Ayaz Memon answers some FAQs on India's defeat against Australia in the World Cup semi-finals.
Did the toss make all the difference to the result?
The toss was an advantage certainly, but not the sole or even the major determinant in the outcome. This was a one-day game, the weather conditions did not change at all and pitch did not crumble. The important thing was for the team batting first to score in excess of 300 - a big psychological barrier -- and the fielding side to prevent it. Or, bat out of your skin if you are chasing 300-plus!
There is something for Kohli to learn from Smith: when you are in great touch, optimize the opportunities, squeeze all the runs you can because you don't know what awaits you next innings.
How come India were unable to sort out Steve Smith right through the season when the Australians seemed to have worked out Virat Kohli?
Both these players were in superb form in the Test series. Smith has been able to carry forward his prolific run-getting in the ODIs too, while Kohli was a bit up and down. It must be said here that Australia's bowling is the better so Kohli was under greater threat. Perhaps he was also too tense to dominate the Aussies and therefore made some poor shot selections (if you also include the tri-series). But there is something for Kohli to learn from Smith: when you are in great touch, optimize the opportunities, squeeze all the runs you can because you don't know what awaits you next innings.
Why did Dhoni give Kohli one over and Raina none, especially since the slow bowlers were doing better than the fast men?
Intriguing question. My own reading is that he tried Kohli early enough in the Australian innings as a surprise move, hoping for some indiscretion since Kohli seems to get Aussie hackles up. But Dhoni also realized in that over that the pitch was tailor-made for batting and the non-regular bowlers would be a risk. Should he still have bowled Raina for a couple of overs? Perhaps, given the heavy cost that the pacers paid. But in hindsight, vision is always 20-20.
How come the bowling, which had taken 70 wickets in seven matches earlier, couldn't have the same impact in this match?
In my opinion, the fast bowlers bowled the wrong length on this pitch. They were a trifle too short, trying to hustle out the opponents through aggression rather than discipline and control. On a placid pitch, the greater effort should have been to try and throttle the runs and push the batsmen into making mistakes. Ashwin, who bowled brilliantly, showed how that could be done. The pace bowlers seemed excitable. That doesn't take away from the Aussie batting. It was exceptional.
Could the Aussies have been beaten?
The target of 329 was stiff, but after the flying start why did India's strong batting line-up stumble?
In the effort to dominate, I think. Dhawan, Kohli, Raina were out to high risk strokes, Rohit to a loose shot in the same over that he had hit a magnificent six. Kohli's was the big wicket. That is when the Indians should have taken the example of Finch and Smith who played superb percentage cricket after Warner's early dismissal. They didn't let the scoring run rate become tardy, but cut out the big risks. This meant that in the last 15-20 overs, the Australians had enough wickets in hand to launch an onslaught which they did successfully through effective cameos from Maxwell, Faulkner, Watson and Johnson. In contrast, India were 108-4 in the 23rd over. By the time Dhoni and Rahane had somewhat repaired the damage too many overs had lapsed. In modern ODI cricket, keeping wickets in hand is imperative for sides to make or chase big scores.
So was it a failure of tactics?
To an extent yes, though I think it was more a mindset issue. The attempt seemed to be to match fire with fire, beat the Aussies at their own game, rather than play to one's strengths with self-belief.
Could the Aussies have been beaten?
Too speculative, but the match could certainly have been closer. And once it gets close, who knows. But important to remember that Australia are the world's number 1 ranked ODI team, playing at home, and India had not beaten them in any match - Tests or ODIs - right through the season. On Thursday too, they were the better team by far. Losing to them in the semi-finals is deeply disappointing, but not a national disgrace. I can understand gloom in a cricket-crazy country, but not resentment. That betrays a lack of a sporting ethos.
Where does India go from here?
To look at the plus points, India's bowling attack looks potent and the fielding has improved beyond recognition. A bunch of fine, talented young players is now in place. But there is onus on them - and the BCCI -- to build from here and aim to be a champion side. Without that ambition, it is pointless.
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