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“I actually predicted that Bangladesh would go through, and there were friends around in the dressing room who made fun of me, but here they are.” In a chat with Star Sports at the end of the South Africa match, R Ashwin sort of let it slip what a few in the Indian dressing room thought about Bangladesh when he made his prediction during the practice games at the start of the tournament.
Not only had they come through to the semis, the Tigers were also threatening to run away with a huge total. Interestingly, it was Ashwin who was under the kosh in the middle overs — it wasn’t as if he was bowling badly, but Tamim Iqbal and Mushfiqur Rahim were showing great composure and skill. At one point, Tamim reeled off a hat-trick of boundaries against Ashwin, and an over later, the off-spinner was off the attack. Bangladesh were 142 for 2 in 25 overs when Virat Kohli brought in Kedar Jadhav.
At his best, he brings to mind Virender Sehwag’s off-spin. But he realised that he needed to something more than that if he were not to bleed runs. And so, he lowered his arm, went almost side-arm — the bowling arm dropped to 45 degrees, and he started to confuse the Bangladeshis.
For the most part, it would seem like tripe and hence easy pickings for the batsmen, and to an extent it is, but three things can happen with this action on a good day: the side-arm creates a deception over length; the batsmen aren’t sure whether it would be fuller or about to drop on a length. Secondly, depending on where the ball lands — on the shiny or non-shiny, it can skid at varying pace. Thirdly, the bounce is usually low as the almost round-armish action and the angle at which it is released makes it difficult for the ball to land on seam. But it’s obviously a risky thing to bowl too many as once deciphered, the batsmen can wait and murder it.
The Bangladeshi batsmen were well-entrenched by then, and probably didn’t think much of Jadhav. As no self-respecting batsmen would. Nothing much happened for the majority of the first two overs to change that opinion: short balls, some wide as well, as Jadhav couldn’t quite manage to get control over how much lower, and further from the body, his right arm was getting at release.
Then came the final ball of the second over. Round-armish and it landed pretty short, perhaps shorter than what Tamim perceived it to be. He had set himself for the slog sweep but neither the length, nor the pace was conducive for it. It looped in much slower than he thought, and he went all around it, and the ball hit the stumps.
As the overs went by Jadhav started to mix them up pretty well — the arm went side-ish; at times it came out nice and straight; occasionally it whirred through quickly, and the Bangladeshis were feeling the pressure. In his sixth over, he got his arm high and straight but the ball was seemingly clasped in his palms, and floated out ever so slowly. Rahim saw the extra-flight on it and charged down, but the ball wasn’t coming down in a hurry. And when it came, it sort of dropped dead quickly — like the lob-bowlers of yore — and Rahim was surprised by the dip. His attempted drag-sweep was swallowed by Kohli at midwicket, and India had done the turnaround act, courtesy some ‘smart rubbish’ from Jadhav.