had been bowling a while before, was proving to be quite a proposition, was running through his overs real fast . Now with Raina in and with his well-known weakness against fast bowling directed at his rib cage, Ponting decides to bring Tait back in, despite the option of Hussey who had been using the conditions better than any of the other bowlers.

The extra pace of Tait and Lee, with their pace actually bringing the ball onto the bat more comfortably on the slow pitch than Hussey would have, do the trick.  For India. Tait bowls a bouncer. Raina gets away with an ungainly pull  and Yuvraj, and we will come to him later, after playing a few dot balls crashes Tait for a four. When Lee comes into bowl next over to Raina, it is obvious the bouncer will be tried. It is. But the slowness of the pitch makes it something even he can handle, coming on comfortably and he crashes it for a four. Yuvraj then creams two top-shots. A reverse-swinging yorker is tapped to third man. And then an old-time 2007 vintage strike to point. Ponting gambles on Tait once again despite the decreasing buffer of runs. All he needs is Raina and the tail starts. But  potty-mouthed “yellow yellow dirty fellow” Tait, trying too hard, sprays it around like a man with dysentery. Another bouncer to Raina, as predictable now as a SRK movie,  sits up nicely and is pulled for a two.  The match swings definitively over to India. And Raina, the bouncer bunny, has played no small role in it.

But wait. I am getting ahead of myself. When I woke up at 5 am in the morning, it was cold. And I had a sinking feeling in my stomach. No not because we were playing Australia which I felt we had to, if we wanted to become champions if only to put to rest the ghosts of 2003. It was because the pitch was the slow dusty type where the ball becomes progressively more difficult to hit as the game goes on, the kind of track I had seen so many times before in the subcontinent. It works perfectly when we win the toss. Which we did not. And to make things worse, Gavaskar and Shastri were commenting.

Nothing seemed to be going right in those early hours. True the Australians did not get off to a flier but the pitch was not that kind of a pitch and neither is Haddin a certain Mr. Gilchrist. As puffs of dust came off the pitch, my assessment was that  225-250 would be reachable. Anything above would be tough. To increase the sense of unease, Munaf was not only bowling badly but also made an useless “dekho na bhaiyya yeh kutte mujhe chhed rahe hai” type referral (which actually led to Bhajji not getting Ponting out later).

Ponting. Yes. He may have had a very disappointing series but today the man was “in the zone’ . Now I don’t know what it is about Ponting—maybe it was that incident in Kolkata in 1998 (thanks Samit for reminding us of it) where he was physically removed from a disco for “fishing outside the off-stump” and then dancing “akele akele”, an incident which he possibly took as personally as Gandhiji being thrown off a train. Whatever it be, this man just loves to give it to India.

No this was not 2003, the pitch was not as featherbed as in Jo’burg and Ponting today is not the Ponting of old in terms of eyesight and hand-eye coordination. Yet he dug in, working the singles and in generally grinding the Indians down in a tremendous display of dogged determination. And just to show that the serpent still carried the poison sac, he scored a century, took off his helmet and spat on the pitch.

Two things were special about India today. First the fielding with Raina being the most brilliant of them all. And second Dhoni, whose captaincy was atrocious in the South Africa match, was today perfect with his fielding positions and bowling changes. He kept on attacking throughout, with forward short legs and slips, knowing the importance of getting wickets on the track . But still with Australians playing the powerplay perfectly (Indians please note) and with David Hussey’s cameo, bringing back nightmares of Damien Martyn in that game we all want to forget, the total of 260 looked ominous.

As Sachin and Sehwag walked in, I did not know what to pray for—should Sachin score his 100th century or should he just makes a contribution? I did not want a one-handed Sachin show simply because India needed to play as a team, with contributions all around, if we were to show ourselves as contenders.

And they do exactly that. Sachin makes a fifty. Gambhir plays well before he gets in touch with the KKR part of him and runs himself out, yelling “behenc***” as he departs. Old-timers like me are rolling our eyes with a “Oh here we go again” before Ponting tries to bounce Raina out, Yuvraj gets stuck in to the bowling, Ponting starts shouting at the Indians for playing unfair on a overthrow till finally the twosome bring the team home.

