M S Dhoni lost a series to Pakistan he could have won, but it’s heartening to see that he is still willing to learn from mistakes. We had pointed out in our Sunday sports column that India got carried away in Kolkata by an overcast sky and expectations of dew to bowl first after winning the toss. With an early start at noon, there was never going to be time enough for the dew to make batting easier. In fact, the ball seamed and spun much more in the cool winter evening which freshened up the pitch, and India lost by a huge margin of 85 runs.
Come Delhi, and Dhoni ignored the morning fog and expert commentary on dew to choose batting after winning the toss. It was not an easy wicket, with the ball deviating appreciably off the seam and also spinning sharply. On top of that, India batted atrociously to be bowled out for 167 with six overs left. But batting was even harder the second time around under lights, and India defended the score with tight bowling, brilliant fielding and almost flawless captaincy.
Pakistan did not bat as badly as the scoreboard would suggest. I believe they would have got bowled out for even less on that wicket if they had gone for their shots; by defending from the very outset, they got close. All the Indian seamers got movement off the pitch, and Bhuvneshwar Kumar swung it in the air too. Newcomer Shami Ahmed was almost unplayable with the new ball even for somebody with two centuries under his belt in the series, Nasir Jamshed. There was no Ashok Dinda either to give away easy runs with his short pitch stuff. The only looseness came from Ashwin who overdid the round-the-wicket line, although he did get the Pakistan captain Misbah-ul-Haq caught in the leg trap, and should have had Mohammed Hafeez too likewise. But Saeed Ajmal’s five for 24 on that wicket puts Ashwin’s two for 47 into perspective.
This was an important win for India even though the series had already been lost. That Pakistan did not field their reserves shows how badly they wanted a 3-0 sweep, which India denied them. But more than that, India have come away with a couple of key positives for the road ahead — we have two new young seam bowlers who can make the ball move, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Shami Ahmed. And Dhoni has shown that he is still our best bet as ODI captain, who will regain some of his confidence from this victory. But he should not forget what helped him to win in Delhi — setting his ego aside to learn from the mistake in Kolkata.