Harsha Bhogle

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Of a middle-overs slowdown and a batting collapse

There are many unanswered questions after India's three-wicket defeat by South Africa in Nagpur on Saturday but one unmistakable fact: We are privileged to be watching this sport and making a living from it. This World Cup is coming alive and India vs South Africa fanned the delightful fires.

 

With three overs to go India had the opportunity but the yorkers, as my son would have said, were 'out of syllabus'. And so India bowled length balls that had a 'give me my due' written on them. Sometimes you may know what to do but unless you do it, it isn't of much use!

 

We thought 350 was on, run-a-ball with nine wickets in hand would have taken India to 330, Playing out the overs would have put 300 on but, as India captain MS Dhoni said in a delightfully frank assessment, you play for the country not the crowd. You don't always need million-dollar shots, You don't need a Lamborghini when you can walk a few steps.

 

Losing nine wickets for 29 runs was unlike anything I have seen, even from India! In fact, I hadn't seen anything as remarkable on the Castrol Index where South Africa clocked Zero on the Castrol Index from Over No.7 through to Over No.39 and the worm on the scoreboard kept hugging the baseline.

 

But we need to look closely. India is a decent catching side but a terribly pedestrian fielding side. It was fascinating to see the young South Africans take the twos. two easy twos is better than a risky boundary. And I'm afraid India is way too slow between the wickets. Till the time we produce athletes, we will always start minus 20. Our under-17 coaches have much to answer for.

 

I also loved the maturity young Faf du Plessis showed. He kept his cool and that is so important at moments like this. Maybe the dreaded 'C' word will be shelved for a while, at least!

 

India also needs to look at the middle-overs because a lot of momentum was lost there, a mistake South Africa didn't make thanks to a top innings from AB de Villiers. That is where the running between the wickets comes in - hitting, or nudging a gap and running!

 

I like Gautam Gambhir as a cricketer but on a day like yesterday I thought he needed a quicker start (he played 33 dots balls in his 75-ball innings). With hindsight a lot of Dhoni's decisions seem debatable but the key is: Did they feel that way when they were being made? The honest answer, apart from throwing the last over to Ashish Nehra, was that they didn't.

 

And Sachin Tendulkar, whose 111 fetched him a Castrol Index of 178, must hope century number hundred comes at a better occasion!

 

Harsha Bhogle, is writing in his role as a Castrol Index spokesperson.

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