By Madhu Kshirsagar, 27th Feb 2015
The summer in Melbourne this year has been a mild one. But it was an unusually extreme summer’s day in Melbourne with the mercury reaching up to 36 degrees Celsius.
The Indian fans were not deterred. Everyone I knew was going to the cricket. The train we took to Jolimont was packed with Indians from all parts of India and bore a carnival atmosphere. They were carrying all sorts of placards and signs, noise making instruments, the Indian Flag and back-packs filled with snacks and drinks. They were preparing themselves for a great evening, and a great evening is what they experienced, thanks to the flawless performance of the Indian cricketers against the strong South African side.
The same Indian side has spent the past two-and-a-half months in Australia without a win, and come World Cup they are putting on their best performances when a lot of cricketing pundits had written them off. The script, so far in the first two matches, has gone very convincingly India’s way, and they have won the games handsomely. They are now almost sure to reach the last 8, but whether they keep up the momentum to win the crucial knock out quarter-final and semi-final matches remain to be seen. We have known Indian sides flatter to deceive in the past too often, so let us keep our fingers crossed and enjoy the moment.
The atmosphere at MCG was electrifying, starting from the national anthem to the scoring of every run; be it a single or a boundary, the overwhelmingly Indian dominated crowd made the match seem like it was being played at Eden Gardens or Chepauk. One of the biggest ever MCG crowd for cricket – close to 87,000 (of which more than 80% would have been Indian supporters) ensured that it was a memorable match in every respect. I can’t imagine what the reaction of the crowd might have been if the result was adverse. The silence would have been deafening.
But as you might have it, it was the joyous roar of the crowd that was deafening and I really felt sorry for the few South Africans strewn around the mammoth stadium.
I was sitting in the Pavilion Stand up front in the second row from the boundary line, and felt every electrifying moment of the match to the fullest. Turning back and looking up at the colossal stadium all I could see was a sea of blue and crazy Indian fans having the time of their lives.
No wonder then Allan Donald called this a home game for India.
Now to the game itself; Shikhar Dhawan, having played a very key role in the win over Pakistan the week before, was once again the star of the match. He started carefully, built up momentum and sustained it throughout his magnificent innings. When in full flow his attacking style at the top of the order reminds one of Virender Sehwag in his elements.
Ajinka Rahane also played a crucial innings when he came in at the fall of Kohli. He created his own momentum with clean crisp shots and took the pressure off Dhawan. Virat Kohli, after playing carefully for a while, ended up playing a shockingly bad short to a bad ball and hit it straight to the short mid-wicket fielder.
No bowler was spared, with the worst treatment being meted out to Wayne Parnell who went for 85 runs from his 9 overs.
When it was South Africa’s turn to bat they quickly got into trouble by losing wickets. And although they kept themselves in the chase for the first 20 overs, the fall of AB de Villiers’s wicket through a run out broke their will completely. From that moment onwards they were like lost souls and went through the motions in a trance as the asking rate kept climbing higher and higher, and ultimately beyond their reach. The rest was formality. I had expected them to come close to India’s total, especially the way in which du Plessis and de Villiers fashioned a 50 partnership. But, alas, they folded up pretty meekly.
The Indian bowlers had to be commended for bowling a tight length and although Ashwin’s first couple of overs cost a plenty, he came back strongly to claim 3 wickets from his allotted 10 overs. They also fielded well and it was pleasing to see that they generally lifted their game in all departments.
Dhawan was rightly crowned the Man-of-the-match for his sterling innings.
I don’t know how much crowd support for the Indian side played a part, but surely it should mean something to be playing in front of large supporters. It is sure to spark a flame every time India takes to the field in Australia.
Let’s give them that support, and to tell you the truth they will need every bit of support they can muster after their disastrous tour of Australia so far the last couple of months.
If India reaches the semis anything can happen.