Return of Nehra and Dhawan rejuvenates India at Asia Cup

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Ashish Nehra and Shikhar Dhawan played starring roles in the final win over Bangladesh.

There’s a certain amount of inevitability about Virat Kohli remaining unbeaten in a successful chase and MS Dhoni sealing it with a six. That’s exactly how it panned out in the Asia Cup final against Bangladesh in Mirpur. These 15-over chases are really tricky because it takes only a couple of tight overs for the asking rate to jump alarmingly, and that’s why the calmness with which India chased the target in a final must be lauded.

Kohli’s average swells over 80 in successful run chases in T20 International cricket and that tells you how often he finishes games off. He’s not the one who’d go for glory and play to the gallery but someone who’s happiest if he’s there when the team crossed the line.

BOWLING-INDIA’S NEW STRENGTH 

But before raving about the chase, it’s imperative to talk about the bowlers who managed to restrict the opposition for a manageable 120. The best that has happened to Indian T20 cricket recently is the reintroduction of Ashish Nehra and and the emergence of Jasprit Bumrah. While Nehra focuses only on picking wickets in the powerplay overs, Bumrah keeps it extremely tight irrespective of the stage the innings. In the final, Bumrah gave away only 13 runs in the 18 balls that he bowled and not to forget that six off those 18 balls were in the last over of the innings. Both Hardik Pandya and Nehra had bowled really expensive overs and a big finish was almost a given, Mahmudullah Riyad was in the middle of an exceptional cameo but for Bumrah’s accuracy. He’s bowling Yorkers at will and that’s a huge asset in the shorter forms of the game. And if you add Ravichandran Ashwin’s spell of 14 runs to Bumrha’s exploits, you get six overs conceding only 27 runs. From there, even if the opposition scored at 10 runs an over in the remaining overs, you’d keep the total within your reach.

DHAWAN-GOOD TO HAVE HIM BACK

Asia Cup has been quite harsh on the openers, for they were forced to play a different brand of cricket. The pitches in Mirpur had a little more juice than what we’re used to seeing in T20 cricket and that led to almost every team losing two or more wickets in the first 6 overs. Shikhar Dhawan, like many other openers, was also a culprit of assuming that he could plant his front foot and play through the line from the beginning. He tried that in the first two games and was beaten on both occasions. With two failures and not an impressive T20 record, he had to play an ugly innings in the game against UAE and that got him back on track. There’s nothing like game time and even though he managed just 16 in a 80-run chase, it was enough to get him going again. It did help that the pitch for the finals wasn’t offering much to the seamers and the ball also got wet really early in the innings but it’s good for Team India that he’s firing again. Though for his own sake, he must tighten his game further, for he’s in a danger of being called a ‘flat-track bully’ and he’s definitely better than that.

THE RISE OF BANGLADESH

It would be unfair to finish writing about the Asia Cup without acknowledging Bangladesh’s rise as a T20 team. 2015 was their year in ODI cricket and it was a matter of when and not if in T20 cricket too. In Mashrafe Mortaza, they have one of the finest captains in world cricket, in Soumya Sarkar, Mahmadullah and Sabbir Rahman, they have the batting nucleus and Amin Hossain, Mustafizur Rahman and Taskin Ahmed are keeping their bowling stocks in good shape too. For the first time Bangladesh cricket has come out of the shadows of their three top cricketers–Shakib, Mushfiqur and Tamim, and that’s the first sign of a team in its ascendancy. Now, they must become a little more ruthless and find the right spot for their best striker-Mahmadullah. In the final, he came in with only 20 balls left in the innings and that’s not enough to leave a lasting impact. If he finds the right spot, I won’t be surprised if Bangladesh causes a couple of upsets in the World T20 too.

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Twitter reacts as Dhawan smashes India to Asia Cup title

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Shikhar Dhawan smashed 60 off 44 balls as India claimed the inaugural Asia Cup.

Shikhar Dhawan’s half-century and Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s barn-storming finish took India to Asia Cup success via an eight-wicket win over Bangladesh in a rain-shortened final.

