Sehwag shines but India learn little in opener

Favourites India launched the World Cup with fireworks from Virender Sehwag and the expected opening day big victory over their co-hosts and neighbours on Saturday but Bangladesh will surely rue their lack of ambition.

Instead of opting to bat first on a featherbed of a batting pitch after winning the toss, the home side’s Shakib Al Hasan inserted India’s crack batting line-up and then watched virtually helpless as they amassed an enormous total of 370-4.

Bangladesh made an early stab at the daunting seven and a half runs an over they needed for the unlikeliest of wins before a conservative approach bogged them down and from then on the match as a contest was all but over.

In the end, India moved on to a far more serious test of their title credentials — at least on paper — against England on February 27 with a comfortable 87-run victory and Bangladesh departed with heads held still high after a respectable 283-9.

Sehwag did most to enhance an already ormidable reputation as a match-winner with easily his highest one-day score which even threatened to eclipse South African Gary Kirsten’s World Cup record 188 not out before he dragged Shakib on to his stumps.

The fact that he played much of his innings with a runner after tweaking his knee attempting a quick single spoke volumes for his striking power which enthralled the India fans and did much to silence most of the 25 000 capacity crowd.

Early demise
Sehwag, who earlier had a mix-up with Sachin Tendulkar which led to the latter’s early demise for 28 in a run out in his record-breaking 445th ODI appearance, hit five sixes and 14 fours often without moving his feet because of the injury.

It was an extraordinary exhibition of power hitting and an enviable eye for a ball.

He was given super backing by the 22-year-old prospect Virat Kohli, who reached an unbeaten 100 in the final over showing excellent technique, but the combination of a flat track and an innocuous attack hardly tested either batsmen.

Nevertheless, Sehwag, who said he had not thought about surpassing the magical 200 mark or particularly concentrated on Kirsten’s record, believes India have unearthed a real gem in his partner on Saturday.

“Kohli played very well. I think he is showing that he is a very mature batsman now. He is not throwing his wicket away, he is quick learner,” he said.

It was, however, not all positive news for Indian captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni.

His volatile seamer Shanthakumaran Sreesanth had the kind of a day he will want to forget in a hurry, bowling with fire but precious little accuracy or guile and conceding a rapid 53 without reward from five wayward overs.

Bangladesh skipper Shakib will, of course, have more to ponder than his opposite number.

Knowing that only three teams batting first had won in the last 16 day/night matches on the ground, he said he was concerned with the dew which usually emerges in the evening. As the conditions make bowling and fielding second awkward, it was the reason for the suicidal decision to insert India.

But despite a bright innings from himself (55) and his opener Tamim Iqbal (70) — the rest of his team’s batting and bowling looked short of class to worry any of the leading teams.

Nevertheless, backed by a fanatical crowd and a bit of luck on the day, they could still upset any one of their higher ranked opponents in Group B including England, South Africa or the West Indies and claim a surprise quarterfinal place come late March. – Reuters

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