Which brings us to the man. The Prince of Paunch. There are very few players I like to watch more than the Prince of Paunch, that high backlift and the punch through the line being to die for. Yet since 2001 in these ten years at the top, he has been one of Indian cricket enigmas—while people would say he is a superstar (he certainly has made a lot of money) one cannot but say that his entire career has been, by and large, a disappointment, given his potential. His Test career passed him by in 2007 despite the team’s best efforts to fit him in. And over the past year,  he has, most of the times, looked barely match-fit. With his increasing waistline and double-chin and dodgy knee, he had started increasingly resembling a potential participant of a reality show rather than a sportsman. Things had gotten such that there was before the tournament a body of opinion that endorsed him being benched in order to play both Raina and Yusuf. It was only his recently much-improved bowling abilities and India’s woeful bowling resources which kept him in the team.

Throughout the tournament, he has bowled well. But his batting  has never really looked fluent, never like  Yuvraj at his best. True he was winning Man of The Matches but they were unconvincing innings, of a man playing more from memory than from anything else. But today, today Yuvraj rolled back the clock to some of his finest moments (the T20 World Cup). It’s not that he just batted well (which he did ) but he did that thing he has often not done all that well—-he took responsibility. With everything to play for and not much left in the Indian batting ranks, he stepped up to the plate and became what he always had the potential to become but never quite became—-the team’s backbone. And when finally the match was won, one could not help but applaud the strength of character he showed, especially creditable after the kind of year he just had had.

I would be remiss if I did not say anything about Ricky Ponting. As he stood defeated, with an expression of  great sadness, I  wanted to salute him for his contribution to the game, his greatness as a batsman and his indomitable fighting spirit.

No. Not really. I just wanted to shove the bird in his face and say (like I wanted to tell Miandad in Bangalore, 96):

On your bike,mate. And don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

Yeah I know it’s unsporting. But as Ponting would say “Bite me”.

So the game with Pakistan looms. I will use a Shastrism cause I cannot think of anything better. This is as big as it gets. Pakistan has had a great tournament with Afridi leading from the front, crotch thrust forward. Their bowling is amazingly varied and in a similar situation as the Aussies,  they would  definitely have used the conditions much better. They bat deep and are right now, in their current form,  strong contenders for the “Cricket cup, world cup”. [Video]

But India is getting there. They have had a mediocre tournament so far but today many of the vital pieces fell into place. “Raina vs Yusuf” was conclusively decided. The fielding was much improved. Chawla will sit on the bench where he looks very pretty. If there are concerns, its the batting form of Dhoni and even more importantly who should be India’s second seam bowler.

Even then after a month of pottering and Chawla-ing around, India finally look ready.

History awaits. And we, the fans, are holding our breath.

[Image courtesy: Rediff]

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81 thoughts on “Australia Go Down

  1. oh hell yes… what a match.. and also i have afeeling the Pak team is about to implode… they just cant be that good for that long… But i would give an arm and leg to have this match between India and Pakistan as the finals instead of the semis…

    My prediction India vs SL in the finals…

  2. Sweet revenge for the 2003 demolition that the Aussie Juggernaut launched on us.

    GB, I felt the exact same thing about Yuvraj that you detail.
    He actually played in a calm and composed way that surprised me.

    Anyway, Mohali – the biggest match of the tournament.
    Hoping that Sachin will dominate the proceedings like Centurion 2003.

  3. By the way, a nice coincidence is – that Yuvraj announced his arrival with a great knock and man-of-the-match in a knockout quarter final (http://www.espncricinfo.com/ci/engine/match/66173.html) [I thought this was his debut, but apparently this was the first time he batted in Int’l cricket] . I remember the headlines as ‘Yuvraj padhar chuke hai’ and ‘Yuvraj drives Aussies out of Africa’

    Great comeback by him in this world cup!

