More positives from India’s loss to RSA…

At the risk of getting my nose out of joint, let me state at the outset that I am quite glad India lost to South Africa. South Africa played exceedingly well over 60-overs of the match. However, they were aided commendably by India’s Bollywood-style “glamour” batting. The result was that Group-B becomes quite interesting — if it wasn’t enticingly poised already!

For the first 40 overs of the game, it appeared as though the only question worth considering was the margin of India’s victory. Then the wheels started falling off the India innings. India lost 9 wickets in 29 runs. After being 267 for 1 wicket after 39.3 overs, in the end, India did not even bat out the full quota of 50 overs! Moreover, India captain Dhoni — probably one of the best finishers in the World ODI scene — was left not out on 12 off 21 balls! It was more than mayhem. It was daylight thuggery. India had fallen some 40 runs short of what would have been a competitive total. More importantly, India fell about 70 runs short of what I thought the team would make — at the 30-over mark, India was 197 for 1!

South Africa needed 297 to win. Although India bowled and fielded well, the total was never going to be enough.

Much of the post-match commentary and analysis in India has focussed on whether Yusuf Pathan ought to have been promoted; whether Gautam Gambhir ought to be in the team; whether Harbhajan Singh ought to have bowled the last over instead of Ashish Nehra; why Ashwin is not in the team… yada yada yada.

Some unkind reports have said that South Africa did not win the game — that India lost it. That is not only blind, but rude at the same time! The South African’s played really well. They pulled it back from over-40 and then batted sensibly.

In general though, the papers have got stuck into MS Dhoni.

As for me, I am very happy India lost the game. For me, there are more positives than negatives from India’s loss last night.

Three reasons really:

  • Final Group Standings: If India had won, India would have, in all likelihood, topped Group-B (barring a disaster against West Indies). If India had topped Group-B, the team would have, in all likelihood, faced Pakistan. Australia and Pakistan (despite recent results and despite the baffling and continued presence of Kamran Akmal in the team) are the only two teams that I believe Team India fears in Group-A. My sense and prediction is that Australia will top Group-A and Pakistan will come in at #4 in Group-A. So, as long as India finish either 2 or 3 in Group-B India will be fine. India will do well against New Zealand or Sri Lanka, in my view.
  • Team Balance: I think India team management — what is a “think tank” anyway? I just abhor that phrase and refuse to use it — needed a kick up its stubborn backside. The team balance is wrong and the current “imbalance” compromises and exposes her bowling terribly.
  • Batting approach: The team’s approach to batting — especially in the batting Power Play — is totally wrong and that exposes the rest of the batting. India does not play the power overs well — not because India cannot. The approach needs a re-think that is not really too hard. Especially from a team that wants to “win it for Sachin”, a more considered approach was required in a game in which the Master had scored 111! This was no way to “win it” for anyone! So, I was happy with this kick being delivered in a match that India could afford to lose.

Each of the above factors deserve a bit more of an analysis and that is precisely what I shall attempt below…

Final Group Standings:

At the time of writing this, New Zealand has beaten Canada. In Group-A, the remaining games (along with my prediction of the winner of the game in parenthesis) are:

  • Australia v Kenya (Australia)
  • Pakistan v Zimbabwe (Pakistan)
  • Australia v Canada (Australia)
  • New Zealand v Sri Lanka (Sri Lanka)
  • Australia v Pakistan (Australia)
  • Kenya v Zimbabwe (care factor?)

So I expect the final Group-A standings to be: Australia (11), Sri Lanka (9), New Zealand (8), Pakistan (8) since I expect New Zealand to have a better NRR than Pakistan. The two “tricky” games to predict are Australia Vs Pakistan and NZ Vs SL. But I have gone with Australia and Sri Lanka winning these games, respectively.

In Group-B, the “Group of Death“, the remaining games and my predicted results for these are:

  • Bangladesh v Netherlands (Bangladesh)
  • Ireland v South Africa (South Africa)
  • England v West Indies (England)
  • Ireland v Netherlands (Ireland)
  • Bangladesh v South Africa (South Africa)
  • India v West Indies (India)

The results for this group are a bit harder to predict. For example, the England Vs Windies and the India Vs Windies results are hard to call. But I expect the results to be as above.

Either way, I do not expect Bangladesh to beat South Africa. So, I do not see a danger of India not qualifying even if she loses the game against West Indies next weekend. If India loses to West Indies (and Bangladesh loses to South Africa, as expected), it is likely that India might end 4th in the points table and meet Australia. Oh well. Them’s the breaks.

However, I expect the final Group-A standings to be: South Africa (10), India (9), England (7), West Indies (6) and Bangladesh (6), with West Indies qualifying because of superior run rate. Of course, any number of apple carts will be turned if West Indies beat England and if Bangladesh beat South Africa.

