Uncertain to unbeaten: India’s fantastical campaign
India’s World Cup campaign is a prime example. Not even in anyone’s wildest fantasy would India have won 10 matches out of 10, as Rohit Sharma’s blue brigade did.
Who would have thought that India would go on to beat every team: Defending champions England, Champions Australia, running machine South Africa, more than the sum of their parts and their victory in the last edition New Zealand (twice) , Pakistan are the most important team to beat, favorite opposition in Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, and avoid any potential upsets against Afghanistan and the Netherlands.
But, it is now a reality.
The Indian batsmen have raided as if they were playing against a ‘B’ team. Three out of every seven batsmen with more than 500 runs in this World Cup are Indians – Virat Kohli (711), Rohit Sharma (550), Shreyas Iyer (526). As a batting unit, India have scored the most runs (2810) in the tournament, have the highest average (58.54), highest strike rate (104.65), most fifty plus scores (23), and the second largest of the limits (354). ).
Their bowlers have overshadowed even the batsmen in terms of dominance. Two of the top five wicket takers are Indians – Mohammed Shami (23) and Jasprit Bumrah (18). Fewest bowlers among semi-finalists (420.4), most maidens bowled (23), least runs conceded (1986), most wickets (95), best average (20.90 ), the best part. economy rate (4.72), best strike rate (26.5), most five-wicket hauls (4) and best bowling figures (7-57). , drowning everything in its path. But a few months ago, they were full of doubt and uncertainty. Two of their middle-order batsmen marked as first choice, KL Rahul and Iyer, were in a race against time to be fit for the World Cup, begging the question. a mark of their readiness for such an important competition. Their efforts to find suitable ‘second options’ did not yield satisfactory results. Suryakumar Yadav failed to change his T20 game to suit ODI requirements. Sanju Samson and Ishan Kishan were also tried in the middle order. The search was so serious that even Hardik Pandya (once in the West Indies) and Axar Patel were tried. There were suggestions from former players that Kohli should bat at No.4 to fill the hole in the middle order.
Then there were concerns about the lower order and after losing a game or two in the West Indies, India felt the need to beef up the lower order. Axar was picked over Ravichandran Ashwin and Shardul Thakur was considered more important than Shami, all because they could provide a few runs down the order.
Bumrah, the true leader of the pack, had not played cricket for over a year and was worried that he was slumping in the middle of the tournament. And as soft minded as it sounds now, Shami wasn’t even in the scheme of things. Since the 2019 World Cup, he had only played ODIs when the ‘key’ bowlers were unavailable, mainly due to injuries.
This group came together only a month before the World Cup when India took part in the tightly organized rain-fed Asia Cup. And, like you never forget swimming once learned, most of them settled into their roles immediately, helping India win the Asia Cup without breaking a sweat.
Even then it didn’t dawn on anyone that we were starting something special. The quality of the opposition probably stopped us from reading too much into the results. It was probably too good to be true.
Axar’s (mount) injury during the Asia Cup forced Ashwin into the side. But it was the second injury (ankle), for Pandya, during the World Cup that somehow completed the puzzle. Shami entered the scene and became the pointed head of the nuclear missile that has emerged in this bowling unit.
On top of that, Rohit’s decision to ditch the conservatism and go against the new ball had a huge impact on the batting unit, rather than settling the opposition’s plans. It gave Shubman Gill, Kohli and Rahul time and space to play their natural game.
This incredible coming together of different elements at the right time, at the right place to create this amazing machine called Team India may be forgotten in the years to come. especially if they go on to win the final on Sunday
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