May 10, 2010
Lightning, goes an old saying, doesn't strike twice. Don't tell that to the Indian team, though: it felt the full brunt of its destructive force on Sunday, all over again.
Just a couple of days ago, it was blown away by a torrent of bouncers from a fiery Australia; today, it was West Indies' turn to ride on the same trick to make India look like cringing novices.
After a second successive defeat in the Super Eights, India have surely heard the roll of thunder, if not impending doom, too. Even a victory over Sri Lanka might not save them now; they will need a miracle too, as not only their pride but run-rate too has taken a huge beating.
The 14-run defeat story, though, might seem familiar to even a certified slow coach: India won the toss, elected to field, conceded sixes by the dozen, failed to see the whirring new ball and collapsed in a heap. Just like they did against Australia.
Interestingly, India didn't seem to learn much from that hiding: they stuck to the same XI, despite the overnight rain that left the wicket moist. It didn't take long for the absence of a third seamer to be felt, as West Indies amassed 169 for six. Chris Gayle 98: 5x4, 7x6.
Captain Dhoni, almost vainly, handed the new ball to Harbhajan Singh again; the off-spinner bowled a testing opening spell (3 overs, 12 runs) though, yet again. But runs could not be stopped from the other end, as Gayle and Chanderpaul played typically free-flowing knocks.
Dhoni turned to a second spinner by the sixth over itself: thankfully, it was not Ravindra Jadeja this time. Jadeja, though, continued to have a torrid run: he spilled another catch, and when he was finally summoned in the 12th over, promptly went for two sixes. His second over too yielded 11 runs, although he finally picked up a wicket. Gayle, in the meantime, was slowly coming into his own: a couple of flat hits were followed by soaring sixes. The run-rate too slowly started creeping up, though it barely ever reached alarming heights. It didn't help that he was given a reprieve on 46.
Like the other day, the wicket seemed to change colour and conduct when India started batting. Gayle started with Darren Sammy for a fairly eventless and worry-free over; but Jerome Taylor, from the other end, was quick to raise the demons in the track. A scorcher went past Gambhir's throat, while he just about managed to keep the next one down. Kemar Roach upped the tempo in the next over, hitting over 90 miles per hour. The alarm bells had begun to ring.
Murali Vijay heard them first, succumbing to what else but the pull shot; Gambhir wasn't so lucky though: he was handed a virtually unplayable bouncer. He pulled his face and bat out of harms way but the glove wasn't quick enough: 28 for two, and the track looking mean and dangerous now. Last match's hero Rohit Sharma too didn't last long, attempting an ambitious scoop towards fine leg. He wasn't happy with the caught verdict but there was no doubt in either umpire's mind. Then began India's best phase of the game.
As Pollard arrived with his ambling pace, life became easier in the middle. Suresh Raina attacked him with gusto for a 6, 4, 4 in the tenth over. A couple of overs later, his eyes lit up even more when Chris Gayle took the ball in his own hands. A smart four over extra cover, however, was followed by the death ball: Raina slogs hopefully, managing to only catch Sammy at mid-wicket.
Dhoni and Pathan, after Yuvraj's exit gave India hope again: both went on a six-spree to finally make the target look attainable. But another short ball came back to haunt Pathan and India. Dhoni kept the game alive though, riding on a life too. When 32 were needed in the last two overs, the match came in the realms of the possible too. But a suicidal double-attempt saw Dhoni falling short, as Bravo found the stumps from long on. The match ended at that stage itself.