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Rediff.com  » Cricket » The West Indies test was an absolute necessity for India

The West Indies test was an absolute necessity for India

March 06, 2015 23:34 IST

South African cricket fans watch outside an appliance store as their team loses another wicket in the 1996 Cricket World Cup quarter-final against the West Indies on March 11 1996. South Africa eventually lost the match

South African cricket fans watch outside an appliance store as their team loses another wicket in the 1996 Cricket World Cup quarter-final against the West Indies on March 11 1996. South Africa eventually lost the match. Photograph: File/Reuters

South Africa's poor run in World Cup knock-outs started off in 1992 but their first choke came in the next edition.

At the 1996 World Cup they were the most superior of the teams in the league stage of the tournament but then imploded in the first game they played after that.

- The World Cup, as never before on Rediff.com

That World Cup's format was very similar to the ongoing one. Barring the fact there were 12 teams in that tournament as opposed to the 14 in the current World Cup, the rest remains the same. Each side plays against all other teams in their own group and the top four from each group make the quarter-finals. You lose the quarter-finals despite winning all your preliminary games and you get knocked out of the competition.

That was the fate that befell South Africa. They won five league games and up against a team that even lost to Kenya in the first round -- West Indies -- the South Africans came a cropper.

Some might argue it needed a Brian Lara special to topple them off but the other point of view was that South Africa weren't tested enough during the league stage of the tournament.

So when they came up against the real goods in a knock-out situation, they failed to react positively to it.

Not once were they tested during the league stage of the tournament, with a win over Pakistan, with 34 balls remaining being their closest.

The reason one's referring to this is because of the way things had gone for India in the 2015 World Cup in the lead-up to the match against West Indies. 

Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Denesh Ramdin walk off the field after the match

Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Denesh Ramdin walk off the field after the match. Photograph: Vipin Pawar/Solaris Images

Going into the tournament, India were expected to make the quarter-finals but for them to be on the verge of finishing first after having played three games was not envisaged by many. What was even more difficult to fathom was the manner of their first three wins, clinical to the hilt.

If one thought beating Pakistan by 76 runs could be put down to their opposition's poor batting depth, a 130-run crusher over South Africa was almost never on the cards.

And then UAE were almost brushed away with great aplomb.

So, when West Indies were reduced to 85 for seven and all and sundry started talking about another regulation Indian win, there was that nagging fear that India is probably headed down that same path as South Africa were in 1996.

Therefore for India to be tested the way they were by the West Indies from the position they had gotten themselves in at one stage might just augur well for them.

In fact they had a lot of positives to take away from the game. That they won, allows them to remain at the top of the table with a couple of games against Zimbabwe and Ireland. But given their win required a seventh wicket stand of 51 runs, it also means it would have given them a chance to experience what they could in their knock-out matches.

West Indies' Dwayne Smith celebrates the wicket of India's Suresh Raina during their World Cup match at the WACA in Perth on Friday

West Indies' Dwayne Smith celebrates the wicket of India's Suresh Raina during their World Cup match at the WACA in Perth on Friday. Photograph: Paul Kane/Getty Images

Dhoni, when asked about how he felt to be tested by a tough opposition bowling on a difficult pitch, admitted it was good for all batsmen to have gotten some time in the middle.

He said: "The good thing, the batting order, all the batsmen, they got a chance to bat because this question was -- it was about to come in for the one discomfort, and the question would have been whether you are worried that the lower order has not been tested."

"But to some extent in this game, they are tested in this game, and hopefully in the coming two games also they'll get a bit more batting and will be ready for the knockout stages because I feel we'll have to contribute more with the lower order batsmen, and if we can do that, definitely we can add 20, 25 more runs than what we have so far."

What made this workout even more crucial is the fact their next two games are against Ireland and Zimbabwe. Without wanting to belittle them, there is a good chance India will over-power them.

With Ireland having beaten West Indies in a previous game, Dhoni might almost be hoping for as good a fight from them as they had from the West Indies, because the last thing India would want to do is to go into the last-eight stage after having won all their games and come up with a situation they haven't endured before and go down in a heap.

Like South Africa did in the 1996 World Cup.

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