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Saturday, October 16, 2021

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CWC15 excitement builds as India wins six on the trot

Not many would have expected India to do it six on the trot. At the same time, not many expected Ireland and Zimbabwe to stand a chance in front of the Indians. Especially with the kind of form the Indians have shown in this Cricket World Cup. And they weren’t wrong. India hardly broke a sweat while chasing down fairly decent totals notching up their fifth and sixth straight wins in the competition.

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A few things stand out about India in this tournament. First, it was interesting to see MS Dhoni deciding not to experiment. Clearly Dhoni wants to keep the winning momentum going, and rightly so. There’s enough gap between matches so fatigue isn’t a factor, and with the business end of the tournament just round the corner, the captain is spot on. Also interesting was Dhoni’s statement at the toss against Ireland, that he’d have chased in any case.
Again a good call because India did not do too well against the West Indies at the WACA, while chasing a modest total. Clearly the captain doesn’t want to leave any stone unturned before he steps out at the MCG for that all important quarter final on March 19.

Four things stand out in the Indian campaign so far. First, the ability of the spinners to stem the flow of
runs after the opposition had got off to a very good start. Ashwin and Jadeja have done well, and Ashwin is just going from good to better as the tournament progresses. Knowing full well that the opponents will want to use the pace on the ball to go through with their shots, he has slowed things up quite beautifully. The flight, loop, straight delivery have all been used with prudence, and Ashwin and Vettori are the two stand out spinners in the
competition so far.

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The second thing that stands out is the ability of Mohammed Shami to pick wickets at the death. Death bowling has been a serious concern for India for a while now, and it is refreshing to see Shami do it in style this World Cup. He is in contention for the bowler of the tournament prize, and has already picked up a bagful of wickets in the six games played. Against Ireland, he prized out the important wicket of Kevin O’Brien and that, one must state, contributed to snapping out Ireland’s flourish.

Third is the batting of Shikhar Dhawan. Almost all of us had doubted Dhawan even going into the World Cup. There was a clamour back home that the selectors had made a big mistake by dropping the in-form Murali Vijay and choosing
Dhawan over him. With his form in the tri series being nothing to write home about, pressure was gradually building on Dhawan. But cometh the hour, cometh the champion. In the two games that mattered the most, Dhawan was in full glow. If a brilliant 73 against Pakistan was cut short by an unfortunate run out, he went the distance against South Africa at the MCG. And against the Irish he just toyed with the bowling after the initial few overs, notching
up his second World Cup ton in the process.

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Finally, and most important perhaps, is the fact that everyone is contributing. If Ashwin, Shami, Yadav and Mohit are picking wickets, Dhawan, Rohit, Virat, Rahane and Raina are all scoring good runs. With Dhoni coming good in the match against the West Indies and Zimbabwe, only Ravi Jadeja needs to fire with the bat for India. But he too has chipped in with the ball, and continues to be a livewire on the field. This team effort is what has set India apart from teams like South Africa who are clearly over dependant on AB De Villiers and Hashim Amla

Ahead of the quarter final, it can surely be said that India is on a roll. And in the form that they are in, India will start 90-10 favourites against Bangladesh come the quarter final. While not forgetting the fact that Bangladesh had knocked India out of the 2007 World Cup in the Caribbean, it will be the upset of the Cup if Bangladesh can manage an encore at the MCG. So much so that most Indian fans have started to book tickets to Sydney, to watch a possible India-Australia semi final. So can India go the distance or is it still too early to call? Have we seen enough to say that Dhoni’s team can match Australia and New Zealand in their own backyard? Can Dhoni do what no Indian captain has ever done – win back to back World Cups?

It is a realistic possibility no doubt, but there’s still a fair mountain to climb. Especially the match up against Australia in the semi-final. In Glen Maxwell they have the tournament’s star bully, and in Mitch Starc, its best bowler. Warner, Finch, Smith and Clarke are all proven match winners, and it will be a real test for Ashwin and Shami and Virat and Dhawan. Having said that, India will start on an even keel if this match-up does take place in Sydney. After the Test series and the tri series in December-January, this is no less than a miracle

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