An absolute romp for Team India
This Indian team is like a machine – a juggernaut in terms of this World Cup, rolling on and chewing up everything in its path.
As the day wound down to an end in Leeds, a question remained. What would be the order of the points’ table after the culmination of this league stage? Unsurprisingly, it had been the same question at the start of this day as well.
The Men in Blue had little to do with it, you see, for all the semi-final combinations were already based on result of the Australia-South Africa game. Thing though is this Indian team doesn’t really care much about what will happen next week. The semi-final might be on horizon but their attention is focussed on the job at hand. In this scenario, Sri Lanka were next up.
Even so, it wasn’t completely about the game either. This Indian team is like a machine – a juggernaut in terms of this World Cup, rolling on and chewing up everything in its path. The only hiccup so far was in that England game, wherein the two wrist spinners were taken apart easily by Jason Roy and Jonny Bairstow. Apart from that, despite injuries to Shikhar Dhawan and Vijay Shankar as well as an inherent middle-order weakness, India have never been in any bother.
Champions, however, do not mull over their strengths. They mull over weakness and how to tide over them, particularly if there is a semi-final looming ahead. In a sense, this started in Birmingham itself against Bangladesh, when they played three pacers and no Kedar Jadhav. Now, it manifested further in Leeds against this Lankan side, in the guise of Ravindra Jadeja.
Yes, he is a bits and pieces player. Leave aside his personal angst over this remark from Sanjay Manjrekar, there is nothing wrong in being such a cricketer. In essence, it means usefulness, and there is no denying how handy Jadeja is on the field. Precise 10 overs, attacking contributions lower down the order and he simply lifts the fielding by an extra 20 per cent, every captain would like to have a player like him in the first eleven.
And this is the underlying point. Virat Kohli would really like to see Jadeja play in that semi-final. India have been going in with five full-time bowlers in these last two games, but you cannot take that risk in a semi-final (or final for that matter), particularly against England. Should Kohli decide to field three pacers again, Jadeja brings in that element of being the number seven who can bowl a full spell.
Saturday, thus, was that bit of experimentation for India as Jadeja took the field. That he paired up with Kuldeep Yadav was further testament to this experimentation as Yuzvendra Chahal is nailed on as the lone spinner. 1-40 from Jadeja were then fairly uneventful, and it was the minimum requisite. His spell was like a walk in the park, making things uncomfortable for Lanka, and simply passing an audition for the big games coming.
Truth told, Lanka never really troubled India. Jasprit Bumrah choked them at the beginning. Pandya cut off scoring in the middle, with Jadeja applying the squeeze later on. Only Angelo Mathews’ romantic relationship with Leeds kept things ticking for the Lankans and they crossed 250. It was never going to be a bother though.
Ideally, keeping semi-final preparation in mind, India would have liked to start at 10-2. It is their middle order that needs a run-out under the sun, proving perhaps to itself that it does click, and gain in confidence ahead of the knock outs. Rohit Sharma though is an unstoppable force at the moment.
What more can you say of a man who already had scored four centuries in this 2019 World Cup? Add one more to it, as Sharma stroked his way to another ton, chanceless this time. The mind goes back to 2011 when he was left out of the World Cup squad. As India went on to win on home soil, it would have rankled, obviously. That hurt shows, in this inane hunger to consume every bowling attack, and take India across the finish line.
More so, when Dhawan is no longer at the other end, as Sharma has kicked it up a gear. It can be seen in the manner he is the aggressor in his opening partnership with KL Rahul. Maybe it is his golden form that allows this independence. Even so, it goes a long way in helping Rahul take time at the start of his innings.
In that light, this game was an open net session for Rahul. Guilty of throwing away his starts, Rahul made sure that nothing would stop him from making it count this time. And he did, reaching his hundred before the finish line, a feat that ought to inspire him as the team progresses further. It isn’t flying into a tournament as the designated number four batsman, and then batting up top, despite never having had that chance in the past two years.
Rahul has silently gone about this job, never mind his shoddy shot selection at times. This game should teach him the value of now throwing it away when set. Perhaps his innings was a microcosm of how India have played in this league stage – they got set on a victory path immediately against South Africa and have never looked back since, barring the odd hiccup.
Thus far, it has been an absolute romp for team India. Will it result in a golden trophy? It’s only a week till we find out.