Sehwag loses plot,match

Stand-in captain’s questionable tactics hurt India as they succumb to second successive defeat

Written by Aditya Iyer | Brisbane | Published: February 22, 2012 1:28 am

The run-up was wobbly,the delivery sprayed wide and the point of contact with Thisara Perera’s pads well outside off-stump. Yet,Vinay Kumar screamed in front of the umpire,more in anguish than in an appeal.

Vinay clutched his dodgy hamstring and hobbled off the Gabba at the end of the 47th over,leaving Virender Sehwag with little bowling choice to restrict runs at the death. When Umesh Yadav got hit for 11 runs in the 48th,Sehwag’s choices diminished from little to none for the rest of the innings. In hindsight,this situation that Team India found themselves in was more or less due to the off-day that the stand-in skipper was experiencing on the field.

Sehwag had bowled out Irfan Pathan,Ravindra Jadeja and Ravichandran Ashwin by the 46th over of game. So in a move seldom witnessed in the world of cricket,he turned to the cold,unused shoulders of his part-timers for the last two overs of the first innings. In sizzling form,Angelo Mathews looked far from complaining.

However,the move nearly worked for India as Suresh Raina responded with the wicket of Perera with his first ball. The offie bowled a quicker one and the straight seam crashed into the all-rounder’s woodwork. But after what unfolded over the next 11 deliveries,no international captain would be willing to try what Sehwag did in a hurry.

Over the next five balls,a raging Angelo Mathews smashed a six,a rhythmless Raina bowled a wide,while the Sri Lankans notched 10 runs off the 49th over. Yes,Yadav had been expensive — 58 runs in his eight overs until then — but he was still India’s best strike bowler available for the final over. Not in Sehwag’s mind,however.

The captain committed the same mistake twice in two overs by tossing the ball to an unprepared Virat Kohli for the last over of the Lankan innings. By the end of Kohli’s mammoth eight-ball,six-wides and 14-run over,Yadav’s economy rate of 7.25 was made to look insignificant. So just like Sehwag,history repeated itself in Brisbane,with India conceding nearly a 100 runs in the last 10 overs. Ninety-one,to be precise. Of which Kohli and Raina cost 24 in two.

Wild slash

While the part-timers would make amends in their real roles during the chase of 290,Sehwag wouldn’t. He continued to play like a man without the burden of strategic responsibilities,slashing a very wide Lasith Malinga delivery down third-man’s throat to be dismissed for naught. It was just the second ball of the reply,and Nuwan Kulasekara made no mistakes with the catch.

It would continue to be that kind of day for both the Indians and Kulasekara. The former would wander leaderless during their loss by 51 runs,while the Lankan bowler would be involved in four out of the top five dismissals. Yet,during two separate phases of the second innings,India looked in with a chance of giving Kulasekara and the Sri Lankans a real fright. First,when Sachin Tendulkar stroked the ball better than he ever had during this tri-series. And second,when Kohli and Raina added 92-runs for the fourth wicket.

Not long after Sehwag was dismissed,Tendulkar looked like a man possessed. He crunched Malinga down to midwicket to get off the mark with a double,before signature flicking the slinger from outside off-stump to square-leg for a rare three. Bringing out some of his greatest strokes in Malinga’s next,Tendulkar punished the bowler’s minute width — hitting a cracking cover drive and a whip through mid-wicket for his first two boundaries of the day. But as he tried to leave an innocuous Kulasekara delivery alone,the ball clipped his safely tucked-away blade and crashed into the stumps for 22.

Quite unlike Tendulkar’s fluency,Kohli played one of his scratchier knocks en route to becoming India’s top-scorer of the day. In an attempt to find his first boundary,Kohli was dropped by Dinesh Chandimal at deep midwicket on 13. The boundary didn’t arrive,but a déjà vu did,18 balls later. After that,Kohli would play carpet strokes as a thumb rule during his innings of 66. But the moment he deviated with an uppish stroke,Kulasekara found himself under the ball.

Bottom of the table

With India hurtling towards their second straight bonus point defeat,Irfan Pathan proved why he could still be the all-rounder he once promised to be with seven boundaries in his 47. While he did take India six runs into the clear of conceding the fifth point,the left-handed batsman couldn’t prevent the team from slipping to the bottom of the points table.

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