  4. You have not mentioned about the ‘Munaf’ weaklink. He can neither bat/field and is a very 1 dimensional bowler.
    Effectively, India is playing with 10 batsmen, 3.5 ( Fulltime) bowlers & 10.25 fielders

  5. For a moment I thought you had gone soft on Lets-take-the-fielder’s-word Ponting. Just saw the replay on the highlights. Clear case of blatant cheating.

  6. it would be interesting to see how Sehwag does at Mohali.
    I also feel that with this kind of form, Dhoni should allow Raina to come ahead of himself.

    Looking forward to some memorable abusive youtube moments between multiple Indian and Paki players in the semis. My handycam will be focussed on the Gambhir face.

  7. And also, Aus beat India in 92, 96, 99 and 03 (twice). Did not play against each other 07. But India won in 11.
    Now India have beat Pak in 92, 96, 99 and 03 and did not play in 07. So 2011 mein kya hoga bandhu??????????

  8. the momentum is with india now..
    it wud be a high pressure game in mohali.. this is bigger than finals.. the mother of all games..

    it’s really a yuvi vs afridi match now.. who comes out better.. hope from our end..messrs sehwag/yuvi and for once dhoni fires.. that shud do it..

  9. Afridi’s daughter says she doesnt want chocolate of toffees. She wants the cup.

    You are in big trouble India. Afridi will do any thing to get the cup full of lollies for his daughter.

  10. The heart is settled nw ! Ws oscillatin b/w 120-150 yesterday. Although it may shot upto 200 on 30th. 2003 avenged .. its time for Mohali now. .. And ofcourse, Mumbai and beyond.

    As for Ponting, common guys. Yes, he is to a fair game what Dolly bindra is to intelligence but you’ve got to admire his never-say-die spirit of winning. Most ppl will crumble under the pressure he was facing before the game but he came good. And thats something Indian team showed yestrday. We have learnt to play like the Aussies of yore. And thats why we beat the hell out of them…

    As ToI summed it up in the main headline today – “NEXT , STOP PAKISTAN ! “

  11. We are through to the semis! I remember back in Wills 96 cup, Sachin convinced Azharuddin to bat and Azharuddin subsequently unleashed 29 runs in mere 10 balls against pakistan. Come on let’s do it again!

  12. yeah amid our celebrations we dont care about dhoni’s batting performance throughout the tournament? every one is so vituperative in their tone against chawla and nehra but what did our legend “turbanator” do through out the worldcup and still he gets to play in this matches?will any one of you will answer this questions?
    and what if we reach the final and get defeated?I am sure than those celebrations would come to standstill

  13. Yusuf should be played instead of Munaf, who brings nothing to the table. We get a bowler who’s as bad , a slightly better batsman and 10X better fielder. Munaf is the sorta guy, for whom the phrase ‘dharti ka bojh’ was invented

  14. Few tips for people who are planning to watch the match on 30th:

    1) If you think you not moving from the chair was the reason that sehwag has hit an ‘upar cut’ and then you cease any form of ‘vastu’ change in the room.
    Don’t do that.It just leads to muscular catch and extreme cases of depression if a wicket falls.

    2) Keep an alternate plan for the day.Just a back-up.(Rent a fav movie/Car wash/etc.).If,god forbid,something bad happens there should be something else to do than walking briskly in the drawing room and talking to yourself.

    3) Keep away all sharp objects.You actually bleed red not blue.Don’t get carried away.

    4) for people residing in Kolkata: Don’t go yelling too far after a six into areas where you only go in the daytime to buy good mutton.You know.

    amen. 🙂

  15. There are two things which need to happen if we have to go on to win the all important Mohali Semi:

    1. Utter and complete Devastation by Sehwag – Tendulkar Combo (especially Sehwag) i.e. a 100 run partnership with a S/R above 120.

    2. Munaf Out, Pathan In. 1 Seamer, 2 Sp. Spinners (Bhajji, Ashwin), 4 Part timers (Yuvi, Pathan, Kohli, SRT)

  16. To me, australia has become the new pakistan in recent past. There is only Ponting(like Miandad, Aamir Sohail …) who I could hate with every single cell in my body. As I await the semi-final, I must say I am lot relaxed… 🙂 For me, this was d biggest victory.