Let us assume that the final standings are as per my simulation above. In that case, India will play New Zealand. I reckon that this is an easier game than either Australia, Pakistan or Sri Lanka. So, in a strange way, I am glad India lost to South Africa last night!

I am not saying that India cannot beat Pakistan or that India needs to “fear” Pakistan. The problem is that one can never be sure which Pakistan team turns up on the day! I would, therefore, much rather prefer India meeting Pakistan in the Finals, if both teams get that far!

Team Balance:

I am even happier India lost because the team’s balance and batting approach are horrible, in my view.

I just do not accept that a powerful batting line-up should (or can) mask poor bowling resources. This is an utter fallacy. If we take that proposition to its logical conclusion, why then would we not stack the team up with 11 batsmen or with 5 batsmen, a wicket-keeper and 5 “bits and pieces” players?

Any team has to be balanced and at the moment it is just not balaced. The closest the team got to achieving that bowling balance was in yesterdays’ game against South Africa! If only the Indians had scored 20-50 runs more (easily possible, in my view) the bowlers would have defended it. Of course, that is a speculative assertion and in this space, any assertion that you make to the contrary is as good as the assertion above! But the fact is that, with a more considered batting approach, India could have scored 330 runs. The fact is that a lopsided bowling attack was not able to defend 330 in Bangalore (and the Bangalore and Nagpur conditions/pitches were similar). Hence my hypothesis that with the additional bowler that India had in yesterdays’ game, with an additional cushion of 30 runs, the bowlers may/would have been able to defend such a total. The South Africa batsmen would have had to take far more risks and may have folded!

But really. All of these are speculative still. I would like to be a bit more considered and firm in my analysis and conclusion.

The team just cannot afford to go in with 2 pace bowlers, 2 spinners and leave that 5th bowling resource to Yuvraj Singh, Virat Kohli (or Suresh Raina) and Yusuf Pathan. The Indian spin bowlers do not bowl well in the bowling powerplay — although they did do the job in yesterdays’ game. If Zaheer Khan and Munaf Patel get taken to the cleaners by Chris Gayle or Brendon McCullum, you have to have another pace bowler to fall back on. Moreover, I have generally observed that Zaheer Khan and Harbhajan Singh bowl a more attacking line — even when they are attacked — if they know that the team has additional bowlers to depend on.

So I would like India to go in boldly with 3 pace bowlers and 2 spinners.

This inevitably means that one of Yusuf Pathan or Virat Kohli or Gautam Gambhir have to make way for a bowler.

I would rest Yusuf Pathan for the next game and bring in a spinner for the game against West Indies.

So in my view, the team for next Sunday’s game against West Indies (and for all other games after that) should be: Tendulkar, Sehwag, Gambhir, Kohli, Yuvraj Singh, Dhoni, Ashwin, Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan, Ashish Nehra, Munaf Patel

That certainly weakens the batting. But with all the top batsmen in good form — everyone in that top 6 has scored well recently — if we cannot do it with those 6, the 7th bat will be useless too, in my view.

So India has to bite the bullet and go with the above, more well-balanced team. I have only been saying this for the last 2 months or so! And I will continue to say it till someone listens to me!

And for my money Ashwin is a better bowler than Chawla because, apart from being very good at his craft, he is apparently mentally stronger too!

Batting approach:

There is no point in blaming Ashish Nehra for the last over debacle. There is no evidence to suggest that Harbhajan Singh would have done a better job. One has to trust the instincts of the leader in the middle. However, with just 14 runs to get in the last over, that becomes a 50-50 situation whoever the bowler is. So discussion on who ought to have bowled the last over is simply quite futile. The captain made a decision based on his knowledge of the game, the opposition players out in the middle, his knowledge of his bowlers’ strengths and the game situation. He made a decision. It did not work. If it had worked, we would have hailed him as a genius! Chances are that it might have worked!

Nehra might learn from this that the yorker has not yet been banned from the game, yet! Generally, it is a good ball to bowl in the last over. Bowling it “just slightly back of a length” is not a smart idea when there are only 14 runs to get; when the batsmen are looking to smash it to mid-wicket! If his confusion persists all he needs to do is see that ball Dale Steyn bowled to Harbhajan Singh!

Ditto, Dhoni’s decision to promote Yusuf Pathan. He made a call. It did not work. What Pathan might learn from his sad outing is that he does not have to go for “glamour shots” off each ball. As far as I know, the “defensive stroke for a single” has not been banned from the game, yet!

