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Bangladesh humble India
Prem Panicker | March 17, 2007 21:05 IST
Last Updated: March 18, 2007 03:11 IST
India face the prospect of an early exit from the World Cup after a shock five-wicket defeat to Bangladesh in their opening Group B match in Port of Spain, Trinidad, on Saturday.
Electing to bat, India put on an insipid batting display and were bowled out for 191 in 49.3 overs.
Man of the match right-arm pacer Mashrafe Mortaza did the bulk of the damage, picking four wickets for 38 runs. He was well-supported by left-arm spinners Abdur Razzak (3-38) and Mohammad Rafique (3-35).
Bangladesh had little difficulty chasing down the paltry target after 17-year-old opener Tamim Iqbal put them on course with a superb 51 from 53 balls. Mushfiqur Rahim was unbeaten with 59 when the winning runs were scored.
The story of the first quarter of the game is easily told: Rahul Dravid won the toss and opted to bat first on a slightly green, rock hard pitch - and two bowlers without any real international street cred embarassed the hell out of much-vaunted batting lineup.
Virender Sehwag's six-ball stay underlined a feeling everyone, except his captain, has: it is time for him to do what Zaheer Khan and Sourav Ganguly did before him; to wit, get out of the international spotlight, work on his game from the ground up, and come back only when he has his batting ducks lined up again. The international arena is no place to try and `get your form back'.
Off the third ball of the innings, he was called for a quick, even suicidal, run. He responded with a gentle sprint, and a hop into his crease with his bat held in the air like a blind man feeling for imminent obstructions. In the event, he was very very lucky to be judged in, in a photo-finish.
To the sixth ball he faced, he produced a waft to a delivery in the channel that was neither cut nor drive; when he played it, his movement was neither forward nor back. Predictably, he merely managed to chop the ball back onto his stumps (2/6; 6/1).
Robin Uthappa played a few fluent strokes, and in between was repeatedly found out around his off stump by the seam and swing of Syed Rasel in particular. It was an error in judgment, though, that triggered his dismissal: to a back of length delivery from the pacy Mashrafe Mortaza, Uthappa came onto the front foot regardless of length, and tried to drive from that unstable platform. The ball rose, it seamed a touch late, it found the thick outer edge, and Aftab Ahmed at point had an easy take (10/17; 21/2).
Two batsmen with 25,000 international runs between them then poked and missed, went forward and were beaten, went back and were beaten, as Moshrafe, regularly hitting speeds in the early 140s, and Rafel, much slower than his partner but with an iron control of length and line, tormented Sourav Ganguly and Sachin Tendulkar with speed, swing, seam.
One fact alone is more illustrative than much tedious description: Ganguly and Tendulkar managed 19 runs in 51 deliveries; Tendulkar contributed 7 off 26 and Ganguly 8 off 25. What must have been particularly galling to two seasoned vets were the whoops of delight, the crows of triumph, as the bowlers beat them and the fielders pulled off superb saves when they did manage to get bat on ball.
Both opening bowlers kept their lines tidy and their lengths good; they kept varying the angles and lines with unsuspected expertise, and were backed by excellent outcricket. Bangladesh clearly believes it has arrived as a one-day nation; through the first half of the Indian innings, if you went purely by the play without knowing who was who, you wold imagine Bangladesh were the favored nation, and India the minnow.
Mortaza ended a brilliant first spell with 7-2-20-2, figures that would have done a McGrath or Shaun Pollock proud. Abdur Razzaq came on with his slow left arm, kept Tendulkar quiet for 5 deliveries and took him out with his sixth. The ball was flighted, on off and middle; Tendulkar drove at it, was surprised by turn into him, and managed only to inner edge onto his pad, and thence into the gloves of Mushfiqur Rahim (7/26; 40/3).
Rahul Dravid, the third in a triumvirate of players with 10,000-plus ODI runs, came out and, finally, bat met ball on slightly more even terms. India had progressed to 13/1 in 5 overs; 24/2 in 10; 40/3 in 15; and 60/3 in 20 - that last tranche of five overs being the only occasion when India did not lose a wicket, while adding 20 runs.