  17. Couldnt disagree more with ur critical moment analysis. 35th over as bouwled by Hussey and he gave 3 hit me boundary (full toss and short) bowls. He was removed , 36th over was bowled by Jonson and 37th over was by Lee in whihc he took Dhonis wicket. Ponting turned to his pacers, two overs before Raina arrived because there was no wicket taking spinner in is team (Husseys wicket of kohli was fluke) and he hoped reverse swing could get him some wickets at that time.

  18. Hi GB,

    Nice write up, and thanks for those neutralish nice words towards Yuvi, lets admit that including the fab 5, he is India’s best player under pressure and most destructive when on Song. I guess by the time he finishes off, he will be hailed as the best all time finisher of one day games, may be ahead of Javid, but he still has to deliver a bit to win that accolade.

    And talk about commentary, yes Gavaskar and Shastri were winning earning their bread with those cliched comments from the past 2 decades, Sunny is worst, the most moronic observations, he laments as discoveries, but I like the occasional show class from Sunny, (like two decades ago when Gover said, England fielders have been very accurate with their throws and he said they are only keeping the umpires busy not the scorers; honestly that was the last), now you have another Mumbai Clown Sanjay F**ng Manjrekar, me was a fan of this over rated piece of junk too, his research is so poor sometimes, he kept on saying Sachin never faced Tait, when the truth of the matter was he sent Tait to Retirement in the last test series down under with some special assaults on the WACA ground.. and ya the Dada or Dodo we may call him, for all the earnestness in his post match interviews during his playing days, he sounds more like a ball to ball Radio commentator than a TV one, hez probably the only commentator who describes the action as if hez commentating for the benefit of the visually impaired..

    and GB: guess you should make some analysis on MSDs politics if I may call them as, in the last two T20 WCs Sehwag was sidelines citing injuries, an Irfan Pathan is a much better option than that lazy son of a gun, Venkatesh Prasad like bowler who can only bowl slow slower and slowest in Munaf Patel (and ppl compare him to McGrath) or the mallu whoz often in your firing line Sreeshant on his day is a much more devastating bowler but he sticks on to a bunch of zombies like Chawla, Munaf and likes, am glad Srikanth gave him a hair-dry treatment and made Ashwin a compulsory selection, else it would have got much worst.. if such incompetence in terms of personnel judgment continues, I believe MSD needs a much more stronger version of the HD treatment to get the selection correct.. but having said that I liked his post match interview yesterday, the way he brushed off Indo Pak game saying it as just another game, its a nice easing factor of any pressure going into the game..

    And vintage GB stuff on Ricky and Javid, liked the twists there, and thanks for the constant updating of the blog as soon as any significant WC pertaining event unfolds..

  19. Shahid Afridi has 2 daughters. Rest are his nieces and nephews.
    For the two above who commented he has a lot of kids, I have nothing to do with Afridi or Pakistan. Just that I don’t like it when People don’t listen/ read carefully.

  20. Don’t know whats it with bringing in Yusuf for his utility as an extra batsman and his awful bowling…I would personally prefer the mallu in the team instead of Munaf against Pakistan…whatever happens he wouldnt be worse than Munaf and can give it back to the Pakis in kind

  21. @Shekhar: i somehow got sold to this notion that when tendulkar clicks we loose. so not taking any chances against pak 🙂

    note: i m still his biggest fan!

  22. Sreesanth, sure is a better option at Mohali, over Munaf. (Isnt Mohali supposed to help the pacers?)
    He can do everything as good or better than Munaf (fielding, batting and ofcourse bowling) and is still a better sledger.

  23. So true about Javed. In 96 it was pleasing when the Bangalore crowd gave him an earful and he had to complain to the umpires. Now its time to defeat the ball chewer and chucker.

  24. Oh forgot.. we cant spare tendulkar…maybe Hrishikesh Kanitkar can go and train the South Africans on how not to choke.

