How well are India placed in the Super 8’s after their Afghanistan triumph

NewsBharati    22-Jun-2024 17:43:12 PM
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-Devdeep Tyagi

After being a dominant force in world cricket and yet one that hadn’t added a another ICC trophy to its cabinet since winning one back in 2013, Team India entered the 2024 T20 World Cup with one aim and one alone. It has been to dominate the mother of all T20I battles as its luminary force.

And it’s an ongoing battle in which India have hitherto played like a world class team having won every single encounter as on this point.

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Make no mistake, for this is a team that is composed of no fewer than six or maybe seven world class match winners who can come good on any given day. In Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli there’s a world class and redoubtable experience of several over 6,000 international runs and several centuries. In Suryakumar Yadav, arguably India’s most in-form batsman as date in this tournament, the bowlers have a clear and looming threat that looks seldom at anything other than the boundary ropes or clearing the fence.

In the returning Rishabh Pant, over 1,100 runs in the format, India have already felt the dominant charge of the batsman who top scored against Pakistan when runs were most needed.

That told, in versatile and vastly competitive all rounders like Axar Patel and Ravindra Jadeja, 124 T20I’s between them, India have the much needed world class experience of a dynamic duo that has no fewer than 107 wickets and nearly 900 runs in the format, collectively. Then there’s the ace of pace called Jasprit Bumrah who as seen most recently emerged with game changing wickets against a mesmerising bowling spell where, not for the first time, the Gujarat-born conceded just single digit scores. That too, in a premier World Cup contest. If anything, India are peaking at the right time and seem alongside an Australia and England clearly the third hot favourites to lift the cup.

Perhaps a point that has been, thus far, a tad bit under appreciated, is the very margin of victories with which India have humbled their opponents; though some might even argue for the case of using the expression outclassing opponents.

Lest it is forgotten, India crushed Ireland in their 2024 World Cup opening campaign winning the contest by a huge margin of 8 wickets with 46 deliveries to spare. With the possible exception of emerging victorious against archrivals Pakistan by a margin as scant as meagre but ultimately definitive of 6 runs, India defeated co-hosts USA by 7 wickets while thumping Afghanistan by no dainty margin of 47 runs as seen most recently.

On the whole, India are in form and finely placed to lay hands around a World Cup title holding which they’d look the part of a deserving winner, besides fielding some elite names in world cricket.

But having said that there are a few areas that they’d like to come good at in what’s been evident thus far. While the middle order has fired in patches and when it has, it has led to the much-desired results such as the decisive 72-run stand between Dube and Sky against the Americans, the top order has misfired so far. Rohit Sharma, illustrious captain, only the third name in T20 international cricket to go past 4,000 runs opened his account with a breezy fifty against Ireland but has since, looked a bit hassled.

He’s not timing the ball all that well, which is a surprise in that being a touch player, he’s among the finest timers of the white ball. It’s not helped that his scores after the Ireland contest read- 13, 3 and 8. Two single digit scores perhaps pointing to an area of rustiness that may have crept in after the solid start on June 5. And where it comes to Virat Kohli who registered a fortnight ago his first ever golden duck against the USA side, the runs, simply haven’t been coming.

His run-a-ball 24 a few hours ago against a team that is perhaps not the mightiest yet in the game seemed to clearly point to an area the world’s best batsman would want to correct and rather urgently so. Is King Kohli under some pressure having this enormous expectation confronting him, which truth be told, is quite the norm for a batsman of his stature? The discussion can seem endless. But even where it comes to Pant, the runs haven’t come with the sense of consistency the passionate left hander would’ve liked. He’s been fiery, inventive, far from agricultural and seemed a batsman who’s hardly abstaining from going for his strokes. But has that recipe yielded the intended results so far with the comeback man’s highest score still being the swinging 42 off 31 versus Pakistan that came a few weeks ago? It is anybody’s call. Gladly, however, Pant’s been bold and gone for his shots. It’s the style in which he plays even if that may not please the much adored Sanju Samson-fanclubs.

Thus far, India have failed to post a 200 run total on the board. It may seem a tall ask considering nearly every single pitch on which its batsmen have had a go has been testing with something in it for the bowlers. But in the format that is centred around huge hits and often menacingly big scores, is that an area India need to focus on? Can they do better at power hitting?

And yet, perhaps an even bigger question is whether it’s top order and middle order fire in tandem for thus far, it hasn’t. Someone like a Dube- who’s loaded with talent- has a highest score of an unbeaten 31 against USA while his overall tally seems to be a bit dry with the four games yielding just 44 runs as on date.

But that said perhaps an even bigger question is what happens to the Indian batting order when Suryakumar Yadav has an off day with the bat. He’s been in the dashing and capable batsman who’s scored nearly all round the wicket so far.

After registering two consecutive single digit scores, India’s Sky whose bat often sends the ball skywards made strong back with two fifties on the bounce.

It’s one thing to register a batting milestone in this format but something quite special to score fine runs in a T20 World Cup.

That said while India’s pacers have been clear go getters who’ve stopped at nothing in their desire to contain the opponents, take for instance the game won against Ireland where the four pronged medium pace attack picked 8 wickets, the spinners have seemed lukewarm so far.

While Bumrah, hard to play, even harder to hit has been a cut above the rest with 8 wickets to his name and Arshdeep picking a sensational 10 wickets as on date, it could be argued that the spinners will have their role cut out when a tricky and slow wicket comes into play. The likes we already saw back in New York.

Bumrah will spearhead an attack that’ll look to keep opponents on they toes in the key contests up ahead, especially the game against the mighty Australia. But first his target will be to traumatise Bangladesh, a game which India would like to win as a massive effort to boost their confidence heading forwards.

Rarely going for any runs and hardly ever conceding free hits or big sixes, India’s talisman with the pace may well prove to be an ominous threat particularly for someone like Australia.

But on the whole, as an ideal case India would love to play as one unit whose players rise and shine firing all cylinders. They’ve done the basics right, drafted competitive and compelling scores so far and backed up the totals with determined bowling efforts. It’s just about taking their game to the next big level now in what lies ahead.

Heading into their next game in the decisive Super8 stage, they’d look to derive massive confidence from the recent win against the Afghans. A win by a margin of 47 runs is no small achievement in this level of competition. It speaks of sheer dominance and that is what the fan expects of a world class force such as Team India.