India has been the form team of the ICC World Twenty20 2014 thus far, the only unbeaten side in the tournament. Having already secured its semi-final berth on Friday, India cemented its place atop Group 2 of the Super 10 phase on Sunday (March 30), crushing Australia by 73 runs at the Sher-e-Bangla Stadium.
This win was, contrary to the three previous ones, achieved while setting a target, meaning India has all bases covered going in to the second semi-final on April 4, against the second-placed team from Group 1 that will be identified on Monday.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni, the India captain, was understandably studiedly upbeat when he was asked if the team was peaking at the right time. “I hope so. We are doing well, we have bowled really well in the tournament but on that particular day, you have to bowl well and bat well,” he cautioned.
“It’s a very short format, 20 overs, every couple of overs you bowl can actually change the entire course of the game. You have to see at which pace the game is and all those things that are happening. It’s not very easy to judge T20s and you have to be in the scenario, in the mix of the game on that particular day. It will be interesting in the coming games, semi-finals. I hope the better teams that play consistently win the games.”
George Bailey won the toss and stuck India in, but Dhoni said had he won the toss, he too would have opted to bat. “Once we lost the toss, it wasn’t really in our control. Overall, we are very happy that we were able to bat first and set a target. The middle order was tested. After we lost a couple of wickets, the ball wasn’t really coming off the wicket, so it was slightly difficult for the batsmen to freely rotate. That’s the kind of scenario that we may encounter in the coming game. Because the wickets are on the slower side and at times you tend to look at maybe 160 as a good score (to defend), you need to accelerate and you lose too many and you end up getting 130,” said Dhoni.
On Yuvraj Singh, the left-hand batsman who made a brilliant 60, Dhoni said, “In the middle period, Yuvraj batted really well. He gave himself time, it was an ideal opportunity for him to see through the initial 10-15 deliveries and we all know the kind of batting line-up we have. Anyone who eats up the deliveries initially and stays till the end will make much more than the balls he faces. That’s a big positive for us; the whole batting line-up got a bit of batting. It looks good as of now, hopefully we won’t have any injuries before the semis.”
Dhoni was happy to talk at length about Yuvraj, who came into this game a little low on confidence. “When I went in, I was the new batsman, so obviously he gave me the feedback of what’s happening, who is looking to bowl what, how the ball is coming on to the bat, at what pace,” offered Dhoni. “We knew that our partnership was very important though we have batsmen behind me. I always prefer that your main batsmen should bat deep. It’s always good not to use one batsman than to use everyone. And also we knew when the wicket is on the slower side, what the par score was. That’s what we banked upon. We said let’s play a few overs and then we targeted a few bowlers. We got quite a few surplus runs in those two or three overs.
“It was quite calm out there but I felt Yuvi’s innings was brilliant, the way he paced his innings. And the best part was an innings like this was needed for him, where he can be expressive and where he can be himself. It was an ideal opportunity today. He went in, played a few deliveries and he expressed himself. We all know the kind of batsman he is, he can clear any ground in the world and doesn’t matter whether it’s a fast bowler bowling or a spinner bowling. He may struggle for the first five-seven deliveries. Your good luck if you get him out, otherwise he will take you out of the game.”
Dhoni was asked if it was ‘fun’ fielding in the second innings as the Australian batsmen threw their wickets away. “It’s never fun when you are playing against the best team. In World Cups, more than often not, you are playing against the best teams in the world. You have to be at your best in a format like this. If one of the individuals has a brilliant day, it actually can change the course of a game,” he pointed out.
“You try to enjoy it, but that enjoyment doesn’t really come close to saying it was fun. It was a challenge, we didn’t have too many runs against a batting line-up that’s very strong right from the top to bottom. They have got big hitters in their side. Against a team like that, if you can win a game in 15 or 16 overs, you may lose the game quite easily also. We wanted to win this game ... I thought the bowlers bowled really well, not only the spinners but even the fast bowlers, Bhuvi (Bhuvneshwar Kumar) and Mohit (Sharma).”