Tuesday, May 23rd

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It was Yuvraj to the rescue again..

Yuvraj SinghToday India played her sixth and the last match in the preliminary round, against West Indies. It was yet again a very disappointing batting performance by the lower order.

It has now been over a month since the World cup was kicked off by the 2 hosts India and Bangladesh. Bangladesh, after humiliating performances against most of the major teams has crashed out of the tournament. India has made it into the knockout round but not exactly in a convincing fashion. In fact if you analyze the numbers the deterioration has been very evident. Against Bangladesh, India had scored its highest total of 370 for 5 but since then it has been a downward spiral. Since that match (when playing with major teams) Indians have found it difficult to bat through the 50 overs. While we got some really great starts by the top order and from one or two middle order batsmen, the lower order pretty much capitulated in every match. First against England, India lost the last 7 wickets for 33 runs in less than 4 overs. Against South Africa the debacle was even more dramatic when we lost 9 wickets for 29 runs in 9 overs. Today against West Indies too, we lost 7 wickets for 50 runs in 8 overs. This is just horrendous display of lack of professionalism on behalf of our players.

The silver lining in the last 6 matches has been seeing return to good form by Yuvraj. In the match against England, I felt that, he showed the first signs of a man determined to come back. He stood his ground, battled his mental demons and persevered those early nerves and in the end came out with a fighting fifty. Since then he’s never looked back and not relented either. He is starting to reap the rewards of his hard work. In the last 5 innings he has scored 284 runs which includes 3 fifties (2 unbeaten) and a fluent century today. His average of over 94 at a strike rate of 86 has been an example that other Indian batsmen need to emulate. He has been successful with the ball too. He has helped India with wickets at the crucial times and has so far bagged 9 wickets. He truly deserved man of the match today.

Today Virat Kohli also showed some determination. He had to come out early after Rampaul claimed Sachin with a beauty of a delivery. Sachin could have survived the shout and may be even the review but like a true sport he knew he had nicked the ball and was caught so he walked. There are only very few players left in the game who will do this anymore. Gambhir had the start today, but in trying to go after Rampaul he perished to silly looking shot. After Gambhir, Kohli and Yuvraj built the Indian innings with a 3rd wicket partnership of 122 runs of 143 balls. India at this juncture looked like they could get to a score of 280 plus runs. Dhoni for the most part too tried to play reasonably but he perished in 42nd over when India was on 218. Yuvraj in the meantime completed his maiden century in the world cup but was facing all sorts of problems because of Chennai heat. India could only manage to add 50 runs and were bundled out for 268 in 50th over giving Ravi Rampaul his first five wickets haul.

Ashwin started the bowling for India but West Indies inning started reasonably well. One of the inexplicable thing happened in the 4th over. Kohli had a direct hit at the stumps while Edwards was scampering to bowler’s end trying to complete a quick single. The replays clearly showed that he was well short of the innings but neither the players seemed too interested nor was the umpire in referring the direct hit to the 3rd umpire. In the end play continued without anyone realizing that they had missed an opportunity to get the first West Indies wicket. Edwards thankfully did not cause too much problems and perished in 6th over to a doosra from Ashwin which India had to refer to UDRS to claim the wicket. West Indies batting collapse was worse than their display against England. Until about 30th over they seemed like cruising to victory with an average of over 5 runs per over Smith their opener scored a fluent 81. Once he was gone on 157 the West Indies innings just unraveled and they folded their innings for 188 in 44th over. Zaheer, again delivered with older ball and reverse swings and claimed 3 wickets. Ashwin did not let down and got 2 wickets for 41. Yuvraj too claimed 2 wickets in his 4 overs.

I was happy to see bowlers came back strongly when they saw an opening after Smith’s wicket. Dhoni too showed some old spark and attacked the West Indian batsmen who did not get easy singles like England did and had to try and go over the top and in that lost the wickets. I am happy to see India win the match in the end by 80 runs and qualify for the Quarter finals on the second spot.

The next match for India is against mighty Australia in Ahmedabad. That game will decide if we deserve to win the world cup or not. This world cup is finally getting to interesting phase and I am looking forward to see how India fares against the top teams under do or die circumstances.

Keeping my fingers crossed and wishing for the best..... Go India .............!!