Let’s continue with our assessment of what has changed so dramatically in Indian cricket in the last two weeks. The Indian batsmen answered the call of duty against Pakistan and South Africa with 300 plus totals, but that in itself was not enough to secure victory. And, this is what brings us to the most fundamental change in Indian cricket in the last one month – the bowlers!
The Indian pacers – Learning the right lessons
The Indian bowlers took 10 wickets in an innings only twice in eight occasions in the recent Test series against Australia. But now, they finally seem to be learning the right lessons. And it is specifically because of the improvements in the bowling department, that India has been able to win both matches in the World Cup so far.
Mohammed Shami, who had made quite a reputation for himself in Australia for undisciplined and uneconomical bowling, is now back on track. The Bengal pacer has made opportunities on the World Cup stage count! Figures of 4/35 and 2/30, against Pakistan and South Africa respectively, have earned him much deserved praise and admiration. It was his tight line and length up front that kept both Pakistan and South Africa under pressure. Even Hashim Amla – who had recently been scoring centuries at will – found it difficult to get the better of Shami in Melbourne.
Umesh Yadav was the single most important cog in the wheel of Indian bowling against Pakistan at Adelaide. Notably, it was his double strike in the 24th over that turned the match in India’s favour! The speedster, known for leaking runs in ODIs, appears to be understanding the art of bowling in Australia better!
The biggest surprise package for the Indian cricket team so far has been Mohit Sharma! Drafted in as a replacement for the injured Ishant Sharma in the World Cup squad, he has made an impact on India’s fortunes straightaway. Figures of 2/35 and 2/31, against Pakistan and South Africa respectively, need no elaboration. Mohit’s ability to hit the right length around the off stump has created trouble for batsmen in the World Cup so far. Besides, his evolution as a ‘smart bowler’ is also appreciable. Most praiseworthy was the plan with which he bowled to Hashim Amla in Melbourne, and ultimately had him caught off a short pitched delivery at deep square leg.
Ashwin and Jadeja – Back to where they belong
Ravindra Jadeja’s untimely injury in Australia had put a question mark on the role that the Indian spinners would be able to play in the World Cup. However, his speedy recovery in the last two months has given India enough cause for celebration. Jaddu kept things tight against South Africa and bagged the important wicket of Umar Akmal against Pakistan although the dismissal itself was controversial.
Ravichandran Ashwin’s hard work finally seems to be paying off! After toiling for hours under the summer sun in Australia, India’s premier off spinner has finally found his rhythm. Keeping things tight from his end during the middle overs, Ashwin has brilliantly complemented the good work done by the the pacers up front.
The Indian fielding – In a league of its own
When you run the two fastest South Africans on the ground – David Miller and AB De Villiers – out in a single game, you can definitely pat your fielders on the back! And that is exactly what India did against South Africa just a few days ago. Not only the two run outs, India have exhibited stellar commitment with their ground fielding and catching too. Virat Kohli, Suresh Raina, Ajinkya Rahane and Ravindra Jadeja have made sure that the opponents get no easy chance to get off the strike. MS Dhoni has been at the top of the mark with some wonderful glove work. He has been a key figure in India’s efforts to contain the opposition charge using tight fielding.
The road ahead for the Indian cricket team
With only West Indies and the minnows to face in the remaining matches of the group stage, India’s road to the Quarter Finals looks clear enough. However, care needs to be taken to sustain the good work done so far. With the stellar record that the Indian cricket team has in the recent ICC tournaments, now it would be worth betting your money on India as a top contender for the ultimate glory in this World Cup!