Gros Islet (St. Lucia): A full-of-beans India has entered the Super Eight stage. The side's victory over South Africa, despite the rather misleading margin of 14 runs, was convincing.
There were a few positives for Mahendra Singh Dhoni's men from the their final Group ‘C' duel of the ICC World Twenty20.
Suresh Raina has taken his roaring form from the Indian Premier League to the world stage. The left-hander is largely striking the ball from the sweet portion of his blade. And the runs are flowing.
Dishing out winning cricket is a lot about belief and Raina is not short of this commodity. He enters the crease with an aggressive mind-set — to dominate attacks — and is dismantling line-ups with a blend of flair and substance.
His footwork and shot-selection have been convincing. Raina, driving powerfully with a still head, has been rampant in the arc between cover and point.
He has been strong with the horizontal bat shots as well. His hundred against a potent South African line-up was high on quality.
On the flip side, as the tournament moves to what could well be bouncier tracks in Barbados, the quick bowlers could be gunning for him. The in-form batsmen are invariably targeted.
Raina has had his share of problems against short-pitched deliveries. Under the circumstances, it was surprising why the mercurial Dale Steyn, despite the nature of the surface, did not quite go for the jugular against the left-hander on Sunday. An Australian team, in contrast, would have been ruthless.
It must also be mentioned that Raina — he has striven to get into a more side-on position against the bouncing ball — is an improving batsman against short-pitched bowling.
But the extent of his improvement can only be determined against red-hot quicks on livelier surfaces.
Some of the young Indian batsmen, including Raina, were found out against well-directed short-pitched bowling from speedsters in the last edition of the ICC World Twenty20, in England.
There was plenty of juice in the pitch at Lord's and the Indian batting was rattled by some hostile short-pitched stuff from Jerome Taylor and Fidel Edwards. Then, a bunch of zestful English pacemen bounced India out of the competition.
The wickets for the on-going edition of the competition appear to be on the slower side, suiting the Indian brand of cricket. But then, the tracks in Barbados could be different. The Indian batting could be under the scanner again vis a vis short-pitched bowling.
This said, the think-tank must have been heartened by Yuvraj Singh's free-stroking effort against South Africa. With Virender Sehwag absent, Yuvraj carries much of India's hopes on his shoulders.
Like Sehwag, Yuvraj is a match-winner. And the southpaw, a forceful hooker and puller, can cope effectively with the short-pitched stuff.
He can also clear the ground effortlessly and take the match from the opposition in a jiffy. Yuvraj's form in the IPL was lacklustre and crucial runs from his bat against the South Africans would have made the Indian camp happy.
India, though, would be keeping an anxious on Gautam Gambhir. The left-hander, down with a stomach disorder, could be needed in the Super Eight stage.
The influential southpaw has not been in great form coming into the competition but has this habit of constructing a sizable innings without losing momentum. He comprehends well the art of building an innings, in any format.
Despite his early dismissal against South Africa, opener Murali Vijay appears in good nick. And India has the firepower down the order with Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Yusuf Pathan possessing the ability to take the cover off the ball.
But the big question is — How will India stand up against short-pitched bowling from the quicks in Barbados.