Syed Rasel bowled himself out to mark the end of the Power Plays: 10-2-31-0 constituted a superb supporting spell that maintained pressure on the batsmen while Mortaza was doing his stuff at the other end; with a little bit of luck, he should have had a couple of wickets to show for his sustained excellence.
With two slow left armers in Razzaq and Saqibul Hasan operating, Dravid and Ganguly finally began to find avenues to work singles; the inexperience of Bangladesh showed up in this period in the way theyspread the field out, rather than keep the pressure up. Equally, Bangladesh didn't have a third seamer of the quality of the two fronting bowlers.
Just when it looked as if the two would haul India out of jail, Dravid fell. He had been concentrating on either rocking back and forcing square, or coming forward and flicking off the pads.
The experienced Mohammad Rafique took over from Razzaq (5-1-12-1 - Shane Warne would have been proud); his first ball was full in length on middle and off; Dravid attempted to work it off his pads, was beaten by the angle and turn, and trapped bang in front (14/28; 72/4; partnership 32 runs at 3.49).
Yuvraj walked in, played out the rest of the over, and at the halfway mark in the Indian innings, the honors are entirely with Bangladesh: India 72/4 at a run rate of 2.91; Ganguly batting 29/73 and Yuvraj 0/5.
One final statistic: after 25 overs or 150 legitimate deliveries, India had managed 28 singles, 7 twos, 1 three and five fours. Or, more accurately, Bangladesh had choked what, on paper, is one of the best batting lineups in the competition with 119 dot balls.
Overs 26 - 49.3
If Bangladesh in the first half of the Indian innings was startling, in the second half they were simply amazing.
Who would have thought, for instance, that India would be restricted to 136/4 after 40 overs on a true pitch?
More to the point, who would have thought that at that point, three slow left arm bowlers would have collectively bowled 23-2-87-2 at a proud destroyer of spin bowling such as Ganguly (59/120 at that stage), or a player of the caliber of Yuvraj Singh (33/48)?
It was a not-to-be-missed show, as the under-rated team bowled and fielding out of its collective skin to teach the seniors a lesson or three. The spinners took the pace right off the ball, kept very tight lines, and even withstood the pressure when Ganguly occasionally attempted to sashay down the track.
When Yuvraj paddled Hasan fine to the fence in the 33rd over, and followed up with a superb flast sweep in front of square leg, those were only the sixth and seventh fours of the Indian innings, and they came after 14 overs that were devoid of boundaries.
It was, frankly, scarcely credible. The one thing India had going for it as it entered the slog phase was the presence at the wicket of two well set batsmen: Ganguly was batting 59/120; Yuvraj 33/48, and both had a good, long look at the wicket and the bowling.
In the 41st over, Ganguly gave Razzaq the charge and collected a four to the long off region; Yuvraj then pulled contemptuosly and, in the next over, powered Rafique over the midwicket fence for the first six of the innings.
To the team's credit, Bangladesh refused to wilt. Razzak tossed up an invite around Yuvraj's off stump, the batsman looked to sweep but this time, the ball was fuller in length; it found the top edge and steepled, for a simple catch to Habibul Bashar at short fine leg (47/58; India 157/5; partnership 85 runs at 4.59 with Ganguly contributing 36).
The wicket was doubly important because it was Yuvraj who provided the momentum, while Ganguly continued to bat well within himself. The senior player had in fact almost batted himself into a comatose state, even against the spinners. The Bangladesh spinners and fielders did very well against him, by throwing themselves around, negating his best shots, and attacking the ball with such vigor that try as he would, Ganguly couldn't even turn the strike over.
Time was running out though, and after Yuvraj's exit, Ganguly could not afford to push the ball around. In the very next over, to Rafique, Ganguly yet again attempted the charge. Rafique, yet again, spotted the intent and dropped it short; the batsman tried to change his mind and pull, and managed only to hit it straight to Razzaq, for a sharp catch at midwicekt (66/129 balls; India 158/6).
It was not the optimum situation, perhaps, for Mahendra Dhoni - he needed to hit everything, from the get-go, because India just didn't have runs on the board to back its bowlers. That can bring its own pressures, and Dhoni succumbed in the same over as Ganguly, reaching a long way outside his off stump to try and cut and managing only to get the toe of the bat to Aftab Ahmad at a slightly withdrawn point (0/3; India 159/7).
