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Sight Screen

Monday, November 28, 2005

The Cricinfo verdict

Siddharth Vaidhyanathan in his end of game verdict focusses on a curiosity.
Earlier in the series, Smith had joked that India were hiding Mahendra Singh Dhoni, but one has to question South Africa's tactic of holding back Kemp. Both at Bangalore and here, with the top order floundering, one would have thought floating Kemp, or even Pollock, higher up the order might have been a bold tactic to break the shackles, in keeping with the brave brand of cricket being advertised. Instead Prince and Kallis added 41 laborious run in 12.3 overs when the field was up, as South Africa gradually withdrew into a shell, just when some "extravagant cricket" might have tilted the scales.
SV also pays tribute to the one factor that, IMHO, really made a difference to the Indian efforts today:
His bowlers appeared to be squandering a great chance to nail South Africa early, with Ajit Agarkar spraying it around in his opening spell, but Dravid shuffled his resources around, enforced one-over spells, and didn't hesitate to regularly shift ends.
More significantly, bad bowling was masked by superb ground fielding, the fielders were kept up even when Powerplays weren't in operation, and batsmen were left to rue every loose ball wasted. Yuvraj Singh, at point, dived around as if propelled by a spring in his shoes; Mohammad Kaif, at cover, was at his sprightly best; Harbhajan Singh, mostly spectacularly, covered a wide arc at the square boundary; and RP Singh, at third man, regularly let fly accurate throws over the bails.

That really has been the most significant factor in the ODIs of this home season, against both SL and SA -- barring the odd blip, the Indian fielding has touched, and sustained, levels never imagined previously. We have always had the odd good performers -- a Kaif at cover, say, or a Yuvraj at point; never, at least in the past decade, though have we fielded a team without really exploitable weak links.


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