India relish the ODI dish, especially while playing at home. There was a time when it didn’t matter that their bowlers leaked runs at will and the fielders aped senior citizens. India would always post the big runs or chase them down with ease. ‘Three hundred’ would be the norm. The willow has always overshadowed the ball.
Something changed in the last series against Pakistan. The batsmen, strangely, failed to step up. In overcast conditions, they made Pakistan bowlers look even more menacing.
Since winning the World Cup in 2011, India’s batters have just lost their rhythm. Or probably Sunil Gavaskar’s assertion that they have become too casual after the World Cup high is more appropriate.
Interestingly, India’s pacers — traditionally the weak link — seem to have turned a corner. Indian bowlers making amends for the batsmen’s failures is unheard of.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Ashok Dinda (to a certain extent) and Shami Ahmed have brought in a whiff of change. Notwithstanding the fact that the conditions favoured the quicks, they held on to their nerves under tremendous pressure. Shami, in his debut match at the Kotla, bowled a crucial 48th over. Kumar has been a find. Not since Manoj Prabhakar left the scene has India found a medium pacer who can bring the ball in so sharply. Yes, he hasn’t been as effective with the old ball but the boy, only 22, will learn.
Dinda may have his limitations where skills are concerned, though his spirit never quails. His yorkers and ability to bowl at the death made the difference in the second T20 tie at Motera, a fact acknowledged by Mohammad Hafeez himself. Ishant Sharma, out of action for several weeks owing to injury, looked fresh and eager.
In the last ODI in Kotla, India’s fielders (Ajinkya Rahane, Suresh Raina, Yuvraj Singh and Virat Kohli) created a fence that Pakistan’s stroke players just couldn’t breach. Misbah-ul-Haq admitted that Pakistan were done in by India’s energy levels. One series is certainly not an accurate indicator of what’s in store but these are interesting times.