GAME PLAN: A T20 series of disappointment and bottled up rage

Jaideep Ghosh

South_African-teamSo the T20 series is over. It look much lesser time than any fan in India had anticipated, although the Barabati Stadium crowd in Cuttack tried their level best to extend things by a few minutes.

But that was all in vain.

A little dismay is merited. After all, India were surely expected to put up a much better fight, and even win one of the two matches. But that didn’t really pan out.

The sum total of the two matches — in Dharamsala and Cuttack — were dismay, sadness, frustration, anger and a little bit of comedy too.

The dismay was rooted in the first match when India posted a fine 199 on the back of a very well compiled century by Rohit Sharma. All was well till the end of the first innings, though India did lose their way a little and scored a few less than expected.

The real dismay began when JP Duminy began hitting back and was given not out twice by umpire Vineet Kulkarni, and at least was as plumb as any batsman can get. Quite understandable, since Duminy made the difference between winning and losing.

That said, the same umpire had also given Sharma not out, in the very first over of the match, when the batsman was on zero. And Sharma was as out as Duminy. Or as not out, as it culminated.

So the story may well have been far different if he had been given out then. In the sense, South Africa may have won much faster.

The essence of the problem wasn’t that really. Such things happen. But India has consistently denied access to the Decision Review System (DRS), so surely they can’t complain if things don’t go their way with some decisions.

The anger and comedy was in Barabati.

Well, no comedy really, barring the fact that not one of the hundreds of bottles tossed by the irate crowd actually landed anywhere near the boundary.

So match could have continued uninterrupted. But that would be unlikely.

Anger was the primary reaction. The series and the country doesn’t need any more displays of misplaced anger. Especially in what is essentially just a game. So tossing bottles at fielders and holding up proceedings wouldn’t change anything. All that does is leave a bad taste in the mouth. Which it did.

The reaction and condemnation was all justified. But then came some ridiculous announcements.

The Uttar Pradesh Cricket Association decided that no one would be allowed to carry tiffin boxes and water bottles into the Green Park Stadium in Kanpur during the One-day International to be played there.

Wonderful. So now people can not only not throw bottles, they can also not drink water. Or pay some incredible amount for getting any.

Crowd control is an irritant for most security forces around India. All they do is harass people while getting in, and then gape at the players and watch the match. In sharp contrast to security personnel elsewhere, who never take their eyes off the public.

So much for off the field. On-field, all the Indian Premier League seems to have helped the South Africans way more than their Indian counterparts. Their fielding essentially took care of India in Cuttack, when Sharma and Virat Kohli were run out. Post that, there was little they could do in terms of creating a challenge.

Skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni says maybe he should not use as much brain in a T20 game. He has a point. This format is more of an instinct thing.

But that said, maybe the Proteas’ instincts are better. They weren’t thinking about the conditions, the pressure of 200 runs in Dharamshala or the crowd in Cuttack. They just played the game to the best of their abilities and won.

On the manpower front, it is time that Harbhajan Singh was kept out of the equation for all limited-overs stuff. Even the Tests, one could dare to venture. He simply isn’t there any more.

Ravichandran Ashwin is fighting a lone battle most of the time when it comes to attacking the batsmen and that simply isn’t good enough.

The fast bowling cupboard is once again looking bare. Any attack that has Bhuvaneswar Kumar in lead role is in trouble. Where and how Umesh Yadav, Mohd. Shami and Varun Aaron keep disappearing is quite a story in itself.

It is not a pretty picture. Maybe India should go hell for leather in the limited-overs matches and give their collective brains some rest before the Test matches begin.

All said and done, losing a T20 series or and ODI series isn’t sacrilege. Losing a Test series at home is a little more serious. And it always pays to attend to the serious stuff with more intent.

Hopefully, Kohli’s brain is in better shape than Dhoni’s.