The very next ball of that 44th over nailed Ajit Agarkar bang in front, but the umpire took pity on him, probably - or, more likely, was in an even greater shock than the Indian fans at the ground. Whatever, he ruled in favor of the batsman, when the ball was likely to hit the middle of middle.
Bangladesh though would not be denied - at the other end, Razzak speared one in on a very full length, Harbhajan tried to step away and back and squeeze out a cut, and managed only to play it onto his stumps (1/3; India 159/8).
Talk of knock out blows: 11 deliveries, 3 runs, four wickets. And more to follow: the pace Mortaza was brought back in the 46th; and the first ball of his new spell was picture perfect: quick, down the channel and close to off, lifting and seaming late off just back of length. Ajit Agarkar was just good enough to feather it through to the keeper, and the procession continued (0/2; India 159/9).
An idiosyncratic, and highly effective, last wicket partnership between Zaheer Khan and Munaf Patel saaved India's blushes. The two did everything their seniors couldn't - they tipped and ran, they hit through the line and hit straight, and most importantly, they put pressure, for the first time in the game, on the bowlers and fielders.
The 32 run stand, off just 28 deliveries, ended when Munaf patted a Mortaza slower ball, banged in short, straight to Razzak at cover (15/14; Zaheer Khan not out 15/17; India 191/10).
For the second time in two World Cups, India - so proudful of its batting - had been bowled out in its opening game by a lowly-rated team.
Bangladesh has more than one reason to be proud. It fielded brilliantly, it caught everything that came along, and - who would have thought - it needed just five bowlers, three of them slow left arm and all of them disciplined to a fault, to dismiss the supposedly best players of spin in the world for a lowly score.
For India, huge problems. Cricket, the captain, senior players and even Mandira Bedi have been saying, is all about getting and maintaining momentum. This performance effectively squanders any momentum the team may have built through the two warm-up games. More to the point, it serves up an important warning: don't bat first on pitches that promise some early life; you are not, yet, good enough to.
A great opening burst with the ball could put India back in the game; on balance, though, at the halfway stage, you would have to say that Bangladesh just shade India in odds.
Youth is such a wonderful thing: there is no reputation to protect by nudging and nurdling runs, no fear of reputations because you haven't made your own yet, the blood is hot and it is rushing through your veins and will not be denied.
A 17-year-old came out at the head of the Bangladesh batting lineup, and showed `the best batting team in the world' how it is done.
The third ball of the innings saw Tamim Iqbal down on his knee, cracking Zaheer Khan through point for four; there was exuberance in that shot, there was pure joy in the way he held that pose for an age, as if making sure it was being properly recorded.
Magic as that moment was, it was nothing to the events of the 7th over. Zaheer Khan banged down a bouncer sharp enough to crack Iqbal on the grille of his helmet. With the feistiness that a young Tendulkar had once shown, Iqbal waltzed down the wicket to the very next ball, swishing hard.
He failed to connect that one, but two deliveries later, to a ball short of length on off, he rocked back, stood tall on his hind legs, and cracked it through point. And to the next ball, he came dancing down the track again; Zaheer saw him and dragged the ball down but the lad still had enough skill to hit through the line over mid off.
Clearly, the kid didn't like being hit on his head; as clearly, he was out to settle the score. He squared up to Zaheer again in the 11th over and, to the second ball, full in length outside off, smeared it through extra cover. A rattled Zaheer went around the wicket and banged it in short; Iqbal promptly smoked him over point. One dot delivery, and Iqbal came down the track again, as the Indians never could to the Bangladeshi spinners, and played a stunning short arm pull over long on for a huge six.
It was his second six - off the last ball of the 10th over, he had danced down to Munaf Patel and when the bowler, seeing him coming, dropped it wide of off, threw the bat at it and got enough wood on it to carry the third man boundary, prompting an irritated Munaf to have words with the youngster.