Sabbir Rahman (32 not out) and Mahmudullah, with a rapid 33no, lifted Bangladesh to 120 for five in a match reduced to 15 overs a side.

Openers Soumya Sarkar and Tamim Iqbal put on 27 in four overs and Shakib Al Hasan and Sabbir Rahman added 34 before Shakib fell for 21.

Mushfiqur Rahim and Mashrafe Mortaza fell in successive balls but Mahmudullah hit two sixes and a four in one Hardik Pandya over and he and Rahman put on an unbroken 45.

Rohit Sharma fell in the second over of India’s reply but Dhawan and Virat Kohli put on 94 before Dhawan fell for 60 from 44 balls, with nine fours and a six.

There was to be no late wobble, though, as captain Dhoni hit two sixes and a four off Al-Amin Hossain in the 14th over to finish the job with seven balls to spare and race to 20 not out from only six deliveries, Kohli unbeaten on 41 from 28.

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Vohra’s view: Far graver issues for cricket than dissent following Kohli's match fee fine

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Excessive: The 30 per cent match fee fine on Virat Kohli against Pakistan was way out of proportion for his action.

It seems a little excessive to fine a batsman large sums of money for pointing his bat as evidence of not being out to the umpire; pretty much what Virat Kohli did during the Asia Cup match against Pakistan. Compare that to the mob that surrounds a soccer referee or a hockey umpire, and the protest is diluted vanilla in comparison.

This anointing of the custodians of the game on field as being above reproach has gotten a bit tiring. Seeing how they make their fair share of errors and are willing conspirators in that absurd charade of making batsmen wait after they are out to see if the foot of the bowler didn’t cross the line, my sympathy sort of dries up. If you didn’t call it when it happened, you cannot fall back on replays to check it out. That is cheating. Not so long ago there was a lusty yell of ‘ No baaaalll’ and the batsmen went for it. That is not in the rules any more.

With the World T20 and the IPL in rapid succession, it is time to clean up the act.

The other annoyance is the needlessly high number of angles and cameras and it detracts from, not enhances, viewing pleasure. They even have cams on the heads of the umpires. I truly do not want to see the umpire’s finger in dramatic close up.

This visual burden is further ruined by the endless graphics and the now inane information flung at the helpless audience. On Mondays and Tuesdays Pakistan win 45 per cent of their matches. If there are clouds in the sky, then India lose 56 per cent of their games. If a mongrel walks across the pitch mid-game, Sri Lanka loses 33 per cent of their games.

There has to be a limit to this deluge of utterly pointless data and we seem to have crossed it. Leave the game alone and let us watch in peace. Rather they spent money on Snicko and DRS and had a challenge each for the teams, all of which reduce the error factor.

I do wonder who sits there working out these gimmicks and foisting them on us. In the current tournament, they have a ridiculous semi-circle with clock hands that bounces around indicating the win percentage at a given time, these projections based on the most tenuous of inputs…besides making a mockery of the glorious uncertainty of cricket. The replays they show now are so frequent, you lose track of whether you are watching live, or the done-and-dusted for the 17th time. It is almost as if they were all bent on taking the fun out of game by deflecting attention.

Perhaps where the most attention should be paid is on the close ups of players and the easy lip reading of the foul words used. The non-English equivalents make sledging sound like a conversation in a convent and it will come as no surprise if warnings are issued before the games start asking adults to exercise parental caution if children are part of the TV audience and children are certainly watching.

In fact children make up 43.67 per cent of the viewing public (go on, prove me wrong) and with so many mics on the pitch, these kids are exposed to not just the mouthing of the vituperative but even the low-key sound that follows the obscenity, leaving no doubt in anyone’s mind what has been said. Rather swiftly the parlour game of guessing what the word is has now become redundant. Everyone knows, including the commentator.
One way of probably ending the verbal ugliness is to issue red and green cards so that batsmen are docked runs, or, for a second offense, sent back to the pavilion and bowlers blocked from doing their thing for say, thirty minutes.

These steps will at least clean up the act a bit because the way cricket is being broadcast, it is on the top of the list as the most profane sport in the world.

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