The Indian team’s phenomenal run in the group stage of this edition of the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup is truly because of an an all-round performance. The batters have batted superbly, and the bowlers have been extraordinary simply because on pitches where they have had little or no help, they have been running through the opposition line-ups like a hot knife through the hardest frozen butter. Watching them in action has been an even greater thrill than seeing the batters, who, apart from the odd one, have been rather pedestrian in comparison.
Their performance stands out simply because there haven’t been many World Cups in the past where so many centuries have been scored in the tournament. So, for the Indian bowlers to dismiss sides for under 100 is indicative of how much of an impact they have had in the tournament and the huge part they have played in India’s victories.
The pitches in India in October are the best for batting because they are fresh and, coming after the monsoon season, are not dry, which aids spinners.
As the months go on, the pitches become a little more bowler-friendly. The winter months are also good for the batters, as the pitches have a little moisture that helps the ball skid onto the bat a little bit more.
The one huge aspect of the Indian team’s performance that has gone under the radar has been the captaincy of Rohit Sharma. In my years of watching cricket, I don’t think I have come across a more chilled-out skipper than Rohit. He has that same easy approach to captaincy as he has with his bat, and while he occasionally shows his disapproval of some lapse in the field, he does it in an elder brotherly manner where the erring player knows he has not quite done what he was expected to do but does not get offended by the glare directed at him.
One can sense the easy camaraderie between him and his players. He is still one of the boys, but his team knows there’s a line that cannot be breached. From all accounts, he is a delight at media conferences, where his expressions, coupled with his laconic answers, have made his press briefings a must-attend.
What he has shown in the tournament is to be proactive, not just while batting, where, in the interests of his team getting off to a flying start, he has sacrificed personal milestones and glory.
Some of the younger players have seen what the skipper is doing and have lost their wickets in trying to take the team to a bigger total. Shreyas Iyer, KL Rahul, and Suryakumar Yadav are prime examples of players who aren’t certainties in the team yet but still have gone the extra mile in the pursuit of the team’s interest. For Iyer and Suryakumar, to bat in the free way they are doing for the team’s sake is a tribute to the skipper and the coach, Rahul Dravid, who during his time was the greatest team player in the Indian team. Rohit’s willingness to go the unconventional way was seen once more when he opted to bat against South Africa, and despite getting to an electrifying 40 off just 24 balls, he got out trying to hit another boundary.
Some of the other captains have been pretty ordinary, and if anything, it also brings into question the kind of support they are getting from the coach. For example, despite rain clouds hovering over the ground and knowing that the DL method comes into play only if a minimum of 20 overs have been bowled, the New Zealand skipper kept bowling his spinners and went over the 20-over mark. There was no attempt whatsoever to delay the proceedings, despite being well ahead of the bowling rate. Similarly, teams opting to field first in the searing October heat have struggled when it comes to chasing, and the energy levels are just not the same batting second. Rohit’s bold approach contrasts vividly with the timid ones of most other captains and explains why India have been the dominant team in the tournament so far.
Yes, the Cup is still far away, but India have paved a path that has lit up the tournament like the Diwali lights that we will see all over India shortly.
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