You’d be nuts to write India off now
For the Indian team it must be hard to remember a time before they took the 15 hour flight to Australia. Since then, they've struggled through a Test series, managed the emotional and unusual circumstances of a series affected by the tragic death of Phillip Hughes, and barely showed up for the tri-series in January.
Coming into the World Cup, in conditions that on paper shouldn't suit them, it looked as though they'd barely be in contention. But as India always do, they got their game heads on and have shown up to the big party.
A difficult preceding five months has had no relevant impact on a team, and a nation, for whom the World Cup is just about everything.
Friday's match against the West Indies saw something of a wobble from a batting side that had looked very assured in the previous three matches. India were tested on a fast bouncy pitch at the WACA which led to some terribly poor shots.
They stuttered to 107-5 to turn the match into much more of a contest than had been expected in the innings break.
It was left to MS Dhoni to restore some calm to the situation. He finished the job in a measured and calm way, something he hasn't really done since 2013. It was an innings to provide reassurance that Dhoni isn't in decline, despite his modest return of just 106 in his last five ODI innings.
India needed this match. They had not really been tested so far and the middle and lower middle order batsman have either not had any time at the crease or not felt under pressure when they were there.
It highlighted that Ravindra Jadeja, batting at seven, is in horrible form and India may well think about pushing Ravi Ashwin ahead of him in the order. But it is India’s bowlers who have surprised many with their consistency and potency.
It’s been nine years since India have bowled out their opposition in four consecutive ODIs, as they just have. Throughout, the seamers have adjusted their lengths admirably to suit the pitch and taken early wickets.
Umesh Yadav and Mohammed Shami were particularly impressive against the West Indies, bowling with real discipline and not getting carried away with the excitement of bowling on a pitch with real pace. They stuck to the right lengths, consistently beating the West Indian batsmen for pace.
In all of their matches, the new ball pairing have put India into good positions. They've made the initial breakthrough in every match within five overs which has allowed the spinners to come on, have a chance to settle in and build the pressure. That's something they've done adeptly throughout.
All five of the bowlers who've bowled more than 10 overs have between 6 and 9 wickets each, and all at a respectable average with an economy rate of between 3.9 and 4.5.
On the whole, they've been sharp in the field too (aside from a few dropped catches off Gayle). Not something that can always have been said about Indian sides.
From the evidence of their first four matches, you'd be a brave man or woman to write India off from making the final and even winning the whole thing. A month ago, you had to wonder whether they'd make it past the quarter finals.
We get to see very little of the Indian players off the pitch. Their media engagements are limited and tightly managed. So we're left to try and analyse body language or how they seem as a group of players together.
The signs are that despite a torrid journey into the World Cup, they are relaxed and united. Notwithstanding, Kohli’s petulant abuse at the wrong person.
With qualification to the knockouts secured so convincingly and two relatively easy games left in the group stages, India will head into the quarter finals brimming with confidence and with a settled side.
It’s still entirely possible they'll top pool B and meet England in the quarter finals. And despite England having won both times they played in the tri-series, all the current evidence points to the opposite result if those two teams were to meet.
Meeting NZ or Australia in a semi-final will provide them with significantly more of a challenge, Indian batsmen aren't known for coping well with the moving ball. But they've now been in Australasia for so many weeks, all the signs are that the areas of weakness we usually associate with an Indian side are disappearing.
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