It was a demoralized Indian cricket team that had walked out of the 2-month long, win-less Test and ODI campaign in Australia 3 weeks ago. And it is the same team that now commands the attention of the cricket fraternity after two blockbuster wins in the ICC Cricket World Cup. MS Dhoni’s men have upstaged Pakistan and South Africa in their first two games of the tournament. Surprisingly, they have done so not just because of good batting, but disciplined bowling and impressive fielding too! So, let us assess the constructive changes which have enabled the Indians to produce such a quick turnaround in their fortunes.
The Indian batting – reborn!
The entire country seemed to have heaved a sigh of relief after Virat Kohli scored that fantastic century against Pakistan at Adelaide. And why not? It was mainly because of Kohli’s poor form in the ODI series in Australia that the Indian batting could not shine. The century came like a breath of fresh air, reigniting an entire nation’s hopes on their best batsman of the present day.
Shikhar Dhawan brilliantly complemented his teammate’s return to form by becoming the top scorer in the World Cup after the first two games. And that definitely stunned critics who had lost all faith in the left hander in the last one year. Suresh Raina and Ajinkya Rahane took turns in upping the ante in the two games, reinforcing the strength which still characterizes the Indian middle order.
Shikhar Dhawan – The Phoenix rises from its ashes
Shikhar Dhawan announced his comeback to form with a half century against Pakistan in Adelaide. He then went on to break the back of South Africa’s famed bowling attack with a majestic 137 in Melbourne. The important effect that these two knocks had on the team was that they absorbed the shock of early loss of an in-form Rohit Sharma in both matches. In most recent cases of India performing poorly in ODIs, the combined failure of the openers had been at the root of all problems. And thankfully, this problem has been solved early in the World Cup.
Virat Kohli – Cometh the hour, cometh the man!
Virat Kohli, the lynchpin of Indian cricket’s batting department had hit a bad patch in Australia in the ODIs. His dismal run of form prior to the World Cup had made experts think twice on how reliable he could be in the tournament. Kohli has answered all such questions with his bat doing the talking in the first two games. A century against Pakistan and a matured 46 against South Africa has put him back to where he belongs!
The Dhawan-Kohli combo – Its effects on Indian Cricket Team so far
The Kohli-Dhawan combo kept the fragile middle order away from early exposure to Australian conditions in both matches. And this directly led to India scoring big on both occasions.
In the recent past, the likes of Suresh Raina had failed mainly because of being exposed too early to the lethal pace and bounce of Australian tracks. Kohli and Dhawan’s return to form has set in motion a chain of events which have had a positive effect on the entire batting line up. Even Dhoni now has the old spring in his steps, which was missing a month ago, when he was being forced to repair the innings rather than end it with a bang.
The middle order
Suresh Raina and Ajinkya Rahane have aptly demonstrated that the key to big scores lies in the ability of the middle order to sustain the momentum generated up front. The absence of any middle order resistance had marred Rohit Sharma’s century in the tri-series against Australia at Melbourne, just a month ago. And India had ended up with a below par 267 in that match in spite of an opener scoring big.
Rahane and Raina have thankfully prevented that from happening again. While the former made light work of the South Africans in Melbourne, the latter assaulted the depleted Pakistani bowling in Adelaide. Those knocks were responsible for pushing India past 300 in the two matches, despite Jadeja and the lower order failing to do much on both occasions.
The algorithm for the Men In Blue
In short, the ideal scheme of things in an ODI can be put like this –
Step 1: Top order scores the runs, resists the pace and swing up front.
Step 2: Middle order takes the cue and pushes up the scoring rate when the bowlers start tiring in the middle overs.
Step 3: The finishers reinforce all the good work done in Step 1, 2 and post a big total on the board.
So far, the Indian cricket team has mastered the skill of completing Step 1 and Step 2 brilliantly. Step 3, hopefully, shall be done equally well as Jadeja and Dhoni get the feel of things in the next few games against the weaker opponents.
India, then, can definitely entertain chances of going the distance this time !