There is something heartening about the Indian performance in the ongoing Twenty20 World Cup that augurs well for MS Dhoni and his men, as they prepare for the tougher tasks ahead in the Super Eight. In becoming the first team to make it to the second stage, the Indian team has displayed a consistency that will make them the team to guard against.
In batting and bowling if not yet in the fielding, they have shown that they deserve to be amongst the very best and could well go all the way and repeat their memorable triumph in South Africa three years ago.
As we have seen in recent times, Twenty20 as a format has evolved into a keen duel between bat and ball. No more is it only about big hits, fours and sixes and batsmen dominating. In cricket's shortest format the pressure is as much on the batsman as on the bowler. A couple of dot balls is enough to make the batsman nervous, and in a bid to get going, he very often plays an injudicious shot and gets out.
Raina joins T20 century club
An innovative stroke like the reverse sweep or the scoop over the wicket keeper's head is fine but even here there is an element of risk, and again a miscued stroke could well see the batsman return to the pavilion. Of late it has been a treat to see the bowler work out ways to curb a batsman by bowling at his pads or sending down yorkers.
Oh yes, there is a lot of tactical thinking and planning involved with Twenty20 and one has only to glance at the team totals in the IPL and in the current World Cup to realize that it is not just a batsman's game.
Also as we saw in IPL III, there is a place for spin bowlers in Twenty20. And it was always on the cards that on the slower pitches in the West Indies spinners would have a major role to play. And India being best served in this department, it was good thinking on the part of the team management to pack the side with slow bowlers for the match against South Africa.
The Indians have two specialist spinners in Harbhajan Singh and Piyush Chawla and two part-time such bowlers in Ravindra Jadeja and Yusuf Pathan. I am not even taking into account the left-arm spinners of Yuvraj Singh which can be pretty useful.
A good warm-up for Super Eights
Conventional wisdom would have it that the playing eleven would consist of three seam bowlers and one specialist spinner. Under the circumstances, it was good to see one fast bowler being discarded and a second spinner included. Except under rare circumstances, this should be the strategy used for the remaining matches.
After all we should always play to our traditional strength particularly when the conditions favour spin bowlers.
Of course the bowlers would like some runs on the board to back their efforts and here it is for the other main strength of the Indian side – the batting – to deliver. The first six in the line up – Murali Vijay, Gautam Gambhir, Suresh Raina, Yuvraj Singh, Dhoni and Pathan – do inspire confidence. With the batting there is always the hope that even if three of the six come good the Indians will be able to put up a challenging total.
And if one comes up with the kind of knock that Raina played on Sunday, then even if two batsmen come off it is enough. In recent times Raina has given enough indication that he has graduated like Yuvraj into the category of match-winning batsmen and the Indian team management will be hoping that at least one of the two left-handers will be able to play a big knock in the remaining games.
ICCT20 World Cup
That is the encouraging thought as India enter the Super Eight where as the leading team in group C they will be placed in a pool that will have the second placed teams from groups B and D and the top team in group A. It will not be easy as in the second stage which involves the eight leading sides in the world, any team can beat any other team on a given day since there is very little to choose between them, especially in the Twenty20 format.
But well begun is half done and the Indians have certainly started their campaign on the right note.