Team India’s journey in the World Cup 2011 has not been disappointing, however, it can’t excite the Indian fans either. In terms of points or number of losses they have achieved what was predicted or expected of them with a no-loss record so far in the tournament. India is, to be very fair, still trying to find the right balance, the right combination that would transform them from competitive unit to a champion side. They have won all their games against the minnows as well as Bangladesh and managed to salvage a tie from what seemed like a lost battle against England. It is definitely a well oiled machine, just needs minor tweaking or fine tuning to maximize the efficiency as some of the wins could have been more convincing.
The top order looks rock solid and explosive. I don’t mind either Sachin or Sehwag getting out in 30s or 40s as long as they are going after the leather from the word go. In this world cup I don’t want the GOD to be doing the job of “preserving wicket”, after a very long time, team India has been blessed with talents like Gambhir, Kohli, and Dhoni, each of whom is very well capable of dropping an anchor if the situation demands. It’s a good idea for Sehwag to think about playing 50 overs, that way he won’t be over-aggressive, because an aggressive Sehwag is a bowler’s nightmare but an over-aggressive Sehwag equals self destruction.
Gambhir and Kohli, both had one good outing, however since then haven’t converted those good starts into big innings, which is crucial for some batting at #3 and #4. It is finally a pleasure to see Yuvi get out of rut and score 3 consecutive fifties, two of them being match-winning knocks. Along with his ability to snap wickets he’s now transformed himself into a key all rounder for the team, reminding me of Mohinder Amarnath in the ’83 champion squad. Yusuf has gone out to bat thrice and on all those occasions he’ looked to do one and only one thing that he knows the best: clear the field. Dhoni has given him a free hand and I can sense that rapid fire fifty just round the corner now. Dhon is the one whom I would like to see bat a bit more aggressively.
Fielding has had some niggles, but overall India has done a more than satisfactory job considering that it was never considered in the same category as the Aussies when it comes to fielding. Of course there is definitely some room for improvement on this front. Which leaves us with the team’s bowling effort that can be best described with the word: inconsistent. Even during course of a single game they have bowled some breathtaking spells and have paired them with some really ordinary stuff. Just like in the game against England where the bowling captain Zaheer Khan looked tiny shadow of himself in the first seven overs and then came back to bowl mesmerizing last three to help us tie the game.
The bowling combination hasn’t been sorted out by captain MSD. When the tournament began, it was widely speculated that seven-four theory might pose team India problems with their fifth bowler (part time option), however, this option has turned out to be very consistent with Yuvraj and occasional help from Yusuf. It’s the bowler fourth bowler that has been troublesome. In the opening encounter Sreesanth was all over and had to make way for Chawla who bowled brilliantly in the practice game, but then Chawla goofed up at a crucial stage against England and bowled far too short to the Irish batters. Nehra got his first go today but only bowled five so is still a bit untested and Ashwin hasn’t got a chance yet. India quickly needs to settle on this slot. Munaf also needs to start being more consistent. Harbhajan is doing very well and should get the luck on his side very soon to get something against his name in the wickets column.
Overall, Mahi should be pleased, though not excited with his team’s efforts so far. Sometimes it’s better not too peak too soon. If team India starts picking up the momentum from here on then it could get even more dangerous side and would be the right time to reignite their campaign. Look at Pakistan, they looked like dark horses until New Zealand exposed some of their inabilities. South Africa has already choked yet again in a tight run chase against England and Australia is yet to be challenged as they escaped a rained out draw against Sri Lanka. This world Cup is still wide open and I am sure that team India is juggling that Balancing Act to get the perfect result desired.
-Nikhil Sharad Jadhav