Indian analyst Prasanna Agoram was with the South Africa team during the World Cup 2011. His analysis had lead proteas register victory against MS Dhoni-led India in the group stages of that mega event. Agoram has discussed the whole winning strategy of South Africa with Ravichandran Ashwin in the recent interview.
India had set up a mammoth 297 runs target against South Africa in Nagpur under the captaincy of MS Dhoni. It was a big total to chase down against the Men in Blue at home but Proteas was successful to do so.
Speaking to Ravichandran Ashwin on his YouTube channel, Prasanna Agoram said that India was knocking out everyone in the tournament before they took South Africa. He also added that India’s batting line up Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Virat Kohli and others batters had a major influence on the victory.
“The Indian team destroyed everyone at the 2011 World Cup. When India came to play in Nagpur, they were peaking at the right time
“India, I don’t know whether you will accept it or not, won mostly because of their batting influence. You see the batting with the likes of Sehwag, Gambhir, Kohli, Sachin Tendulkar, Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina, Yusuf Pathan. It is very easy to say that but it is frightening to see,” Prasanna Agoram.
South Africa decided to target Zaheer Khan: Prasanna Agoram
Agoram opined to break the backbone of India’s bowling line up i.e, neutralize the effectiveness of main bowler Zaheer Khan.
“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.”
Agoram noted all the previous figures of Zaheer Khan against the teams in the tournament. He observed how the pacer was influential in the death overs.
“Before South Africa played us, in the four games against Bangladesh, England, Ireland and Netherlands, the batting powerplay’s influence was clearly visible.”
“In the death overs in the first game he had figures of 1/4 in 2 overs. In the match against England, he had figures of 3/11 in 3 overs of batting power play and death overs (overs 43, 45 and 47). India was losing when he dismissed Andrew Strauss.”
“After that, he bowled overs 41, 43, 45 and 47 including batting power play and death against Ireland for figures of 1/15 in 4 overs. Then death overs against Netherlands, he had figures of 2/3.”
As per Agoram, the difference was created by how MS Dhoni used Zaheer Khan at crucial points. He explained the then captain mostly used Zaheer Khan in powerplay and death overs. He said that Zaheer’s performance at death overs was alarming.
“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.”“In the first power play of overs 1-10, Zaheer had figures of 18-1-86-2. In the middle overs (11-40), he had figures of 7-0-35-2 and in the death overs (41-50) it was 10.4-0-33-7. His death overs performance is absolutely alarming,” Agoram stated.
Prasanna Agoram marred MS Dhoni’s plan:
Agoram noted how MS Dhoni used Zaheer Khan. He said that the pacer used to bowl the first five overs of his quota in the powerplay. Dhoni brought him again in the middle overs to get a breakthrough. And by then, Zaheer would have only three overs reserved for the last powerplay and death overs.
“So, he would bowl his first 5 overs in the initial 10 overs. In the period of 27-32, he comes in for a small spell, to get a breakthrough. By then, he would be done with 7 overs. So if you force a batting powerplay then immediately, Dhoni has to bring him back. And that was his pattern.”
After observing MS Dhoni’s strategy, Agoram planned to take the batting powerplay immediately after Zaheer Khan’s two-over spell in the middle, so that the Indian captain would have bowl him again and almost exhaust his quota of overs.
“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.”
And similarly, it happened, Agoram’s plan worked out. He opined that it was not easy to defeat the Indian team at their home, but that the South Africans had made their task easier with this strategy.
“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,”he added.
The visitors South Africa needed 17 runs in the last two overs. Zaheer bowled 49th over but could not get the breakthrough. Ashish Nehra delivered the final over the game but could not win the game. Proteas chased down the mammoth target, winning the match by three wickets.
“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,”he concluded.
However, India lifted the coveted trophy after defeating Sri Lanka in the grand finale of the World Cup 2011.