But (I feel a Sidhu moment descending on me) one cannot drive forward by looking continually at the rear-view mirror! We do need to move on, really…

The main learning for the Indian batsmen is that they continued to go for “glamour shots” (in the words of Sunil Gavaskar). After being 267-1 in the 40th over, it was nothing short of professional negligence to fold from that point on for a mere 29 runs! In Dhoni’s words, the batsmen “don’t need to play for the spectators – they love sixes and fours in India but at the end of the day….,”.

In my book, a spot-on assessment by a smart captain. Was he right to call it that way? I think so. Tendulkar, Gambhir, Pathan, Yuvraj Singh, Harbhajan Singh and Zaheer Khan all went for “Bollywood” shots to please the crowd and the assembled Bollywood stars! Sometimes, it is useful to be boring. Dhoni was being boring. The game had changed in front of his eyes. He had to set aside his ego and machismo to pull things back. Sadly, several other Indian batsmen could not see past the end of their noses to realize that there was a world out there (Oh dear! Have I been listening to Sidhu far too much?).


So in conclusion, I think there are silver linings all around. India will not top Group-B, and that is good. The team management will look hard at team balance and the inclusion of an extra bowler, and that is good. The batsmen will have learned from the game and will, I believe, try less to be “winners on their own”, and that can only be good.

– Mohan (@mohank on Twitter)

19 responses to “More positives from India’s loss to RSA…

  1. Srikanth Mangalam

    “We have decided to wage a war on Iraq which was wrong to start with, let’s finish it smartly with what we’ve got”

  2. Srikanth Mangalam

    Mohan, if we lose a batsman, we also lose a fielder!!! As a result, the top 6 batsmen may have to score 20 -30 runs than what they need to now. This means that for a 5 man bowling attack with the fielding handicaps, 350 – 400 should be the totals….

    Unless, of course, India have a different 11 that fields!!!!

    India simply has to outbat the opposition. We cannot be selecting teams based on how we bowl in 5 of the 50 overs. The irony is that, apart from Zaheer and Harbhajan in patches, Yuvraj Singh has looked the best bowler. Yusuf Pathan has not done badly at all with the ball (I checked his figures!!!). Instead of playing five bowlers, I continue to advocate (at the risk of continuing to be called names!!) for 3 bowlers. The part timers, I maintain, haven’t done badly in the WC and we get a bonus fielder….

  3. Agree on the team balance entirely. Dropping one of the celebrated batsmen requires courage and the team management needs to demonstrate it now rather than later. Out-batting the opposition is not going to work consistently against all oppositions – especially with a fragile understocked bowling attack.

  4. @Srikanth

    Yes, when I say “balance”, it is a “batting v bowling balance” that I refer to. And that is precisely why I do not like either Suresh Raina or Yusuf Pathan in THIS team. With the team that India has, what’s required is a bowling-allrounder and not a batting-allrounder. And here, I am using the phrase “allrounder” very loosely, cos in my book Raina and Yusuf Pathan are not really “allrounders”. Irfan Pathan would have been another story, but he has gone off the boil.

    So, for “balance” what India needs is a bowling allrounder. In the absence of that, India has to go with an out-and-out bowler. As I say, if 6 batsmen can’t get you a score, what’s a 7th going to do?

    So, Ashwin for Pathan in my book.

    As I say in my article, if we feel Ashwin has no advantage over Raina/Pathan, why don’t we get Ravindra Jadeja for Zaheer Khan, Abhishek Nayar for Ashish Nehra, Rajat Bhatia for Munaf Patel and Rohit Sharma for Harbhajan Singh? That way we will have 6 bats, a wicket-keeper and a lot of useless bits-and-pieces bowlers.

    So, what’s wrong with a team that reads:
    Sachin, Sehwag, Gambhir, Kohli, Yuvraj, Dhoni, Yusuf, Raina, Jadeja, Abhishek Nayar, Rajat Bhatia

    Yes, I am being factitious, but just to say that if we take the argument to its logical conclusion, the above construction is possible IMVHO.

    My point is that, in the absence of a geniune bowling alrounder, take a bowler. Period.

    As for fielding, two points: (a) Ashwin for Pathan does not alter the fielding dynamic, (b) In most games in this World Cup India has “cynically” got Raina in to field for at least half the game on some pretext or the other. So that angle is “cynically” covered! I do not agree with it, because it amounts to “cheating”, but that’s what the ground reality is.

  5. Srikanth Mangalam

    I would actually go Ashwin for Gambhir though… We need Pathan especially when we chase large totals.

  6. I do agree with you on the batting approach. The risk reward ratio is not at all in favour of the glamour shots.
    Yes, the team balance is also a problem, but all our bowlers whether full time or part time have struggled to contain the batsmen so far even against the weaker teams.
    I still feel that the Indian batsmen are losing the plot frequently and helping the oponents make a come back in the process.

