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Team India needs a challenge ahead of the knockouts

The problem with Team India is that it has been too easy for us in the five matches.

India is unbeaten in the group stage
India is unbeaten in the group stage

Winless in Australia since the team stepped foot on the soil Down Under four months ago, several batsmen struggling to get bat on ball, and catastrophic bowling performances day in and day out – nobody gave this Indian side any chance to defend the World Cup they had won with a trademark MSD six in front of 42,000 people at the Wankhede four years ago. And then comes Cricket’s biggest stage and how the tables have turned.

The team is unbeaten after five – convincing wins those, cleaned up their opposition in all of those, MS Dhoni is now only second after Ricky Ponting in most consecutive wins as captain in World Cups, and sitting pretty at the top of the table.

It’s been an easy ride

Cricket pundits have a knack of being pessimistic even during the best of times. Sticking true to the tradition, the problem with Team India is that it has been too easy for us in the five matches. It is difficult to understand the issue with ‘having it easy’, but to dissect the issue – the team can be a victim of complacency in the knockout stage, where there is no room for error.

The clinical nature of the game has ensured the team has streamrolled opponents in the group stage, but it has also meant that India’s true weaknesses haven’t been tested. Namely, death bowling and lower order batting. Pakistan was a victim of India’s-fear-in-World-Cup syndrome and folded while chasing 300, South Africa’s was the infamous choke, UAE couldn’t match up with the team’s quality, West Indies couldn’t get bat to ball, and Ireland threatened to test the death bowling up until the 40th over post which they self destructed.

There is no denying that India has been a force to reckon with, as reflected by the points table. The top order, the middle order, bowling in initial overs, spin bowling – it has all clicked. 

Not to take anything away from India’s superlative performances, the truth remains, the defending champions have gotten away with some ordinary lower order batting performances and the death bowling has never really been put to a stern test. Probability is that a time may come that these facets of Indian Cricket Team are put to trial, and 1.2 billion would hope that the verdict is in their favour.

Death bowling yet to be tested

Ravindra Jadeja, given the task of finishing off games, hasn’t scored many this tournament, in the limited chances that have fallen his way; the pace trio of Mohammed Shami, Umesh Yadav and Mohit Sharma has been exemplary in the opening ten-twenty overs, but they haven’t had to bowl much in the final ten to a side in a commanding position.

The batsmen might have to clear the ropes and the bowlers might have to fire in yorkers in the business end of the tournament. Something they need to be prepared for.

Winning convincingly is always a good thing, and so is momentum – something which India is carrying to the knockout stages. The better thing might be to have a really difficult match against Zimbabwe, where the lower order is given the responsibility to take the team home, and the bowlers having to fire with all cylinders in the death overs. There is no better way to prepare than executing your skills in a proper match.

If India is (fortunate to be) put to the test tomorrow, and ace it, the men in blue might very well be favourites to defend their title.

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