The great Wasim Akram thinks it would take an “extraordinary effort” to halt India’s charge but reminded about their ICC title drought every step of the way, skipper Rohit Sharma and his ambitious colleagues very well know that their job is only half done.
India became the first team to reach the World Cup semifinals with a 302-run rout of Sri Lanka on Thursday night, their seventh win on the trot.
They are in the middle of a dream run but Rohit and his men will eventually be judged on their performances in the knock-out stages, their achilles heel over the past decade.
Having said that, it is worth dissecting the perfect run of the team which is ticking all the boxes and is set to top the league stage for the second World Cup in a row.
Rohit redefines top-order approach
Often criticised for their conservative approach in the powerplay, India have redefined their top-order approach with skipper Rohit Sharma being primarily responsible for the team’s bold play in the first 10 overs.
Rohit has batted at a strike rate of 119.64, which is the highest among the top-run getters in the tournament. He is among the top-five in that list, aggregating 402 runs at an average of 57.42.
The statistics, however, don’t reveal the whole picture. His high-risk approach upfront has allowed the likes of Shubman Gill (97 strike rate) and Virat Kohli (89.47) to build their innings at their own pace.
As promised before the World Cup, Rohit will continue to take risks in the coming matches but trust him to alter his uber-expressive approach when the situation demands, like it did against England on a two-paced wicket in Lucknow.
Wickets in middle overs
India also needed to improve their wicket-taking ability in all phases of the games, especially in the middle overs. The return of Jasprit Bumrah and the refined version of Kuldeep Yadav has helped India plug that gap.
Bumrah, who is India’s leading wicket-taker in the tournament with 15 scalps, has got the breakthroughs in all phases of the game and in all conditions.
Kuldeep Yadav has been extremely effective with his left-arm wrist spin in the middle overs, picking up 10 wickets so far at a healthy average of 26.40.
Ravindra Jadeja has been relentless as usual, stemming the flow of runs as well providing an odd breakthrough. His average of 23.33 with nine wickets in seven games is better than Kuldeep’s.
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Intimidating pace attack
Bumrah has added an outswinger to his already lethal armoury since his comeback from injury, Mohammed Shami is making the batters hop, skip and jump with is sensational seam bowling and when the surface offers some help like it did at the Wankhede last night, Mohammed Siraj also comes into his own, making India’s pace attack the envy of rival teams.
Using the extensive knowledge of home conditions, the Indian pace battery has managed to extract something even in batting friendly conditions, a case in point being the game against Afghanistan on a flat deck in Delhi.
Their ability to reverse the old ball has also contributed to their roaring success. The return of Hardik Pandya from injury will make the attack more formidable.
The individual roles have been made crystal clear to the players and that is clearly evident in the way India are going about their business.
Rohit has taken the onus on himself to take calculated risks in the powerplay, Kohli is taking the innings deep, Shreyas Iyer is tasked with taking on the spinners in the middle overs before Suryakumar Yadav goes ballistic in the death overs.
The clarity is visible even in team selection. Before Hardik got injured, Shardul Thakur was the fourth pace bowling option on flat pitches with R Ashwin replacing him on turning tracks.
Batting at six, Surya will have to make way for a fully fit Hardik while Thakur is likely to warm the bench deeper into the tournament with Shami making himself undroppable with two five-wicket hauls in three games.
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Bouncing back from adverse situations
The Indian teams of the past might have panicked after losing their first three wickets for two runs but the current lot did not in its very first game of the tournament against Australia.
The 164-run stand between Kohli and K L Rahul allowed India to pace the tricky run chase perfectly after a horror beginning, to ensure a comfortable victory.
Even in the game against England, India were struggling at 40 for three but Rohit with his crafty 87 ensured the team got past 200 on a challenging pitch, a total that proved more than enough for the defending champions.
Led by Daryl Mitchell, New Zealand went on the offensive against the Indian spinners in Dharamsala but Shami and Kuldeep got timely breakthroughs to limit the Black Caps to a sub-300 total.
Come the semifinals, India will continue to find a way to bounce back when put under pressure.