And so, India exorcised the ghost of 2007. And the man who had hyped this up as the revenge match was one who came up with the stellar act. Virender Sehwag who, in a recent press conference, made an uncanny statement that he would try to bat out as many overs as possible stayed true to his word. And thanks to his mature effort, interlaced with Sehwag-like strokeplay, India managed to get the monkey off their back.
The determined manner in which Sehwag paced his innings was a clear indication of the fact this wasn’t going to be an all out slam bang effort. The striking example of this was then Shakib Al Hasan, the Bangladesh skipper, brought left arm spinner Abdur Razzak on to bowl very early on in the piece, after the ragged pacers were being carted all round the park by Sehwag and Sachin Tendulkar. The latter went up to the Delhi bomber, probably urging him to maintain restraint early on. And unlike, the Sehwag of old, this time the swashbuckler paid heed to Sachin’s advice. He blocked the over without muss fuss and more than made up for it in the latter part of the innings as well as for running Sachin out at the start of the innings.
Over the years, Sehwag has registered massive scores in Tests, but did not have a 150 plus score in the 50-over format till date. Surprising, considering this was supposed to be his forte when he was making his mark as a dangerous strokemaker. That’s changed now though, and what better occasion to achieve it than the opening day of the World Cup. The fact that he adopted the ‘pick and choose’ approach augurs well for India in the future games to come. However, India can only hope that it wasn’t an aberration just for the so-called ‘revenge’ game. Sehwag, when he bats with a settled mindset, like he did no Saturday, can only be doubly dangerous for the opposition.
Even as Sehwag played the major role in India’s batting-inspired victory, the contribution of Virat Kohli did not go unnoticed. Preferred ahead of the low on confidence Suresh Raina, Kohli had to bat with responsibility to repay the faith of his skipper. And he did not disappoint. Making his World Cup debut and coming into bat after Gautam Gambhir’s crucial dismissal, Kohli had a job on his hand – that of ensuring India maintained the momentum and Sehwag getting proper support to help India always stay ahead of the Bangladeshis. It was a distinct advantage that both play for the same Ranji state – Delhi. Also, Kohli has had the experience of leading the Indian U-19 team to victory in the World Cup a few years back. As such, he was no newcomer to pressure. But, this was a bigger stage and a more combative battleground. Even so, Kohli, as he has proved in the past, had the wits to make a distinct impression. The fact that his knock did not go unnoticed in the wake of Sehwag’s onslaught is a tribute to his talent and temperament. This effort should only egg Kohli on to greater stuff from here onwards.
The chief feature of the partnership between the two Delhi dashers which stood out was that neither resorted to absolute slog cricket. With the kind of start that India got and with the opposition bowling nothing short of mediocre, Sehwag and Kohli could have easily been drawn into going on an all out attack by throwing their bats at everything. However, one will be forced to believe that this is where the 2007 bitter experience must have come in handy. This is not to say that they were defending a lot of balls. On the contrary, strokes were being played very frequently, the field restrictions notwithstanding. But, it was the shot selection that made the partnership flourish for a longer period of time. There were times when the spinners bowled very well and kept the duo quiet. It was during this phase that Sehwag and Kohli maintained their cool, knowing very well that their time to attack would come soon. And when they did, there was no holding back. As soon as they cut loose, the bowlers had no answer to the onslaught, and the duo progressed from strength to strength until fatigue got the better of Sehwag.
It wasn’t all rosy for India though. The way the Bangladesh openers began, Imrul Kayes in particular, did give the Indians a brief scare. He went all out against Sreesanth and the Kerala speedster had no answer all. It was a really shattering performance by Sreesanth, who was chosen ahead of the struggling Ashish Nehra. India were relying on Sree to deliver following his impressive showing in South Africa. However, while India managed to get away with the erratic pacer against Bangladesh, it will be difficult for Dhoni to risk him against bigger teams. And if he doesn’t get another opportunity in the tournament, it will be a really sad occurrence as this was a godsend for the man from God’s own country.
Thankfully for India, Munaf Patel was in his elements and bailed India out of trouble. Sticking to his strength – line and length – Patel strangled the batsmen, who had come out in an extremely aggressive mood. And once Patel struck some crucial blows, India were always in command despite Bangladesh coming hard at them. Harbhajan Singh and Zaheer Khan also chipped in using their experience to the hilt. And, eventually Bangladesh weren’t good enough to outdo the efforts of Sehwag and Kohli.
Despite the loss, everything wasn’t lost for Bangladesh. After making the surprising decision to field first after winning the toss, they were excellent in the field, even as the runs were flowing from the bat of Sehwag and Kohli – something the Indians really need to work on. And the fact that they managed to get very close to 300 while chasing should give them confidence going into the future games. At the end of the day, the result was least surprisingly, hype notwithstanding.
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