Mishra magic, yet again

Having limited West Indies to 129, India finished things off without great discomfort, although the game need not have been stretched into the final over, writes Shreedutta Chidananda.

Two games into India’s campaign in the ICC World Twenty20, it seems as if the vocal, widespread criticism of its bowlers is from another age. Until recently, the bowling was being red-flagged as a potential hazard. Now, things are working like a dream. Against the West Indies, it was Amit Mishra who stepped up again, delivering a second Man of the Match performance. Bhuvneshwar Kumar returned remarkable figures of 3-0-3-0 while R. Ashwin kept things typically watertight. Having limited West Indies to 129, India finished things off without great discomfort, although the game need not have been stretched into the final over. Virat Kohli looked imperious again, and Rohit Sharma got some useful runs under his belt.

It’s a rather propitious beginning to the tournament. For Mishra, who has gone from being a routine bench-warmer to a vital cog in this unit, it has been a big turnaround. He took two for 18 from his four overs, having Marlon Samuels stumped and leaving him looking rather silly.

What had Dhoni been telling him? “I said play,” the captain smiled. “I personally felt he was feeling nervous against Pakistan. I went up to him and told him: ‘You are known for turning the ball. You are someone who flights the ball, varies the pace and you have variation. So just don’t keep bowling the straighter one or try to bowl back of a length so that the batsman cannot hit.’ I was really comfortable the way he bowled after that.” Bhuvneshwar also drew praise from Dhoni for his unrelenting consistency in bowling the right line. The Uttar Pradesh bowler swung the ball both ways — mostly into the right-hander — and this troubled Chris Gayle, who struggled to break free. The Jamaican was squared up a number of times and edged behind in the very first over, only for Ashwin to grass a simple offering.

He was let off again on 19, Yuvraj Singh shelling a straightforward chance in the deep. The fielding has been universally dodgy at the Sher-e-Bangla stadium — Pakistan and Australia dropped high catches too — and this is perhaps more than a mere coincidence.

“It is not only a problem with the Indian team as of now,” Dhoni felt. “There have been quite a few catches that have been dropped. I don’t know whether it is because of the surroundings or something else. I feel the fielders in the deep are finding it quite difficult to judge the ball. What are the exact reasons I do not know but that is something we will have to overcome — whether it is because of a technical fault or just the surroundings.”

Yuvraj’s form with the bat also came under scrutiny after he was dismissed in the final over for 10. This follows the poor show against Pakistan. More worryingly, he has looked out of sorts in the middle.

For the West Indies, the world champion in this format, the defence of its title began in desperately poor fashion and not just for the result. The batting looks flaky beyond the top three and when they are tied down — as they were by India – things could get difficult. Sunil Narine, Samuel Badree and Krishmar Santokie have a good track record in T20 cricket, but without the weight of runs behind them, they were toothless. In any case, Kohli played them with the greatest of ease.

The West Indies captain Darren Sammy sought to put a brave face on it. “There is no need for us to panic. Round one goes to India. I have a strong feeling that we will meet again, so we are looking forward to that,” he said.

THE SCORES

West Indies: Dwayne Smith c & b Ashwin 11, Chris Gayle (run out) 34, Marlon Samuels st. Dhoni b Mishra 18, Lendl Simmons c Dhawan b Jadeja 27, Dwayne Bravo lbw b Mishra 0, Darren Sammy c Rohit b Jadeja 11, Andre Russell c Kohli b Jadeja 7, Sunil Narine (not out) 7, Denesh Ramdin (not out) 0; Extras (lb-1, w-12, nb-1) 14; Total (for seven wkts., in 20 overs) 129.

Fall of wickets: 1-38, 2-62, 3-74, 4-74, 5-97, 6-108, 7-121.

India bowling: Bhuvneshwar Kumar 3-0-3-0, Mohammed Shami 3-0-27-0, R. Ashwin 4-0-24-1, Amit Mishra 4-0-18-2, Suresh Raina 2-0-8-0, Ravindra Jadeja 4-0-48-3.

India: Rohit Sharma (not out) 62, Shikhar Dhawan lbw b Badree 0, Virat Kohli b Russell 54, Yuvraj Singh c Gayle b Samuels 10, Suresh Raina (not out) 1; Extras (nb-1, w-2) 3; Total (for three wkts., in 19.4 overs) 130.

Fall of wickets: 1-1, 2-107, 3-129.

West Indies bowling: Samuel Badree 4-0-28-1, Krishmar Santokie 4-0-27-0, Sunil Narine 4-0-20-0, Dwayne Bravo 1-0-12-0, Darren Sammy 1-0-9-0, Marlon Samuels 3.4-0-22-1, Andre Russell 2-0-12-1.