  25. The pitch at Mohali will probably hold up a little more than the one at the Motera. I think Sreesanth could be a good bet especially since the Pakistan openers are a little suspect.

    I am really nervous though ….. dunno whether to take the day off or not.

  26. Whatever everyone say. I am a bigger fan of ponting then sachin. In some aspect he is better then Sachin. And yes i don’t like thae way our media made him ‘Khiladi nahi Khalnayak’ hai wo. And as far as that catch goes. Ponting didn’t appeal for that. It was an umpire review. Belive me no player is saint. If you think sachin is honest then i am giving you an example. In a IPL match between mumbai indians and royal challangers. Sachin took dravid’s catch in slip and appeled. Dravid thought it was not a clean catch so he asked for 3rd umpire. That time in the commentry box there was sachin’s biggest chamcha Sunny gavaskar. He said Dravid should leave the pitch. He played with sachin in so many years and he should know that sachin can’t be wrong. But in replat it clearly showed that ball touched the ground first.

  27. 1987 is a blur.
    1992 had the best looking World cup on TV till date (Eden Park was pruned like metal dishes) and the worst rain rule and dull Class VIII exams
    1996 was a Jayasuriya slaying Prabhakar, Jadeja slaying Waqar and the pitch slaying India…the jerseys were horrible, so were Class XII board
    1999 was The Best ODI Ever and some fluffy looking dresses..the summer break from engineering was not
    2003 was all about bowing to the Aussies…and bowing out of my first job an a B-school admit
    2007 was all about bowing out in Act I Scene I…and meandering in vacuous job
    2011 ????…Sadly, there is no adrenalin rush this time, no memories to tag personal footnotes. Seems anti-climatic. Is that mid-life crisis?

    I quite envy you Arnab for keeping the fan in the fanatic alive. I watch my cricket, I digest analytical and fanboy articles alike, I finished CLR James, I brush my stats regularly at Cricinfo, I but I cannot summon my inner jingoistic Siddhu.
    Sachin, Wankhede and the World Cup finally in his hands at age 37 won with his 100th international 100 seems just too perfect, not the flawed genius of a 99.94

    Maybe that’s no crises. I don’t want the perfect ending. I just wish to continue to watch cricket after this cup is over.

  28. Ashwin is amazing. Not only his bowling – his line and length, his control, where he sometimes holds the delivery till the very last second – his fielding is a revelation. Can only wonder why Chawla was playing instead of him.

    Shashtri is so full of shi …cliches. Sentence after sentence, time after time, keeps on repeating the same old, same old. With his attempts at faking a booming voice and humour, increasingly comes across as a total phony.

  29. Nice and balanced take. I loved your final comments on ponting.. while my mind wants to salute one of the greatest batsman – his character and attitude makes him a mere mortal. I guess that what seperates the man vs God.

    Indians are already cheering for India win in the semi-finals against pakistan and i have a feeling that Mohali is the final we want to see and wouldnt consider the thought of loss. A loss in finals may well be pardoned though!

    what do you think?

  30. Completely agree – The Chawla-Pathan issue has been conclusively resolved.
    On the other one ..
    In my view, we should play Sreesanth in place of Munaf, on a track that will be bouncy… Plus it being an India-Pak match, Sreesanth will bring the added aggresion… He surely deserves another chance after those 5 overs against Bangaladesh… Frankly I felt Sreesanth was a bit unlucky in that game as he could have taken a couple of wickets in his first over… (b/way I am neither a Mallu nor a Kochi supported when I say this).
    Having said all this, I know Dhoni will not take the gamble becoz if it backfires everyone will blame him… So the team management will go for a neutral choice such as Munaf Patel… Assuming Nehra is out of the equation…

    GB : Who would you have picked as the second seamer ?

  31. For the crime of having unleashed sheer terror in the form of “Cricket Cup,World Cup!” video-the Pakis deserve to have their a$$es handed over to them on a platter at Mohali.If the worst comes to worst and things don’t go as planned-we can always claim that we were the unsuspecting victims of Pakistan’s biggest assault-as yet(and that’s saying something)-on the world’s sensibilities.