The carnage continued. In the 12th over, Iqbal leaned into a fullish delivery and cracked that through extra cover, while the off field stood stunned, watching. He ended the over dancing down again at Patel; this time, he didn't quite get hold of the ball; the swat went to the right of Dravid at mid off. The fielder reacted a fraction late, and managed only to palm the chance over for the single that got Iqbal to 50 off just 51 balls, with seven fours and two sixes.
By way of aside, those 50 runs came off a team score of 67/1 - and of the 17 runs he did not score, 9 were extras.
The only joy for India had come when Zaheer Khan, in his 3rd over, jagged one back. Shahriar Nafees, Iqbal's opening partner, made the mistake of staying back to a ball not short enough; when it darted in to him, he was too cramped for space to defend, and was pinned in front of off (2/8; 24/1).
It is almost like an unwritten rule of Indian cricket, that when you need your opening bowlers to be at their sharpest, Agarkar will lose the plot entirely. He started with a no ball so wide of leg stump, in the first over, that it beat Dhoni and went away for four additional runs to the fine leg fence.
From there, he just kept getting worse, seemingly unable to even find a line on the stumps; after three overs of repeated drift down the leg side, wisdom dawned and Dravid turned to Munaf Patel.
Patel finally got a measure of revenge in the 14th over, when he probed around off, angling the ball across Iqbal, getting it to bounce and seam through the channel. The ball was too good for the kid; the inadvertent edge went through to Dhoni (51/53; 69/2). It was the sort of innings that, played out on cricket's biggest stage, captures the imagination; by the time it was over, Iqbal had single-handedly reduced the target to 123 runs (his mates had managed just 9 runs between them; equalling extras).
And if youth is predictable, you can bet that what Iqbal will treasure most is the 32 runs he creamed off India's best bowler, Zaheer Khan, off just 25 balls - full and final settlement for being hit on the head.
Iqbal's innings may well have nailed India to the mast, but patriotism aside, you couldn't help but admire a feisty young kid who could bat with such gay abandon, against a top-ranked side, on such a huge stage.
The Bangladeshi fielders had backed their bowlers to the hilt, making them even more lethal than they were; India, on the contrary, let their bowlers down. In the 15th over, Munaf again produced a beauty, this time to the right handed Mushfiqur Rahim. The ball was on length, close enough to draw the batsman forward; it moved late enough to find the thick edge and Dhoni, moving to his right, got his glove to the chance and grassed it (Rahim 8/25 at the time; 74/2 Bangladesh).
Patel though was by then bowling like a dream, having recovered from the mauling at Iqbal's hands. Two deliveries later, he went a fraction wide on the crease, speared one in on a very full length, with pace enough to beat Aftab Ahmad's attempted drive and nail him in front of middle (8/10; 79/3).
With Munaf in danger of running out of overs, Dravid rotated Harbhajan to the other end after a first spell of 3-0-6-0 and brought Agarkar back at the end Zaheer had used. Saqibul Hasan, who till then had nudged around for 8 off 21 balls, promptly cracked a square drive that took all of Bajji's heroics to keep down to two; to the very next ball, he hit the same shot, even better, and this time found the fence as Agarkar served up width outside the left hander's off stump.
India's top batsmen, reputed to be the best players of spin in the world, had made no headway against the three left arm spinners Bangladesh fielded. In their turn, Bangladesh confronted in Harbhajan Singh an offie with a worldwide reputation - and gave it, and him, no respect. Mushfiqur Rahim waltzed down the track, in a way Ganguly might have admired, and hit him flat, straight, and back over his head for a huge six.
There was a message in that shot for Bajji - if you bowl five doosras in any given over, you are just a slow, straight, predictable bowler.
At the end of 25 overs, Bangladesh had made 109/3 at 4.34 (India 72/4 at that stage of its innings).
India doesn't have the runs to defend; a hidden problem opening up is the fact that it does not have a fifth regular bowler capable of striking.
Bangladesh needs 83 more runs off 25 overs, at just around 3.3 runs per over. India needs a miracle. Period.
Overs 26 - 48.3
The second half of the Bangladesh chase could be summed up in one word: inevitable.
Mushfiqur Rahim (18 years) and Saqibul Hasan (19, going on 20 this March 24) have a grand total of 31 ODIs between them - but the experience, skill and nerve they brought to the chase would not have disgraced the veterans of this Cup.
