There was a stark contrast to the reactions by both captains at the post match closing ceremony after the India England game in Bangalore. Andrew Struass had a smile on his face (partly due to his great innings). Mahendra Singh Dhoni had a frown on his face. The reactions told a story. England had achieved the impossible in making 338 in the second innings and inspite of throwing it away were delighted with the tie. India should have never allowed England to get to 338 and I think Dhoni knew that greater problems now await him.
Nobody claimed before the World Cup that India had the best bowling attack in the tournament. What the Bangalore game has shown that among the test playing nations, India perhaps has the worst bowling attack. If a team cannot defend 338 then there must be something terribly wrong with its bowling and fielding.
India’s fielding was terrible on Sunday (for the first time in 15 years, I saw Tendulkar field terribly) and its attitude and thinking was worse. Dhoni had a shocker as a captain, allowing England easy singles. There was no pressure built on any batsman and it was almost as if the Indian’s were waiting for the English to make mistakes.
This has been in stark contrast to the last two years when Dhoni has been a very positive and proactive leader. His subsequent rant at the UDRS was also very unlike Dhoni and all indications are that he is a man under tremendous pressure. During the game against England one saw Dhoni often in conference with Virender Sehwag. Nothing wrong in that for Sehwag has a very fine cricketing brain. But one has never seen Dhoni lead by committee decisions. Something just doesn’t seem right.
However all is not lost. The tournament is still in its early stages and the one positive is that this game was not a quarter or a semi final. The batting is looking very good and a fit Ashish Nehra will only strengthen the bowling attack.
For it is now becoming very clear that a team with a strong and wicket taking bowling attack will win this world cup. Australia with Tait, Lee and Johnson have looked very good. But the most impressive of the lot has been Pakistan. It was a pleasure watching them against Sri Lanka on Saturday. Typically in Pakistan style they did everything possible to lose a game i.e run each other out, drop catches, miss stumpings etc. And typically in Pakistan style they ended up winning the game. They are the only team in the world who can lose bowlers of the caliber of Aamir, Asif and Tanvir before the tournament began and still have talents like Gul and Akhtar opening the bowling. With Afridi in fine form, they have become a very very dangerous team. They are a team to watch out for from hereon.