So India enter the knockout stage of the World Cup 2015 brimming with confidence and we are probably the firm favourites.
Some things to note from our performance so far…
1. This is our greatest performance in a tournament league
If you combine all the major ODI tournaments in India’s history, then this is clearly the greatest league performance. Not only did we win 6/6 matches, but our narrowest victory was by four wickets. It has been a convincing performance.
Our bowlers were on fire and for a change our fielding came good too. The pinnacle was the match with South Africa where we outbatted, outbowled and outfielded our opposition.
Shikhar Dhawan, Virat Kohli and Suresh Raina hit centuries. MS Dhoni came good in two exciting chases. Ajinkya Rahane and Rohit Sharma hit crucial fifties. All our batsman are clicking and we are the bating side of the tournament.
2. Dhoni is still the world’s best finisher
As an ODI batsman Dhoni may or may not be in form, but when it comes to finishing matches, he is always in the zone. No matter what happens in the knockout matches, as long as Dhoni is at the crease, we can win.
The best part for India is that Kohli is running him close for the title of best finisher.
3. Never doubt Indian bowling in tournaments
They may falter in overseas Tests. They may go flat in bilateral series. But never doubt Indian bowlers during tournaments. They came good in both the 2011 World Cup and 2013 Champions Trophy. Now they have emerged the best in the group stage. 60/60 wickets in 6 matches is a rare feat indeed and we have done it without a tearaway quick like say Dale Steyn. Mohammed Shami has taken 15 wickets with an astonishing average of 12.6.
Both Umesh Yadav and Mohit Sharma have 10 wickets a piece while Ravichandran Ashwin has 12. The only weak link appears to be all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja. But he is a big match player and he was our man of the match in the 2013 CT final.
4. Raina can play outside the subcontinent
There was a time when Raina couldn’t play any format of cricket outside the sub-continent. He was a total joke against the short ball. But not anymore! In the England series last year he hit a century off 74 balls and averaged 53.
In the current World Cup in Australia and New Zealand he averages 71 at a strike rate of 112.
5. India and New Zealand followed similar paths
New Zealand won 5 matches including one tense chase and then Bangladesh gave them a scare. Similarly India also won 5 matches including one tense chase and then Zimbabwe gave them a scare.
For both teams in the last match an opposition century put them in trouble and a dropped catch proved to be the turning point to make it finally 6/6. Both were the only teams in the tournament not to concede 300 runs in a match.
Both are favourites to meet in the final. There is one thing that India got the better though and that is wicket-taking. While the Kiwis picked up 57 wickets, the Indians got a perfect 60. Also while New Zealand has the home advantage, India has been playing outside its comfort zone. The Kiwis will have to get out of their comfort zone and fly to Australia for the final should they make it that far.
6. 2013-15 is a bit like 1983-85
In June 1983 India won the World Cup in England and two years later it lifted the mini World Cup in Australia in March 1985. This time around in June 2013 India won the Champions Trophy (which is also called a mini World Cup) in England and two years later has a chance to lift the World Cup in Australia in March 2015. In 1985 in Australia also India had won all its league matches and bowled out the opposition in all of them. If we win this time then it will be a rare “repeat double”.
India also has a chance to win its sixth ICC trophy and join Australia in that regard while Dhoni has a chance to become the first man in history to win three World Cups. Both Clive Lloyd and Ricky Ponting perished in their third attempt.
The author is a Bengaluru-based journalist and blogger.
He blogs at http://sunilrajguru.com/