After the anchors said “that’s all from the presentation party” line, the cameras continued to flash in the MCG stands. Selfies with tickets in hand and the scoreboard in the background were being witnessed in bunged walkways. For the Indian fans among the 86,876, the perfect day was about to end, after the fans at MCG had clapped, saluted and bowed for their stars. First Dhawan, and later skipper Dhoni, said the reason for their turnaround was the overwhelming support from the stands. The thousands who have made India’s away World Cup a home affair, were profusely thanked.
India played the perfect game, quite literally. It was the first time that India beat South Africa in a World Cup game. It was South Africa’s biggest defeat ever in a Cricket World Cup. World Cup promos in the years to come will feature clips of the spells Mohammad Shami and Umesh Yadav bowled. The sight of the South Africans ducking, swaying, getting hit on their fingers, closing their eyes and those run-outs are expected to run on loop.
Coming off a great win over arch rivals Pakistan, India were confident right from the word “go.” They lost Rohit Sharma early because of a misjudgment, but Virat Kohli and Shikhar Dhawan steadied the ship and were batting sensibly. Melbourne resident Dhawan’s sparkling ton anchored century-plus partnerships with Virat Kohli (46) and Rahane as AB de Villiers’ men toiled on a steamy day in the field after losing the toss. Rahane bashed three sixes in a glittering 60-ball knock before being trapped lbw by Steyn with four overs to spare. India ended on a formidable total of 307. India’s performance in the field was stupendous, to say the least. Mohit Sharma (2/31 in 7 overs), Ravichandran Ashwin (3/41 in 10 overs) and Mohammed Shami (2/30 in 8 overs) kept the opposition batsmen under tight leash for better part of the innings. South Africa were bowled out for 177 and India won by a margin of 130 runs.
What stood out was India’s ground fielding and catching. It made a massive difference and eventually won India the game. The execution plans from India were spot on, but that had a lot to do with how simple the plans and preparation were. South Africa called in Gary Kirsten and Michael Hussey for consultation, picked an extra bowler in Wayne Parnell, and used spinners in unconventional parts of the innings, but the anxiety showed the most in the fielding.
It is one of the days when being a nation of a billion-plus helps. You can fill out almost any ground anywhere in the world where your team is playing. Even the massive MCG is simmering with that expectant murmur so typical of Indian grounds throughout, waiting for anything in favour of India. Just imagine the atmosphere if they make the World Cup final here on March 29. Phew, deafening would be an understatement.
Wickets kept falling as South Africa looked to manufacture runs, and India’s reputation of being strong in big matches in limited-overs cricket was enhanced even further. They are certain to finish at the top of their pool barring for any major upset. Shami, Yadav and Mohit Sharma now have a reputation of terrorising batsmen with their short bowling. Indian fielders are being lauded for their electric presence and sharp throws. Very early in the tournament, the Indians aren’t just creating the most noise at the stadium, they are also creating the maximum buzz around them.
After two phenomenal wins India, along with New Zealand, are the most talked about team. By playing an entertaining brand of cricket, the neutrals will keep an eager eye on them. Kohli, after the Pakistan game, and Dhawan after his ton against the most complete bowling attack in the tournament, have created an aura around Indian batting.
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