Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Team India brimming with confidence


Suresh Raina and his men celebrated an ODI series triumph achieved without some top stars in the team. Not many would have expected India to lead 3-0 in a five-match series in the Caribbean.

This victory highlighted the bench strength of the Indian side. It also showed the West Indies slump to a new low.

Without taking away any credit from India's feat, the lack of intent in the West Indies team — in both batting and bowling — was shocking.

The Indians were not complaining. The side came together well with Raina having his finger on the pulse of the game, right from the beginning.

In contrast, the West Indians collapsed when they were in a position to put their foot on the accelerator. They struggled against spin and their bowling lacked firepower.

India found the right men for the key moments, wriggled out of tight situations. None was more impressive than the elegant Rohit Sharma.

Despite the limitations of the West Indies team, this could be a path-breaking series for a cricketer who had seldom done justice to his ability.

Under the circumstances, Rohit's match-winning unbeaten 68 in the first ODI in Port of Spain and 86 in the third game in Antigua underlined his growing maturity.

Rohit cut out the frills and dished out a brand of cricket that was solid and easy on the eye. He appeared a transformed batsman.

Rohit was in complete control, knew when to attack and defend. He stayed till the end, was India's finisher. His innings at the Vivian Richards Stadium in Antigua was laudable.

India, pursuing 226, was tottering at 92 for six. A defeat loomed large.

Rohit stayed firm, collecting his singles and twos. He was finding the gaps with timing rather than power. There is a flow to his batsmanship. And when the occasion demanded, he was able to clear the field. Under sweltering heat, Rohit did not wilt. He was calm in a stressful situation and showed his class in the end.

While his bat-speed is still his ally, Rohit has worked on his downswing that is straighter. He is no longer shuffling across early in his innings and paying the price.

Rohit's 88-run partnership with a determined Harbhajan Singh orchestrated India's recovery in the third ODI. Then, Praveen Kumar delivered a few big hits at the death as India won by three wickets.

A delighted coach Duncan Fletcher said, “It speaks of the tremendous quality that India has that a batsman like him (Rohit) is out of the Test side. He has shown that he can finish off an innings in the ODIs. Not many batsmen can do it”

He added, “Rohit would make most Test sides. He is not getting his opportunity because the present side is very good.”

Skipper Raina said.”I think he (Rohit) is more disciplined now. It has helped him that he has spent some quality time with Sachin Tendulkar for the Mumbai Indians.”

So impressed was Fletcher with the series triumph that he said, India would dominate world cricket for the next five to ten years.

He explained, “It is due to the amount of talent that India has. The Indian cricket is in a very, very healthy state presently. The young cricketers here have shown that they can find a way through tight situations.”

Fletcher continued, “I know five years is a long time in cricket but unless some international teams suddenly come up, I don't see India losing its hold.” It's India's bench strength that has pleased Fletcher.

Leg-spinner Amit Mishra made an impression with his flight, dip and control. He mixed his leg-spinners cleverly with his googly, Mishra's four for 31 in the second ODI at Queen's Park Oval was a worthy effort.

Munaf Patel seamed the ball either way and operated better in the end overs by varying his length and pace.

And India had another batting hero in Virat Kohli. The spirited right-hander's well-paced 81 not out in the rain-affected second ODI won the game for the visitor.

Like Rohit, Kohli too applied himself, combined working-the-ball-around and hard running with some telling blows. He appears a well-rounded batsman with a future.

Giving an insight into the mind-set of the young Indian cricketers, Kohli said. “The young Indian players want to handle pressure, utilise every opportunity. We want to take up as much responsibility as we can and improve in each game.”

Kohli also said that he had found focus and hunger after a rather stormy phase where his attitude came under scrutiny. “I was determined to transform myself. I was getting carried away off the field which was not good. But then everyone around you lets you know about your ways, the word spreads and you realise you got to change. I had to decide myself, no one can help you with such a decision.

“I reminded myself that not many get the chance to play for India. I had to realign my priorities. It's a massive privilege, a huge motivation.”

India was without an established opening combination but the left-handed Parthiv Patel did make his presence felt at the top of the order without quite kicking on to a bigger score. He does get into a good position to essay the pull stroke. Parthiv's keeping has improved.

The left-handed Shikhar Dhawan is prone to the away-from-the-body waft but did manage a half-century in the first ODI. He needs to work on his technique.

Apart from a remarkable unbeaten 64-ball 92 from all-rounder Andre Russell, there was little to cheer for the West Indies. A former 100m sprinter, Russell, surfacing at No. 9, struck the ball with enormous power when the Caribbeans were crumbling at 96 for seven in the third ODI. This blitzkrieg was reminiscent of the West Indian batting of old.

For most part, the West Indies batsmen struggled; the absence of the dominant Chris Gayle left a hole in the side. Ramnaresh Sarwan and Marlon Samuels were among the runs but the host — unable to rotate the strike effectively in the middle-overs — often lost the plot against Harbhajan and Mishra.

The bowling, apart from a couple of promising spells from leg-spinner Devendra Bishoo, lacked both accuracy and incision. Worse, the West Indians put down catches at vital stages.

In the one-off Twenty20 international, Subramanium Badrinath's solidity came to the fore. His innings of 43 was a game-clinching effort.

This was also a match where Darren Bravo and Samuels could not force the pace when the West Indians pursued 160.


Third ODI, Antigua

West Indies 225 for eight in 50 overs (L. M. P. Simmons 45, R. R. Sarwan 28, C. S. Baugh 36, A. D. Russell 92 not out, M. M. Patel three for 60, A. Mishra three for 28) lost to India 228 for seven in 46.2 overs (P. A. Patel 46, R. G. Sharma 86 not out, Harbhajan Singh 41, P. Kumar 25).

Second ODI, Port of Spain

West Indies 240 for nine in 50 overs (L. M. P. Simmons 53, K. A. Edwards 25, R. R. Sarwan 56, M. N. Samuels 36, M. Patel three for 35, A. Mishra four for 31) lost to India 183 for three in 33.4 overs (P. A. Patel 56, V. Kohli 81, S. K. Raina 26 not out) (Won by D/L method).

First ODI, Port of Spain

West Indies 214 for nine in 50 overs (R. R. Sarwan 56, M. N. Samuels 55, Harbhajan Singh three for 32) lost to India 217 for six in 44.5 overs (S. Dhawan 51, R. G. Sharma 68 not out, S. K. Raina 43).

T20, Port of Spain

India 159 for six in 20 overs (P. A. Patel 26, S. Badrinath 43, R. G. Sharma 26, D. J. G. Sammy four for 16) beat West Indies 143 for five in 20 overs

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