Lavishing praise on Team India for defeating South Africa in the cricket World Cup, former skipper Sunil Gavaskar today said he never thought in his wildest dream that Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s men would beat the Proteas by such a huge margin.
Defending champions India beat South Africa by 130 runs yesterday to notch up their first win against the Proteas in World Cup history. India had lost thrice to South Africa at the World Cup in 1992, 1999 and 2011.
“I never thought it will be such a huge win. I was always confident of India’s performance. I kept saying that openers must not hurry things, unfortunately Rohit got run out. After that Virat and Shikhar played themselves in and it was only later after 24 overs they started playing big shot,” Gavaskar told ‘NDTV’.
“Once they did that I was confident that India will be able to win by may be 30-40 runs. They will be able to restrict them by 270-80. But 160, it was beyond my wildest imagination,” he added.
India rode on opener Shikhar Dhawan’s career-best 137 to beat South Africa in a rather lopsided game at the packed Melbourne Cricket Ground.
Praising Dhawan, Gavaskar said: “It was an important knock for an important game, important not for qualifying for the knockout stage because India will qualify anyway but because of the kind of boost it gave to the morale of the team.
“He and Virat created the platform and then Ajinkya (Rahane) came and played a delightful innings. So everyone contributed but you cannot forget the man who gets the hundred because he is the one who not only created the platform but also launched the onslaught and took the team to 300.”
Dhawan’s lack of form was the biggest concern for India going into the World Cup as he had failed during the tour of Australia — both in Tests and ODI tri-series.
However, the Indian opener fought back severe criticism and silenced all critics by blasting a 73 against Pakistan in their first World Cup match.
“Talks were outside, in the team there was no question in the mind of Dhoni or selection committee that Dhawan should be left out. These are loose talks which happens when someone doesn’t do well. To think like that about Dhawan in ODI cricket is silly,” Gavaskar said.
“Like we have seen in Suresh Raina, ODIs and Tests are different animals. While Dhawan has a long way to go in Tests, but in one-day cricket, I don’t think there is any issue whatsoever,” he added.
Another cricketer who has made a big splash for India at the World Cup is rookie pacer Mohit Sharma, who was shoehorned into the team as a last-minute replacement for injured seamer Ishant Sharma.
Gavaskar said Mohit not only impressed with his bowling but was equally good with his fielding and deserves to be in the playing XI.
“I have seen Mohit in the field. He has never been a liability in the field. So it is important to pick him because apart from the fact that he has got the variety, slower delivery, he is the sort of bowler who can restrict the opponents, and his fielding has also been impressive,” he said.
The 26-year-old Mohit provided India breakthroughs, taking a couple of wickets in each of the last two matches against Pakistan and South Africa respectively.
Asked if India would top the group, Gavaskar said: “Barring an accident like a rain-affected game, India should finish as the top team in the group.”