  32. Nitin, My second seamer would still be Munaf. Breaks my heart to say this but such are our choices. Nehra is woefully out of form and Sreesanth, I felt, bowled well in the game against Bangladesh without luck but the last thing we need against Pakistan is his overdone josh-e-junoon. We all remember what happened in 2003 when Zaheer got overexcited in the first over.

  33. never liked likes praveen kumar but now i think we d be better position with him rather than munaf..and yeah GB u r right munaf is better than nehra and sree..how about playing with only one faster?

  34. was the south africa match fixed ?

    Are all SA world cup teams cursed ?

    Is not SA a bunch of jokers and not chokers ?

    Man pakistan should never enter mumbai..after what happened in 26/11

  35. @ garima
    Aha Garima! Watch your language 🙂
    This is just a game.

    Javed Miandad is fair game though, given his family relations to Dawood.
    I hope, India does not issue a visa to that a**hole.

  36. Garima Vyas,

    Forgive them. It’s just a game of cricket !!! And all is fair in love, war and cricket.

    Just because Shoaib Akhtar hurled obscene “mother-sister” gaalis in Punjabi at Harbhajan Singh should not cause Indians to hate him.

    After all, the same Shoaib Akhtar gets “brotherly hugs” from the self-styled Badshah of Bollywood, who surely can do no wrong?

    All is well that begins well, right?

  37. Pingback: CWC 2011:Thoughts before the World Cup semi-finals « Sporting Time(s) – Make Time For Sports

  38. Pakistan Interior Minister Rehman Malik says he is keeping “close watch” on the activities of players of the Pakistani cricket team and warns the team not to indulge in any match-fixing.

    Hahaha…Bunch of school boys?

  39. Very few games are etched so strongly in memory compared to Ind-Pak WC matches. We almost remember which corner in hostel common room we were sitting, who was sitting next etc. Moments like Javed monkeying or Amir Sohail getting packed or Misbah miscue cant get bigger. Hope this one lives upto it and in the right side..
    For Javed and Ricky the similarity also extends to them having inflicted the biggest loss moments for our generation. If anything that comes close to Javed’s 6 is Ricky bullying Zaheer and co in 2003.

  40. http://www.espncricinfo.com/page2/content/story/508333.html#cmnt

    look at the A*****le here . ‘oh shoaib’ please give us one of those monkey azz bouncers again, which can be upar cut by sachin and viru. And after somebody like harbhajan hits you for a straight six, put your stupid middle finger inside your nose and act (arrogantly) as if nothing happened.

    you can only laugh at the fanaticism of Pakistani Morons , when you talk about shoaib big fart.

    meanwhile ‘oh shoaibs’ potty mouth Australian sibling retired from ODIs , after whatever happened in the quarter final.
    http://www.espncricinfo.com/australia/content/current/story/508316.html

  41. “Gambhir plays well before he gets in touch with the KKR part of him”..simply awesome.I really hope though, that run out is not the “KKR” part of him.Great article GB.

  42. Now there is talk about grass being left on the surface + surface offering bounce + More help for fast bowlers etc. I actualy think Sreesanth should play in this game ….. Akhtar is definitely going to play I think …so Sehwag is crucial for us day after tomorrow ….. the question of benching Ashwin for a third seamer will be discussed I am sure.

    I think it boils down to how our batsmen cope with Gul+Afridi+Akhtar …

  43. Dibyo
    I agree with you about Sreesanth. The “Josh-e-Junoon”, as Arnab put it, may actually bring something special out of him, given that the pitch will assist pacers, and Pakistan batting does not have much firepower.

    Both Nehra and Munaf are woefully short on confidence, and my fear is that they will bowl very defensive against Pakistan, which may not be the best for India.

    Confidence and offense are certainly the way to gain the upperhand.

    I hope India bats first.

  44. Pingback: Now It’s Pakistan’s Turn | Random Thoughts of a Demented Mind

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