Dhaka, Feb 19: From the first ball of India's World Cup opener against Bangladesh on Saturday, which Virender Sehwag scornfully dispatched to the cover boundary, one got the feeling that he had sparked a dominating knock. However, he went on to truly surpass expectations. His deft, calculated strokeplay, routinely punctuated by surges of aggression, left the Bangladeshi bowlers bereft of answers.
It seemed that a regrettable mix-up with Sachin Tendulkar in the 11th over, which cost the latter his wicket, was enough to spur the Delhi dasher into playing a long innings. It almost appeared like he felt obliged to play well enough for the both of them. In the end, he nearly met his own pre-tournament bid to carry his bat through 50 overs. But that slight failure didn't seem to matter. By equalling Kapil Dev's record of 175, Sehwag had put India firmly in the driver's seat.
If one breaks down Sehwag's innings, one would decipher that he had the most lucrative time against the slow-left-armer Abdur Razzak, taking him for nearly 50 runs, including 3 sixes and 4 fours. He was also quite brutal on paceman Shafiul Islam, carting him away for 30 runs including a quartet of fours and one maximum. It was truly an outing to savour for Sehwag, who notched up his first century against Bangladesh and his second in World Cups.
In the post-match interview, Sehwag said that he had hoped ton wreak revenge against Bangladesh for India's humiliating loss against them in the 2007 World Cup. And Sehwag, who got out for a mere 2 runs off 6 balls in that match had a particular point to prove in this encounter.
Whether it was his fierce cuts past point or his sublime cover-drives or his hoicks over mid-wicket, Sehwag was a man on a mission. But he couldn't have taken India to such a gigantic score of 370/4, without the supportive handiwork of a Virat Kohli. Kohli matched Sehwag drive for drive, cut for cut and pull for pull, himself reaching a richly deserved century.
However, all the good work that Sehwag and Kohli put in threatened to be undone by the Indian pace battery as Bangladesh began their chase. Sreesanth in particular, did not contend with himself, bowling a very wayward line, especially in the fourth over where he leaked 24 runs. The Kerala speedster clearly had an off day, going for a total of 53 runs in the 5 overs he bowled, his least expensive sextet of deliveries costing 8 runs!
But luckily the other bowlers compensated for Sreesanth's shortcomings and Harbhajan Singh (1/41), Zaheer Khan (2/40) and especially Munaf Patel (4/48), did well to peg back Bangladesh in the latter overs and ensure that 371 would always be beyond their grasp.
All in all, India put on a good show in their first match of the World Cup and have begun their campaign in the tournament on a strong note. The batsmen excelled, most of the bowlers did a competent job and the fielding was of a good standard. Now even though their next match, which is against England, is a full 8 days away, they will have to carry the momentum garnered from this match into that. Perhaps India can even begin a little winning streak here...