Ravichandran Ashwin was an integral member of India’s 2011 World Cup squad that won the trophy after 28 years. His spin bowling was crucial to the team’s success in the match against West Indies and Australia. However, before Ashwin made his World Cup debut, India had lost a match to South Africa in Nagpur.
India had got off to a flying start. However, they suffered a collapse in the end and could not exceed the 300-runs mark. South Africa were known to be chokers, who crumbled under pressure, but surprisingly, they kept their nerves and chased down the score set by India. 9 years later, Prasanna Agoram, an Indian analyst, explained how his strategy forced MS Dhoni to change his game plan.
Speaking to R Ashwin on YouTube, Agoram highlighted that batting was the main strength of the Indian team, but their bowling attack relied heavily on Zaheer Khan. He brought the statistics into play and proved that Khan turned the matches in India’s favor with his reverse swing in the final overs. Also, he troubled the batsmen in the batting powerplay. Prasanna said:
“What strategy I gave was, how we are going to win was, how we are going to upset the bowling applecart, that is rolling arm. What we did in most of the games. In one in Banglore, Zaheer Khan went out of the way to win it for us.”
“The most telling effect, he had. How Dhoni used him was that he brought him on in critical periods. He would bowl his first 5 overs, mostly. His bowling in that powerplay and during the death overs, there was a massive difference.”
He then instructed the South African to take the batting powerplay early. Dhoni used majority of Khan’s overs before the final 10 and that helped the Proteas sneak away with a close win. Agoram continued:
“So if the batting powerplay is taken then, by 37 overs Zaheer would have bowled 9 overs. My concept was that a batsman would anyway swing in the last 5 overs, so the powerplay is always wasted at that time. Another thing was, as the ball got older, his reverse was more effective. It is not easy to defeat India in India. For the last 10 overs, we needed 69 runs with 7 wickets standing and Zaheer Khan has only one over to bowl. In that situation, it is very simple.””So Dhoni got Zaheer back again in the 49th over. There were 17 runs required in the 2 overs. Even then, we played him out for 4 overs. Ashish Nehra had 13 runs to defend. Game over in 4 balls. So this was the theory behind it.”
India lost only one match in the 2011 World Cup and Agoram disclosed the reason behind it. It is interesting to note that Dhoni continued with the same game plan at that moment because he is a thinker who improvises as per the situation in the game, but India avenged that loss by defeating South Africa in the 2015 and 2019 World Cup matches.