5 Things We Learned Today About India's World Cup Squad

16/02/2015 12:16 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:24 AM IST
SAEED KHAN via Getty Images
India's team celebrate their victory over Pakistan in the Pool B 2015 Cricket World Cup match between India and Pakistan at the Adelaide Oval on February 15, 2015. AFP PHOTO / SAEED KHAN --IMAGE RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - STRICTLY NO COMMERCIAL USE- (Photo credit should read SAEED KHAN/AFP/Getty Images)

For a team that had been struggling in recent weeks and looked physically and mentally fatigued and bereft of ideas, India's victory over Pakistan was clinical and comprehensive. Sunday's showing gave the world a good sense of how the team is coming together and what can be expected from them this World Cup.

India's batting strength is not exaggerated

A total of 300 might have looked like it was 25-30 runs short at the change of innings, but that is only because of the way Virat Kohli and Suresh Raina had dominated the middle overs. Before the match started, every Indian player, fan and expert would have settled for 300 as a psychologically daunting and match-winning score.

True, the final 5-6 overs were disastrous with few runs coming and many wickets falling. But this must be offset by the fact that the team met its target in reaching 300.

More importantly, there were contributions from three of the four batsmen in the top order. Shikhar Dhawan showed resilience, Suresh Raina flair and fiery strokes while Kohli held the innings together with a superb century.

Bowling weakness may have been exaggerated

India's bowlers have been derided for so long so as to have become the butt of black humour both within and outside the cricket world. On Sunday, the joke was on their critics. Pace and spin bowlers alike rose to the occasion to not just choke Pakistan's run chase, but take wickets regularly and bowl the opponent out.

Most of the Indian bowlers are relatively new. Only R. Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja to some extent have sufficient international experience. But even they had been found wanting in matches leading up to the World Cup.

In a word, the Indian attack had been profligate before this match, not taking enough wickets and giving away too many runs. But on Sunday, without exception, they bowled with control and probed away the batsmen constantly and were rewarded richly.

Young legs and lungs make a difference

While still a couple of notches short of the dizzy heights that teams like South Africa, Australia and New Zealand have scaled, India were brilliant in the field on Sunday. In contrast to the nervous, error-prone Pakistanis, India's fielders held every catch that came their way and there was barely a misfield.

Where Pakistan's fielders were sluggish, the Indians were speedy across the ground and sure with their pick-ups and throws. The running between the wickets was brilliant too, as Dhawan and Kohli first, and Kohli and Raina later, showed. This kept the scoreboard moving constantly and unsettled the bowlers.

The average age of the Indian team hovers around 26. When the players were struggling in the build-up matches, there was apprehension that some experienced, if older, players had been left behind. But clearly young legs and lungs are an advantage, too.

Captain Dhoni is not to be written off

There was a great deal of talk, not all muted, that M.S. Dhoni was looking disengaged from the captaincy, that he was allowing things to meander and did not have the zing of old in his tactics or man-management. In this match he had a game-plan and backed his bowlers to the hilt.

That Dhoni had given up the Test captaincy suddenly in the middle of the Test series against Australia seemed to stoke the growing negativity about his captaincy. On Sunday, however, he led with inspiration, imagination and aggression to not only win the match, but also muzzle the criticism against him.

The body language was strong, the bowling changes and field placements astute and targeted towards getting wickets, not just checking the flow of runs. Unconventional methods, which had defined so many of his past successes, were to the fore again, most notably in the dismissal of the dangerous Umar Akmal.

Dhoni was the only one who appealed for the catch behind and went for a review after it was turned down. To most observers, the replays were indeterminate whether Akmal had got the faintest of edges or had missed the ball by a whisker. The third umpire thought the former. Even if he had made a mistake, Dhoni hadn't.

The team jells

Before this match, India's best performing players had been Rohit Sharma and Ajinkya Rahane among batsmen and Stuart Binny in the bowling department. Dhawan was on the brink of losing his place in the side, Kohli seemed to have hit a trough, Raina's matchwinning ability was under question and all the bowlers were being written off.

On Sunday, Rohit and Rahane did not score too many runs and Binny did not even play. All those under the scanner, however, came good, which gave the team not just heft, but also a combination that opposing teams would fear.

A team that looked like it had lost its way, now looks like it has got its bearings right. The onus is now on the captain and the players to grow in strength from here, not be lulled into complacency or sense of false achievement.

Beating Pakistan in this tension-ridden, high profile contest was no mean feat. But whatever the hype and hoopla might suggest, the World Cup has not been won yet. This was only the first step towards that ultimate prize.

India Vs Pak World Cup 2015

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