5 Things We Learned From India’s Win Over South Africa

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Virat Kohli answers back to the Proteas’ “Mauka Mauka” taunts

The Indian team defeated South Africa by a massive margin of 130 runs in the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 match at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, Australia. Telling contributions from the Indian batsmen, most notably a crafty century by opener Shikhar Dhawan, and some fierce bowling and fielding yielded the win for the cup holders. Significantly, this was India’s first win over the Proteas in the World Cup whom they had lost to in three prior attempts- ’92, ’99 and 2011. Watch India’s reply to the South African’s “Mauka Mauka taunt” right here.

While the match was not a typically competitive India-South Africa encounter, a number of things were worth observing over the course of the encounter. Let us take a look at the five most important things that were learnt during this Group B encounter from the 2015 Cricket World Cup.

1. India must find an able opener to support Shikhar Dhawan

Shikhar Dhawan after completing his century against South Africa

Shikhar Dhawan has been performing well for the Indian cricket team as one of the openers. His 137 against a strong pace attack on a seaming and bouncy MCG track stood testimony of his style, technique and temperament as an opening batsman. A lot had been said about his lack of form during the Tri-Series but two stellar performances have done his confidence a world of good. Dhawan is undoubtedly one of the best openers in the country at the moment.

However, it is the performance of the other opener that is likely to concern the management. Rohit Sharma has looked off colour for long and scores of 15 and 0 in the first two matches doesn’t prove his credentials. Each time, India were bailed out of what could have been tricky situations by the class of Dhawan and vice-captain Virat Kohli. Although a phenomenally talented player, Rohit has very little to show for as an opener away from the Indian subcontinent.

The team has another opener in the form of Ajinkya Rahane. The “peaceful warrior”- as Dhawan put it- showed his class with a quickfire 79 to provide India with a launching pad. May be the time has come for him to switch places with Sharma who has been a better player at No. 4 than higher up the order.

2. India knows the art of producing genuine pace bowlers

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There is a well-proven theory that India produces quality spinners and medium pacers but never the fiery pace bowlers. True, Zaheer Khan was probably the last Indian bowler who consistently hit the 140+ mark although injuries forced him to cut down on speed quite early on in his career. The likes of Varun Aaron, Ashok Dinda and Ishant  Sharma were all either too inconsistent or injury prone and never looked capable of hitting the International standards. It seemed the dream of India having their very own Dale Steyn would remain unfulfilled…..

…..until the pace duo of Mohammed Shami and Umesh Yadav showed up!

The two fast bowlers bowled with pace and got excellent purchase out of the MCG wicket. Umesh Yadav rivalled Dale Steyn in the pace department with top speed of 146.0 a close second to the latter’s 146.7. Their fiery spells had the Proteas batsmen hopping around and on the backfoot. While they managed only a couple of wickets, it was their aggression that made the task easy for the likes of Mohit Sharma and R. Ashwin who grabbed most of the wickets. Get the full match scorecard right here.

If these two can stay fit, India will soon be able to boast an opening bowling pair that strikes fear into the hearts of opposition batsmen!

3. South Africa need to rethink their playing combination

The Proteas went into this match with 6 batsmen and 5 bowlers. However, just like in last week’s match against Zimbabwe, the top order failed to get going and put immense pressure on the middle order. While David Miller bailed the team out last time around, their was to be no such miracle against India.

Chasing a target of 300+ is not as difficult in the modern game as it used to be. However when you have only 6 recognized batsmen and the top order fails, it becomes a steep mountain to climb. The poor show by opener Quinton de Kock, the untimely runout of skipper AB de Villiers and David Miller, some less than convincing performance by J.P. Duminy, and the team never looked up to the challenge. Vernon Philander’s hamstring injury did affect them in the bowling department and Wayne Parnell gave away too many runs but that cannot be an excuse for the poor showing by the batsmen.

The absence of a quality all-rounder in the mould of Jacques Kallis is hurting the team who look severely top-heavy at the moment. The time has come for the management to tinker a little and bring about better balance in the lineup; else South Africa could soon find themselves on the flight back to Johannesburg.

4. The Indian Fans will have a big part to play during the World Cup

The MCG represented a sea of blue

The India-South Africa match was played at the MCG in Australia. However, anyone unaware of the geography of the place could well have mistaken it for the Wankhede in Mumbai. The stadium, that saw an attendance of nearly 87,000 was washed in a sea of blue as Indian supporters turned out in numbers to create a raucous, “homely” atmosphere for the team.

If India are to go all the way in the ICC World Cup 2015, this backing from the significant Indian contingent of fans at all the venues will have its own part to play in the team’s success!

5. Sachin Tendulkar is still loved by the cricketing fraternity

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Sachin Tendulkar during the match at the MCG

The Little Master was present at the MCG as the appointed Ambassador for the ICC. Each time the TV cameras turned to him, huge cheers went around the stadium.

“The God” may have hung up his boots but the cricketing fraternity showed that they continue to adore him!

Watch Sachin Tendulkar talk about the India-South Africa match here.

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