The first part of India’s consistent journeys in ICC tournaments is on full display during the current World Cup as well. Semifinalists in the 2015 and 2019 editions, the Men in Blue are well on course to be a part of the last four again.
The triumphs against Australia, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh reveal a squad primed to deliver.
It is another matter, though, that winning ICC silverware has remained a mirage since 2013. Often the ecstasy generated in the initial stages culminates in agony following a defeat in the knockout phase.
The latest joust against Bangladesh in Pune on Thursday revealed the tropes that India has mastered in this World Cup. The batting unit fired even if Shreyas Iyer played a rush-of-blood shot and retreated.
Additionally, India choked the rivals in the middle overs. When Sunil Gavaskar’s men won the 1985 World Championship of Cricket in Australia, it was a campaign mounted on bundling out the opposition in every game.
Pakistan was the exception in the final, mustering 176 for nine, a total that India surpassed with eight wickets to spare. The latest outfit too believes in restricting opposition batters.
Spearhead Jasprit Bumrah remains the key while his support cast of Mohammed Siraj and Shardul Thakur haven’t exactly flourished but have got handy wickets. The last-named has leaked runs but his batting skills are being used as insurance. But the prime driving force in terms of offering balance to the squad vests with Hardik Pandya.
Seen in that context, Hardik’s left foot injury will be watched with trepidation. There is no direct replacement available for this seam-bowling all-rounder, a slot that has largely remained vacant since Kapil Dev hung up his boots in 1994. Previously, experiments were initiated through Stuart Binny and Vijay Shankar but Hardik is the real deal.
Hardik, Ravindra Jadeja and K L Rahul, donning the wicket-keeping gloves with elan and batting with ease, have combined to bolster the playing eleven’s depth just before the weak tail emerges into view.
A call needs to be made on Mohammed Shami. He is too good a bowler to just remain warming the benches.
The runs that skipper Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, Shubman Gill and Rahul scored against Bangladesh reflect a batting phalanx finding the right groove in the comforting environs of home.
There could be a question on Kohli’s obsession with getting a ton, which meant towards the end he refused to farm the strike while zooming towards his century. However, Rahul clarified that it was he who goaded the centurion to go for the milestone. And there is no mistaking the fact that Kohli’s knock ensured that the host won another key fixture.
Fielding too has remained a quality exposition. One of Indian cricket’s enduring memories is about Kapil running backwards to pouch Vivian Richards in the 1983 World Cup final at Lord’s. It turned the match on its head and India never looked back since that seminal moment.
Cut to the present, four matches are done and dusted and as India flies towards the Himalayas for Sunday’s clash involving New Zealand, another challenge awaits while Hardik will be missed before he joins the squad in the subsequent game at Lucknow against England.
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