Indian Cricket team seem to have covered all bases (Column: Just Sport)
Two starred questions to Mahendra Singh Dhoni during the World Cup by the itinerant Indian media have been whether the form of Rohit Sharma and Ravindra Jadeja is a matter of concern for him. The Indian skipper's answer ahead of the game against Bangladesh was as if the two players themselves would provide the journos a fitting reply sooner rather than later. As for Suresh Raina, he has become a stock question and he is showing up as a great finisher, batting first or chasing.
Dhoni tried to explain the value of Rohit Sharma in terms of more than the runs he scores whereas he wanted Jadeja to get runs batting at the critical position of No 7.
Rohit's batting at times can be exasperating at the way he gets out without any notice. But once he settles down, there are few batsmen who look so graceful with such touch. He himself has put his match-winning hundred against Bangladesh on Thursday up there with his dazzling double hundreds, showcasing the importance of the match in context.
Dhoni must have had a ‘didn't-I-say-so’ look on Thursday seeing the class of Rohit's batting. Jadeja's cameo took India past the 300-run mark and Raina yet again provided zip to the innings when the team seemed a bit bogged down. These smart things carried India through to the semi-finals with a massive win, Dhoni's 11th straight World Cup victory and the 100th of Dhoni's ODI career.
India’s all-round attack
The contribution of the bowlers and the fielders are impeccable. India bowled the opposition out for the seventh straight time in this tournament and took 70 wickets. Each and every player is looking like a livewire in the field and as if he is no less agile, Dhoni flung himself airborne to his left to come up with a one-handed catch.
Before that, Shikhar Dhawan produced another great catch, throwing the ball back into play to balance himself on the ropes and jump back to catch it. A little earlier, Jadeja showed his worth as a fielder by swooping a ball and judging the situation in a second to throw the ball to the right end to provide the breakthrough by getting Imrul Kayes run out as bowler Umesh Yadav smartly collected the throw.
This time it was Yadav's turn to hustle the batsmen and he took four wickets while Mohammed Shami, who continues to be Dhoni's man to go for wickets, got two on Thursday.
But the bowler who did not get a wicket, Ravichandran Ashwin, continues to apply pressure in the middle overs, paving the way for his colleagues to attack. The best economy rate in the middle overs is that of the Indian bowlers, whether spin or pace, one part essentially being Ashwin.
Indian bowlers are in terrific form
The fast bowlers, who are striving to be around 140 kmph, plus have shattered another myth - that only the Indian batsmen are rattled by the short-pitched delivery. An intrepid statistician has now come up to point out that the Indians have a bagful of wickets with the short ball, counting some 23 or so!
What is intriguing is that the Indian bowlers are extracting the bounce at the fag of end of the summer. Obviously, they found the right length to bowl in the Antipodes. Never mind what they did on the bilateral tours to Australia and New Zealand in the last couple of years, they have learnt their lessons which are coming handy now.
Importantly, the match was over long before the batting powerplay when the asking rate rose up to 11 and when the first ball of the mandatory overs consumed Mushfiqur Rahim, the game was truly up. The best partnership of 50 of the innings came between Sabbir Rahman and Nasir Hossain when it was all over. That should give an indication the control of the Indians exercised over the match.
India are looking incapable of making serious mistakes
In stark contrast, the Indians scored close to a hundred runs in the last 10 overs and 50 in the batting powerplay overs when the Bangladesh captain could do little except scream at his bowlers and tear at his hair. So, there was no remainder of 2007, even if the Indian victory is not a revenge of sorts. All one can say is India seem to be covering all their bases ahead of sterner tests - and look incapable of making serious mistakes.
If the Sri Lankans folded up batting first for no accountable reason, the Bangladeshis caved in at the very sight of 300-plus target. Both the subcontinental teams did enough to get to the quarter-finals and looked good to carry on.
To be fair to Bangladesh, they can go back with their heads high after an impressive showing.
India will now travel to Sydney to play their semi-final against the winners of Friday's third quarter-final between Australia and Pakistan and the pitch at the SCG should suit the Indian bowlers as well as the batsmen.
The arguments in favour of hosts Australia and New Zealand being the odds-on favourites will be strongly contested by the Indians. They have to beat them to defend their Cup and if they do, they will be hailed as great champions.
(19.03.2015 - Veturi Srivatsa is a senior journalist. The views expressed are personal. He can be reached at email@example.com)