India need to sustain their positive attitude

India need to sustain their positive attitude

Bigger challenges await Dhoni's men

India need to sustain their positive attitude

India’s drubbing of Pakistan on Sunday helped them maintain their stranglehold over their arch-rivals in World Cup. But the 76-run win at the Adelaide Oval may not have much bearing on the future fortunes of either team in a tournament whose format is designed to ensure a smooth passage of big-ticket teams into quarterfinals.

India’s first of their six World Cup wins over their arch-rivals in 1992 didn’t have any impact on Pakistan who went on to become the champions then. Nor did it stop Pakistan from entering the final in 1999 after being beaten by India in a Super Six game. While the fans may gloat about the fact that India’s domination of Pakistan in the Cup remains unaffected and draw visceral delight, the Indian team knows it’s only a small step in retaining the trophy they won four years ago in Mumbai.

From a cricketing perspective such a result against a team like South Africa, whom they meet on February 22 here at the MCG in their Group B match, will be of greater significance so far as their morale or belief in their own abilities is concerned but coming as it did after a winless two and half months in Australia, India had a lot draw from the Adelaide game.

For once, their batsmen and bowlers complemented each other in fine fashion that had been sorely missing in the tri-series and in the warm-up match against Australia. While Virat Kohli was expected to shed his indifferent form sooner rather than later, Shikhar Dhawan’s innings was perhaps the biggest gain looking ahead to the tournament. Having gone through a prolonged slump on this tour, it was a make or break situation for the left-hander and his brisk and yet unhurried-in-nature knock on Sunday will have come as a big relief for both the batsman himself and the team management which took a big risk in persisting with the struggling opener.
Though Rohit Sharma was dismissed early, he had ensured that Kohli wasn’t walking in to bat in the first or second over. A decent start allowed an edgy Kohli to prosper while the partnership between him and Dhawan helped Suresh Raina play his enforcer role to perfection. Once they managed to put on a good total, bowlers executed their plans well, confident in the knowledge that they had enough runs on the board to defend.

“The morale of the team was good, though the results were not in our favour,” maintained Dhoni when asked if the win would boost team’s confidence. “We knew we have showed that in flashes that a few of the batsmen have batted well, a few times the bowlers have bowled better, but it was important for us to do that as a team, and this was one game where we did that. In the Afghanistan game (warm-up match) also, we showed improvement and we were quite consistent. This game was a fantastic game for us as far as the bowling, batting and the fielding departments are concerned and this can be a benchmark in the coming games. We'll be playing tougher sides, and hopefully we'll be able to replicate the performances,” he remarked.

The victory, however, didn’t mask some of India’s old failings. With new field restrictions and the two-new-balls per innings rule keeping the balls hard that provides value for stroke-play, it’s imperative the pacers exert pressure in the opening overs when swing is available and seam is more pronounced. It’s no good if one bowler controls and the other releases pressure spraying the ball all over. That’s what exactly forced Dhoni to take Umesh Yadav off the attack after just three overs on Sunday.

“There are still areas where we need to improve,” Dhoni stressed. “In the first five overs, in quite a few games that we have played so far, we have given too many boundary deliveries, and that's where you have to actually put more pressure on the batsmen. You have to make use of the new ball. If they (batsmen) are taking risks and playing the big shots and if they are successful, that's fair enough but you don't want to give boundary opportunities in the first four or five overs because after five overs if they are close to 30 runs, you are putting pressure on yourselves,” he offered.    

A decent start, an excellent middle-order batting that even made up for failure in the back-end of the innings and a disciplined bowling show – a near perfect template for a one-day cricket. The challenge, as always, is to sustain it.       

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