When India, through Sachin Tendulkar and to an extent Harbhajan Singh, sought to take the pace off the ball, the two pulled in their horns and worked singles around, running the lethargic Indian fielders ragged in the process.
When the fielding side looked to bring on its pace men and try and blast wickets out, they promptly shifted gears, using the pace of the bowlers against that and opening out with some spectacular hitting, straight and square.
What was most remarkable about the performance was that at no point did India seem to be in with even the faintest of chances - a string of teenagers had mastered the favored team, displaying the very characteristics the Indians did not: nerve, commitment, aggression, determination. And sense.
Virender Sehwag managed a salve to his personal pride, drawing Saqibul Hasan out and getting him stumped (53/86, with five fours and a lovely inside out loft over wide long off to Harbhajan Singh; 163/4).
That wicket came in the 40th over; the ask by then had been reduced to 28 off 60 deliveries. Skipper Habibul Bashar tried to play hero, came dancing a long way down at Sehwag and was stumped (1/8; 175/5).
Mushfiqur Rahim, however, had by then entrenched himself in the role of anchor. During his partnership of 84 runs with Saqibul Hasan, Rahim took it on himself to talk his partner, a year elder to him, through the game, reining him in when Hasan seemed to suffer a rush of the blood, exhorting him to keep going, and masterminding the chase.
The two quick wickets failed to disrupt his focus; With the irrepressible Mohammad Ashraful in tow, he hauled Bangladesh past the finish line, in the process notching a controlled, unbeaten half century. The win coming in the 49th over looks impossibly tight - but it went that far only because the 6th wicket pair played out an inordinate number of dot balls, in their determination to eschew all risk.
A point needs to be made, with all possible emphasis: commentators can talk all they want about the wicket having `eased out'; they have to, because part of their job is talking up the top teams and maintaining interest.
It would need a high degree of naivete, though, to imagine that the wicket was demonaic around the 43rd over of the Indian innings, when Yuvraj went to be followed by Ganguly, Dhoni, Bajji and Agarkar inside the space of three overs, and that the same pitch had `settled down' by the time Tamim Iqbal came out to thump the Indian bowling to all corners of the Queen's Park Oval.
India lost the plot and gave the bowling far more respect than it deserved; Bangladesh put the game and the pitch in perspective, and showed that if you were prepared to play shots, this wicket held few terrors. It is, in the final analysis, as simple as that.
Time and again, the pundits say records don't matter; that in one day cricket, the team that plays better cricket on the day wins. Today, Bangladesh was better than India: with the ball, with the bat, and in the field, there was daylight to spare between the two sides.
From a patriotic point of view, it is an upsetting result; from a broader perspective, though, Bangladesh struck a hard blow for the minnows of the cricketing world; thanks to their stunning win, 8 teams judged no-hopers will now walk with more pride, more faith and belief.
It was an aberrant performance by the Indians with the bat (you cannot, in a 300-ball game, go runless off more than 150 deliveries and not pay a price for it). And once India was bundled out for a low score, it's intrinsic problems: lack of a good fifth bowler; a lack of awareness of the respective skill sets of Agarkar versus Munaf with the new ball and, most crucially, chronic weakness in the fielding, all came into play to convert the chase into a cruise.
While on fielding, Rahul Dravid when asked about weakness in this area had suggested that while some weakness existed, it could be covered by placing the right fielder in the right area, and using what he called `smart fielding'.
I don't know about you, but I wouldn't by a distance classify posting Munaf Patel, the slowest, most awkward of Indian fielders, at cover `smart' anything - thrice in course of the Bangladesh innings, he took forever to bend down, only for the ball to go right through him to the fence.
India now find itself in a position that can bring the best, or worst, out of a side: it has two games to go and must win both. More, it must win by handsome margins, because there is the very real possibility of three teams ending up in the group on six points each.
It can be horribly daunting - or, as for instance Steven Waugh showed, when he told his team it had only to win seven on the bounce to win the Cup, and did just that, hugely motivating. We'll know which, on Monday when India plays Bermuda, and on March 23, when the team takes on Sri Lanka, to do or die.
The Cup: The Complete Coverage
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