  7. You are right, Mohan. I think India needed to lose the game in order to sort itself out. Otherwise, we would have been under the false impression that everything is alright – I was hoping that the England game would have been a wake up call for India – it wasn’t. Hopefully, this one will be….

    You have a point in picking 5 full time bowlers. It is amazing that we keep complaining about our bowling being weak and how the batting is strong, but we haven’t done anything about it….maybe the 5 bowler option is something we should strongly consider.

    One good thing about this game was that India seemed to play with a lot more intensity than the previous games…maybe they will start peaking at the right time 🙂

    However (I know I may get flamed for saying this), I don’t think India has what it takes to take it to the finals…

  8. Thanks for a very well written article. I only hope Kohli’s position is not tossed up and down. He must be played at #4 or occasionally at #5. Otherwise he will get dumped like Irfan. Not all are “mentally strong” like Ashwin!

  9. Good analysis. I am surprised that there are no Sreesanth fans here. He just played one match against Bangladesh and was ordinary. Nehra played two matches and was also very ordinary. I am not just talking about the last over that he bowled against SA. (I am not sure how Sree would have bowled that either). Sree is a better fielder than Nehra, always. He could have been given a chance in the last match and he is a better bowler with the new ball. Sree is not a solution but atleast an alternative.

  10. South African bowler throwing ball – Dale Steyn
    Johan Botha – Throwing Ball


    Ashish Nehrah must not play in any of the remaining games, thats if we go far

    Kohli needs to get his act together he is playing really Bad

    Tendulkar – Shabash – May Krishna continue to bless him, an old man of the team making the runs while the youngsters are useless

    even when South Africa play them in South Africa

    Sachin saved us from disgrace


  11. I expect the following line up for the quarters:
    India – Pakistan; Australia – West Indies; South Africa – New Zealand and
    Sri Lanka – England

  12. Bala Balachandran

    My line up fora QF will be :
    Aus vs Eng; SL vs India; NZ vs WI and Pak vs Aus
    and SF will be : Aus vs SA and NZ vs India
    and Final could be : Aus vs NZ or SA vs India or Aus vs India
    This is purely my assumption based on something totally surprising likely to happen in this WC !!!!

  13. Song on India’s loss against SA

  14. All right folks here is the picture. The match is all ready has been fixed, it has been decided from the stating that India will loose this match. Can’t believe it..?? ok have a look these ..
    1. Indian player played very well and maintained run rate 8.5 till 35 overs, what happened suddenly that in last 10 overs whole Indian Cricket team wickets gone, do you really think Indian batting is really that much weak..?
    2. Why dhoni didn’t bat well in match.? after all he knew we were loosing wickets very fast,do you think he was in pressure..? do you think.
    3. why Kholi played so immature cricket in international platform, like he didn’t know where to strike on ball. it was clear that kholi could take another strike on that ball but he was more interested to sit in his cabin rather than play.
    4. why Harbhanjan singh didn’t turn up till initial 25 overs, after all everybody knows that stadium pitch was so damn slow n good for spinners, and when he turned up he took 2 wickets straight. so..why?
    5. In nutshell here is the story, sachin played awesome and sehwag as well. the Indian cricket team maintained 8.5 run rate in loss of 2 wickets. everybody were expatiating score between 350 to 450 according to performance of player. In world of money betting going up 98% ppl put money on Indian will win. do you have any Idea about how much money put on Indian team…? billions of dollars $$$$$$
    they won’t loose billions of $$$$ at any chance, make sense..? how about if they will give millions of money to player, in match where India will loose or win won’t matter at all.
    That’s how players maintain their expensive cars, mentions, luxury and afair with celebs, to play with emotions of millions Indians…..Think about it.

  15. ever since Dhoni is captain he is batting bad

    Who put Nehra in the team?

    Why is RP Singh not playing? or Ishant







  16. Hi
    While you discuss world cup, if you are using Firefox browser please do check out world cup persona
    and use it if you like

  17. keep bowling to a side,the big problem to india in this worldcup is how to utilize thier batting powerplay.Y.Pathan still have to show why he is in playing eleven.Dhoni should have to play his natural game,kohli is perfect at #4,
    Bowling department need some postve and brave changes,ashwin should be tested b4 big games and s.sreesant need an opportunity to prove his presence in playing eleven.nehra and m.patel should b rested.
    my team against w.indies will be:

  18. Not having to face Oz gives India the perfect reason to tomorrow as well 🙂

  19. Pingback: One match to go… | i3j3Cricket :: A blog for fans of Indian cricket…

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