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The business end, with optimism

March 13, 2015 02:30 am | Updated November 16, 2021 05:14 pm IST

It is fitting that the 30th anniversary of India’s defining victory in the World Championship of Cricket, which was celebrated this week, has coincided with the current team’s stirring run in the World Cup. Sunil Gavaskar’s men had captivated Australia in 1985 with a brand of dynamic cricket that was ahead of its time; M.S. Dhoni’s side hasn’t quite that je ne sais quoi , but it has so far in the tournament shown a similar ability to bowl teams out. India might have entered the World Cup with the air of a monarch about to be deposed — after defeats in the Tests and the tri-series had appeared to shred the team’s confidence — but the past few weeks have witnessed a remarkable turnaround. From the words of captain Dhoni and particularly team director Ravi Shastri, who termed the tri-series “a waste of time and energy”, it is now clear that India was awaiting its moment. Through the tournament, the defending champion has appeared to gain strength incrementally. The team was noticeably sharper and more intense in the field against Pakistan and South Africa; with their toughest opponents in the league stage dealt with early, Dhoni’s men ruthlessly dismissed the UAE and Ireland. The only scare was caused by the West Indies, but the calmest man in world cricket — Dhoni — ensured there was no panic.

Hearteningly, India has ticked the many boxes that matter in a global tournament: solid, explosive batting; restrictive, wicket-taking bowling, backed up in the field; game-toughness under pressure. Particularly impressive is the team’s handling of mental fatigue — Virat Kohli recently said that Suresh Raina reminded him of having spent 100 days in Australia. Unlike hosts Australia and New Zealand, whose players have had the time to recover in the comfort of their own homes, India’s cricketers have had to recuperate on the road. Shikhar Dhawan, who has a home in Melbourne, is an exception of course. There’s no doubt that that has played a part in his resurrection. After a middling tour of Australia till the World Cup, Dhawan found form and, with 333 runs, is currently fourth on the scorers’ list. The bowlers, who did not look like they could buy a wicket at one stage, have improved beyond sight. Mohammed Shami (12 wickets) and spinner R. Ashwin (11) are among the top ten, but the entire bowling unit has worked together, finding both consistency and potency. India has done well in different situations and varied conditions, increasing its unbeaten World Cup streak to nine — five on the trot in 2015, four in 2011. A likely quarter final against Bangladesh does not appear taxing, but complacency has no place in the knockouts. India does not have Australia’s abundance of match-winners, but if it plays to potential in the business end, it will be an incredibly hard side to beat.

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