Nagpur, March 12: It's unfathomable how a team could have risen to a position of such resounding strength only to squander it away in a matter of 10 overs of utter madness... as India did in Saturday's World Cup game against South Africa at Nagpur. All the groundwork that was sweated and laboured upon by two sizzling openers in Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag and then carried on by the one-down bat Gautam Gambhir, was undone by the excesses and callousness of motley crew of batsman that didn't deserve the distinction of being named such.
India were motoring along at a blazing rate - 100/0 in 11.4 overs, 150/1 in 19.1 overs, 200/1 in 30.2 over and 250/1 in 37.4 overs to suddenly crumble to 296 all out in 48.4 overs. It seems the middle order just got ahead of themselves and were carried away with the situation in the game. It was simply taken for granted that the runs would come courtesy the big hits. But as commentator Sunil Gavaskar pointed out, and he knows a thing or two about notching up big team totals, SINGLES are the life blood of the innings. It was a fact that the Indian batsmen conveniently ignored as they put on one of the most deplorable displays of batting seen by the Indian fan in a long time.
As captain Dhoni rightly pointed out in restrospect - one can't be overeager to get twenty more runs lest one ends up getting 40 runs less. It was a situation which required sensibility over prowess or precision and the Indian middle order was clearly not equal to the task. In fact right through this tournament, the Indian batting has displayed worrisome signs of untimely fragility when fortitude and resolve is what is needed at an event of this stature.
Inconsistency was the name of India's game in Saturday's encounter versus the Proteas. Even the bowling was rife with an inadequate level of incisiveness as the potency of the bowlers rountinely kept falling away. Even someone like Zaheer Khan, who put in a fantastically frugal opening spell, bowled a messy middle over in which he went for 16 runs. He thus allowed the opponents to crawl back into the match when the deficit of runs required and balls remaining was a staggering 40!
Finally, it took the shoddiness of an Ashish Nehra to seal India's unsavoury fate in the game. With the match very nearly in India's grasp with 13 runs required off the last over, Nehra was entrusted with the ball. But he let his captain, team and legions of Indian fans down when he couldn't perform the most basic task expected of a fast bowler and that was to bowl full and straight. Instead, what emerged from his left hand were amateurish, short, half-volley balls that the batsman had no choice but to dispatch with disdain to the fence.
India will have to learn from the maladies and gaffes of their World Cup so far if they are to progress in a positive manner. After all, the team owes triumph to Sachin Tendulkar himself as they have vociferously proclaimed to the press. The Little Master has been playing his part. Now, isn't it time that the rest of Team India played theirs?