Dubai: In cricket, success hinges on winning key battles or key moments, whether it’s in Twenty20, One-Day Internationals (ODIs), or Tests. A game can change in just two overs in T20s, while a crucial five to 10-over spell can reverse the result in ODIs. Tests can swing with just one session going one way or the other.
India’s triumph in the Asia Cup can be attributed to their ability to secure these key battles, and this has instilled confidence among fans that the World Cup hosts can replicate this success in the upcoming home tournament, reminiscent of their 2011 victory.
The Indian team arrived in Sri Lanka appearing undercooked after a lackluster performance in the West Indies, where they won the three-match ODI series 2-1 but lost the five-match Twenty20 series 3-2. Despite the West Indies not even qualifying for the ODI World Cup, India struggled against them, casting doubts on Rohit Sharma’s team’s readiness for the Asia Cup and the impending World Cup.
However, all doubts have been dispelled. The return of injured star players has provided a much-needed boost to the Indian team. The batting has been reinforced through critical decisions by the team management, such as bringing back Shubman Gill to the opening slot and repositioning Ishan Kishan and K L Rahul in the order.
India’s turning point came in the abandoned opener against Pakistan when, at 66 for four, Kishan and Hardik Pandya faced a menacing Pakistan attack on a challenging wicket. Their partnership helped India post a respectable score of 266 in 48.5 overs, instilling renewed belief in the team.
The return of Rahul, who missed the opener, further bolstered the batting lineup, as the top four Indian batters play in all three formats of the game, making them technically sound. With Sharma, Gill, Virat Kohli, and Rahul anchoring the innings, India consistently has the potential to reach totals of 300 or more. In the Asia Cup, three of the top six batters—Gill, Kohli, and Rahul—scored centuries, while Rohit contributed a couple of half-centuries, and Kishan and Pandya notched one each.
Even in the game against Bangladesh, where India suffered a six-run loss, Gill’s lone effort nearly secured victory. Despite missing five first-XI players, India displayed its depth, a testament to the talent pool nurtured by the Indian Premier League (IPL).
In contrast, Sri Lanka’s Dunith Wellalege, who led the Under-19 World Cup, is a key player, while none of India’s Under-19 World Cup-winning team members play regularly in the IPL. The league’s high standards and competition make securing a spot in the Indian team challenging.
The return of all-rounder Axar Patel was anticipated, but an injury led to his absence, and Washington Sundar stepped in admirably. Rohit Sharma has been clear with players about their roles, ensuring everyone is on the same page.
India now has a final opportunity to assess its World Cup preparedness during the three-match ODI series against Australia, starting in Mohali on Friday and followed by matches in Rajkot and Visakhapatnam on September 24 and 27, respectively. Australia, following a series loss to South Africa, aims to make amends before the World Cup, where they face India in their opening clash on October 8 in Chennai.
With key players returning to form and a deep talent pool, India’s World Cup hopes are soaring high after their Asia Cup triumph.