Monday, March 28, 2016

T20 World Cup - India vs Australia

I pegged the odds at 55-45 in favor of Australia when the game started. India's batting is suspect save Kohi and Dhoni in pressure games. Australia's bowling is suspect because it does not have any classy match winning bowlers. It had to be one of those days when someone had to pull something big off to create a difference. I reckoned that Steve Smith for Australia and Kohli for India would be the guys to watch for.

The way the Aussies started was electric. Usman Khwaja was superb in the second over and so was Finch in demolishing Ashwin's first over. The powerplay ended with 60 on board in 6 overs. And then the Indian slow bowlers pulled it back with Yuvraj leading the pack. What looked like a total of 200 ended at 160. Still a good score.

But with India at 60 for 3 in 10 overs, things looked more than difficult. The usual suspects Dhawan, Rohit, Raina were back in the pavilion and let the entire responsibility fall on Kohli once again. Yuvraj did not help with his hobbling running but he did what he could. All through the innings Kohli held himself back, effectively playing himself in and letting the situation develop. At 25 balls to go and 50 runs to get, it was 12 runs an over. Kohli and MSD at the crease - India's best pair for such a situation. They can hit, they can run, they can outlast, they can mostly outthink.

You cannot write off any game when these two champion players are at the wicket. Kohli and MSD started putting the pressure on by playing safely, but converting singles into twos with some unbelievable running. It's such hard work to run three twos at full sprint in an over. But like Kohli said in his post match interview - this is how he prepares. For the toughest times. Even when there is no gas in the body left, he wants to run as if he is on 0. It takes something to prepare like that. All that we see on stage is the result of his immense preparation, great sacrifice and lots of focussed hard work. Both of them ran as if their lives depended on it, hit the odd boundary, played out Watson's fine last over and waited for the momentum to shift. For the loose ball, for the opening really.

Faulkner began the 17th over with a slow delivery, back of the hand, pitched half way across the wicket. A loose delivery for a first ball if ever there was one. Too easy for someone like Kohli who was looking desperately for something like that. He put it away and geared himself up. This was the opening he had created after all this while. The next ball, pitched up, was good, but Kohli placed it perfectly behind point for the second boundary. And to drive the advantage home he stepped out, saw that the ball was not there in his reach, but still went on to hit the ball high over long off. 19 runs in that over. The next over by Couter Nile went for 16. By now we knew that once again, Kohli, with his exceptional appetite for challenges, for greatness, had once again, against all odds pulled off a crucial game for India when it mattered. MSD coolly whacked the last boundary with five balls to spare and they walked off. The two players who deserved all the praise for India to qualify for the semis were at the crease.

No praise can be too high for this knock of Kohli's. He may not be the most attractive batsman to watch, but the way he times the ball, the positions he gets into and places the ball is something that none can match. He's the most dangerous batsman on the planet right now in pressure situations. That places him way above all else.

Like MSD said in his post match talk - the others need to start looking at playing supportive roles more effectively. They need to improve. The bowling was tested today with Ashwin getting carted all over and so did Bumrah. It's time everyone started focussing on performing their roles better and contributing thereby lessening the load on these two.

The West Indies game should be 65-35 in India's favor. Barring some crazy knock or a performance that's spectacular, I somehow think that India would be tactically superior and that in itself should get it through. But it will be a good match - WI has some exciting players and if they can get their act together, it will be interesting.

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