Strong teams seize the tipping-point moments and always have a player, who delivers a critical performance. India did that all through the World Cup, though there was a blip against England. The triumph over Sri Lanka at Headingley in Leeds on Saturday, falls into the template of unerring dominance.
The cricketers from beyond the Palk Strait, revived themselves through a ton from Angelo Mathews but Virat Kohli’s men never slackened. And when it was time to chase, openers Rohit Sharma and K.L. Rahul struck centuries and sealed the contest.
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The ability to leave an indelible imprint starts from the very top. While Rohit has gleaned all the attention, it is important to acknowledge Rahul’s contribution. A successful opening pair is difficult to replicate and India had a problem when Shikhar Dhawan left with a fractured left-thumb.
In Rahul, the management had a readymade solution, albeit from the longer format, and he wasn’t a left-hander like his injured predecessor. Additionally, he needed to strike a chemistry with Rohit.
In the face-off involving Pakistan, there was an initial issue of running between the wickets but Rohit and Rahul got their ‘yes’ and ‘no’ in order and shared a 136-run partnership. Rahul scored a 57 and subsequently etched 30, 48, 0, 77 and 111. Plus he also built two massive alliances with Rohit: 180 against Bangladesh and 189 in the joust featuring Sri Lanka.
While Rohit seemingly scores hundreds for fun, Rahul had to wrestle with a string of soft dismissals after laying the base. “I am not going to break my head over it,” the Karnataka payer said but he was conscious of the aberration, be it a tame shot to covers or a reverse sweep that found the fielder at short fine-leg!
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Maximising a foundation
Finally, he maximised a foundation and his ton against Sri Lanka augurs well for India as it gears up for the sterner tests starting with the semifinal against New Zealand at Old Trafford here on Tuesday.
Ever since he burst through the ranks in Bangalore, it hasn’t been easy for Rahul. Unlike his famous namesake the reticent Rahul Dravid, the Mangaluru-bred lad had an extrovert-streak. But he put in the hard yards at the National Cricket Academy’s gym and nets till the next-door Cubbon Park’s trees yawned.
A nervous Test debut followed by an extreme mix of poor scores and big knocks, has now settled down into consistent yields. He had an erratic stint in the blue shade too. Just when he was resolutely clinging to his Test whites, came the intense scrutiny following the misogynistic remarks linked to him and Hardik Pandya in a ‘Koffee with Karan’ episode.
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Back to the basics
An apologetic Rahul got back to the drawing-board of social etiquette. Slowly he winged back and the recent Indian Premier League helped him lure the right attention. He amassed 593 for Kings XI Punjab and was placed second below David Warner of Sunrisers Hyderabad.
Promptly, Rahul gained the selector’s nod for the World Cup while the wheels of fortune unravelled for Ambati Rayudu, who retired with a sense of unspoken hurt. Cricketing fates run on slender threads and Rahul is aware of his fresh lease.
The lanky player has an array of strokes and even tried a mini-helicopter shot on Saturday. But he has a tendency to get carried away and can be tentative around the off-stump. Once these flaws are rectified, Rahul should become a permanent entity in India’s ODI playing eleven even after Dhawan returns.
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