India beat WI as expected before the start of the match, and finished the group stage of the World Cup as number 2 in their group. Lets take a look at the India-WI match in some detail
The same story of the matches against England and SA, was repeated against WI as well. We got a good start and were looking good after 40 overs, but collapsed and could not even bat out the 50 overs. After losing 9 for 29 against SA, we lost 7 for 50 against WI. Dhoni looked at this as an improvement, but I would not look at it this way. This will take the focus away from the basic problem. India need to be ashamed about repeated batting collapses, and need to address this issue immediately, otherwise we will not get past Australia in the QF.
It was good to see Yuvraj back in form, and he looked close to his peak form in this innings. The reason I say 'close to peak form' is because he was not hitting the ball with the fluency and ease that characterizes his batting when he is on song. But whether that was because of his illness or whether he was deliberately holding back his flamboyance to ensure that he batted through the 50 overs, is not known. So lets just say that Yuvi is looking very good at this time and be happy about it. Virat Kohli looked to be very happy back at his favorite number 3 position and batted in his usual manner till he played that horrible shot that got him out. Once again, this is a pointer for Dhoni to not mess with the batting order and let people come in at positions they are familiar with and perform best at.
The big concern with the batting is the lack of contribution from all batsmen from number 5 downwards. Dhoni's lack of form will hurt us big very soon, and the total non-application from the bowlers is also shocking. Harbhajan somehow does not seem to be able to score any runs in ODIs, and Zaheer is batting like a tail-ender unlike the decent batsman that he can be when he applies his mind to the job. Ashwin looked like he wanted to bat out the overs and add whatever he could to the total. I think he needs to bat above Harbhajan at this time. India should stop looking at past performances and pedigree when deciding batting line-up and other aspects of the game as well. When the 6th wicket falls, Harbhajan automatically walks out as if he owns that number 8 position. Nothing is given on a platter in sport or any other walk of life, and he should be made to realize this.
Similarly, Dhoni should walk out only at number 7. He seems to walk out whenever he fancies, which, given the form he is in at the moment, is too much of a luxury that he needs to give up on in the interest of the country. Dhoni not only consumes too many deliveries, but also does not get runs and gets out at the wrong time always.
It was nice to see Ashwin get the first over, and bowl 6-7 overs in the powerplays. He produced a good performance and showed everyone why he should have played earlier in the tournament. He is also a good fielder and provided some spark in the field. Zak provided the crucial breakthrough once again, but it was Harbhajan's maiden over and Munaf's frugal over following that, that was the turning point of this match in my opinion. After 30 overs, WI looked on course to win comfortably, but I was still hopeful for the simple reason that this was WI, and I knew that all we needed was a couple of tight overs and something would give from the WI side. They outdid us in the collapse department on the day :)
Yuvraj bowled well once again, and is proving me right with every game that he is one of the key players for India in this WC, both with bat and ball.
The fielding was ordinary in the first 30 overs, but visibly picked up once Smith got out and there was an obvious difference in the energy levels and confidence. In my opinion, Dhoni's comment that India is a mediocre fielding side and nothing can be done about it, was a bad one and India in the field seem to be giving up quite easily which is showing in the body language. Top sides like Australia and SA, never falter in the field and in the body language, no matter what the situation of the game is. This helps them get back into matches that seem lost, sometimes on the strength of their fielding alone. India never seem to make things happen in the field, they just go through the motions in a resigned manner, especially when the opposition appears to have the upper hand.
One thing is sure. There will be no freebies against Australia like there were today. So India will have to make their own opportunities, they will not be given absolutely anything by Australia.
Once again, Dhoni was passive in the field and allowed too many easy singles and twos by not placing fielders in run-saving positions. It is easy to accept that fielding is bad and resign oneself to that, but he should be trying to squeeze out the best from the resources at his disposal by placing them in positions where things could be made difficult for the opposition batsmen. On the positive side, his decision to give Zak only 2 overs up front and not use Munaf at all till the ball became old and aided reverse-swing, worked well and showed he was still using his head in making some decisions.
So there we go. The next match is huge for the Indian team and us fans. Australia have already been woken up from their arrogance about their invincibility (if there was any) and will come at us really hard. I will post a preview of that game in the next day or so. Stay tuned.
Meanwhile, lets chat about the WI game. Lets hear it from you guys.