The great Indian odyssey at the ICC World Cup is now ready for a fitting finish. Five weeks of intense cricketing action in the 50-over format has seen Team India play at a high level like never before.
Experts are short of words on various TV channels and professional “columnists” are now tired of repeating themselves as to how this side could click match after match. The unbeaten seven-match streak has been defined by cohesion and calmness with skipper MS Dhoni as the Zen master who has brought the best out of the players.
There is a big difference between the performance at the 2011 World Cup and this one. At that time, the bigger effort was from one odd player like Yuvraj Singh or Sachin Tendulkar. This time around, in each of India’s seven matches which, a different star has emerged. If Virat Kohli fired in the lung opener against Pakistan, subsequent matches have seen other batsmen emerge as big scorers. The return to form of Shikhar Dhawan, defined by his two centuries, Suresh Raina’s explosive hitting, and Rohit Sharma whacking the Bangladesh bowlers has ensured almost every batsman has clicked.
Throw in Dhoni’s effort in crunch situations, and the statistics speak for themselves as to how almost all the batsmen have got going. To not rely on just one superstar is a big plus as in the seven match streak, what stands out is contributions from all the players. There is some criticism of Kohli that he has lost form.
Have your say. You can comment here.Everyone who has followed the team’s long journey from the Test series to the triseries and the World Cup will vouch that a batsman like Virat cannot be out of form for long and will be itching to have a go at the Aussies in the semi-finals in Sydney.
If the Indian batting has been about individuals clicking at different times, the bowlers have also caught the eye. No praise for Mohammed Shami, Umesh Yadav, Mohit Sharma and R Ashwin is enough as they have shown what it takes to keep firing in every match. Shami did miss one match but when he returned to the eleven, he looked as menacing as before. Pace, swing, use of the short ball and playing fierce cricket is not what Indian fast bowlers are known for. Yet, the efficiency with which they have bowled has caught the eye of even nations where fast bowlers are produced in large numbers.
The focus is now on the semifinal against Australia in Sydney. The mind games have already begun. If there are former players who are backing India to beat the hosts at home, some Aussie critics are quick to point out India’s winning streak has to end sometime. Sounds good for the Aussies but they need to work hard to defeat this Indian side.
Agreed, India has not won an ODI in Australia in a long time but records don’t matter. It all depends on who can play fearless cricket, as both captains – Dhoni and Michael Clarke – will go for the jugular.
India have used the Powerplay well till now. The Sydney curator will try and provide a pitch which will suit the co-hosts so the obvious idea would be to roll the pitch hard so that there is a bit more bounce. As it were, the pitches have been used right through the Australian summer, so swing and seam movement will be less. The general feeling is that Indian batsmen are uncomfortable against steep bounce, but to say the defending champions will be under pressure is foolish.
In 2011, Australia lost to India in the quarter-finals in Ahmedabad and they need to set the record straight in this World Cup. To be sure, the semi-final line-up couldn’t have been better. The other clash between New Zealand and South Africa is going to be a cracker of a contest. New Zealand have played as aggressively as India and won all seven matches at home.
On Saturday, Martin Guptill came up with a blazing double hundred against the West Indies, but South Africa is a robust side. Having shed the chokers’ tag, they know what it will take to get the better of the Kiwis and AB de Villiers versus Brendon McCullum as strategists will bring out the best from their players.
Back to the Australian batting, they have big match players but their weakness against Wahab Riaz did suggest there is a mauka for the Indian bowlers. Thanks to the IPL, the Indians know over half of the Australian side and how they play their cricket. The Indian have showed superb temperament in every match till now so from Dhoni to Ravi Shastri and Duncan Fletcher, each one has played his part.
There are behind-the-scene heroes as well like bowling coach Bharat Arun, so whatever happens against the Australians on Thursday, be sure the Indian are going to go full tilt. Such positive energy is something each Indian can feel proud of.