As promised, here is my post containing my thoughts on the first match of World Cup 2011 between India and Bangladesh.
First of all, it was a good win for India and one where they can tick off most of the boxes in their checklist. The main batsmen got runs, the bowlers other than Sreesanth, bowled well and they had a comfortable outing overall.
The crucial action that, in my opinion was a major factor in the margin of India's victory, occurred right at the toss when Shakib won the toss and chose to bowl first. I thought right then, that this was a wrong decision which would benefit India. The strategy in ODIs is quite simple. You choose what to do on winning the toss, based on your strengths. If your strength is batting, you bowl first and back your batsmen to chase down most totals set by the opposition. Examples are the current Indian team and the team we had around 2006, when we beat England and Sri Lanka by 6-1 or such huge margins at home. Most of those victories were achieved by bowling first and chasing down (many times by Yuvraj and Dhoni) the totals set by the opposition. Another good example of this, is the Sri Lankan team which won the WC final in 1996. Ranatunga mentioned that he backed his batsmen to chase down whatever total the Aussies put up.
Similarly, when your strength is bowling, you bat first and back your bowlers to defend most totals that the opposition put up. Examples of these are the Pakistan team of a few years ago, that had Akram, Younis, Saqlain, Mushy and Akhtar (in full form) in their lineup. They could defend any total so even if their batsmen would only get around 180, u can be sure that it would be very tough for the opposition batsmen to chase down. The South African team with Donald, Pollock, Klusener, Mcmillan, Symcox etc. plus their fielding, would also prefer to set totals on the board first and look to defend it.
So Shakib should have done the same and backed his spinners to defend any total above 250. Also, I dont think dew is so big a factor that you choose to ignore your strengths and protect your bowlers. With the chemicals available these days that control the dew, and by choosing to open with someone like Razzak, they could have overcome the dew problem to an extent. Finally, as the commentators said, if Bangladesh had batted first and gotten a total close to what they got anyway (270-odd), things could have been quite different. Anyway, enough about the decision to bowl first.
All the websites are talking about Sehwag 2.0. What I enjoyed was the fact that Sehwag mentioned at the start that he would like to bat around 40 overs, and proceeded to do just that. That is the power of the mind and Veeru's mind is so strong and uncluttered, that he can do almost anything, if he just wants to do it and applies his mind to it. For India's sake (and ofcourse, for us Indian fans :), lets hope he continues in this vein throughout the tournament. If he does, India will be very difficult to beat because they have got the balance just right in the batting, with Gambhir and Kohli the anchormen, and Yuvraj, Dhoni and Yusuf/Raina as the finishers with the license to go berserk in the later overs.
One worry for India, is Sreesanth. He is a useful bowler because the wrist and seam position are perfect, which allows him to extract any available help from the conditions and the new ball. That way, he is the like-for-like replacement for Praveen Kumar, but his problem is, he tries too hard at times, and he does not have variations, unlike PK or even Ashish Nehra. He can get swing, but does not seem to possess a slower ball, and bowls the bouncer or yorker very rarely. Bowlers with little variety, these days in ODIs, are easy pickings and he is a concern for India.
Having said that, I would like to see India go in with 2 pacers and 2 spinners in the remaining games, because they are playing sides who are not very good at playing spin, like England, WI. Even South Africa, in my opinion, dont play quality spin very well and look to sweep most of the time, which according to me, is a very high-risk shot against decent spinners. So I would like to see Zaheer, Munaf, Harbhajan and Chawla/Ashwin for the next couple of games at least and then re-assess at that time if necessary.
Just one more point before I finish. It was sad to see an India match where the fours and sixes hit by the batsmen were greeted by silence and when the bowlers took a wicket, the roar of the bowlers and fielders, echoed through the silence at the ground. It was a rare sight for me, and I am sure for the team as well, because no matter where India play (even in foreign countries) there would always be a sizeable crowd supporting India. That way, I am happy that this is over and done with and that the players can now play in familiar conditions where every good action will be cheered by thousands of people.
So lets hear it from you folks out there. The World Cup is going on in full swing and if we dont talk cricket at this time, when will we do it ? My next post will be a preview before the India-England game. Also take a look at the World Cup schedule in my previous post that I customized to suit the needs of all cricket lovers.