For India, Spicy is now sweet

Sports

On Sunday night, in the inconsequential game against England, Team India pulled out a few big thorns that were wedged in their foot for months on end. Harbhajan Singh, nearly a year into his exile, came good with the ball. Gautam Gambhir, a man who had been out of form for nearly the same period that Harbhajan languished outside the set-up, made it count with the bat.

Both, in their own rights, were feats worth chest-thumping about. But lost in the chaos of their re-emergence was perhaps the biggest benefit, the biggest problem-solving and what should have been the biggest talking of Sunday night. At the R Premadasa Stadium against perhaps the best attack of fast bowling in the world, India showed that they can play the short-ball, and play it well.

Dealing with bouncers and stuff around their collective mid-riffs had been a problem that was more than just a thorn in India's flesh; it had been a cancer that was eating away at them for a generation. The first signs of improvement, hence, is worthy of ecstatic celebration.

Positive approach

Not everything short was dealt with properly, but most of them were. And it was their intention to go after it that counted, rather than ducking and generally looking clumsy. Gambhir showed the way, and Rohit Sharma — literally from Ball One — followed suit.

These tick marks made with hooks and pulls and cuts will hold India in good stead in the Super Eights, where they take on South Africa, Australia and Pakistan. That in turn indicates that they will have to handle Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel, Jacques Kallis, Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins, Shane Watson, Umar Gul and the wrong-footed Sohail Tanvir. To face them, these individuals, the English pack — led by the back bending Stuart Broad — gave them the injection of confidence. Between Steven Finn and Jade Dernbach in the first two overs — legally 12 balls — England bowled eight short-pitched balls.

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