INDIA’S FIRST TWO WORLD CUP MATCHES
‘Assertive’ would be an appropriate term to summarise the Indian team’s performances in its first two matches of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2023. The opening game against Australia was expected to be a run-feast, but the Indian bowlers played spoilsport by denying the opposition runs. The pacemen were brilliantly complemented by the spinners and the end-result was a target of 200. Of course, what looked like a stroll started seeming like a hike in rugged terrain when India lost their first three wickets for next-to-nothing, but then, Virat Kohli and K.L. Rahul came to the fore.
Virat Kohli’s body-language and demeanour on the field have always been positive and this World Cup is no exception in that regard. That apart, one cannot help but feel that he is out to prove a point in the ongoing tournament. Considering that he will turn 35 this December, this could well be his last fifty-overs World Cup. The kind of individual and competitor he is, he will want to finish on a high. Not very long ago, many people were convinced that he did not have it in him to go any further. However, it would not be entirely wrong to say that the criticism heaped on him in 2021-22, acted like a magic potion of sorts. Kohli is the kind of cricketer who will roar when his efficacy is questioned. This is why his fans should probably thank his detractors. The man has not looked back since his extraordinary 82 in the T20 World Cup game against Pakistan at Melbourne, last year. India missed out on the title then, and Kohli will look to go the distance on home turf, this time around.
The class that K.L. Rahul exuded in the game against Australia only underscored what can happen if the team management backs a player through thick and thin. He has not had a smooth ride in the recent past and many an expert has even questioned his place in the national team. However, the people who mattered decided to support him and he has vindicated them, both as a batsman and wicketkeeper. Rishabh Pant’s absence will not sting the team and its fans if Rahul keeps batting and keeping like this for the rest of the tournament.
Rohit Sharma’s pyrotechnics against Afghanistan also augur well for the prospects of his team. It was also heartening to see Ishan Kishan and Shreyas Iyer spend time in the middle and get their feet and arms moving in the game against Afghanistan. Their stays in the middle would have given them enough confidence to carry into the next game. They will need every ounce of it in India’s next game of the tournament.
When every single bowler takes wickets and restricts the flow of runs in a game, as was the case against Australia, then it means that the team is on the right track. The bowlers took some stick against Afghanistan, but all of them are experienced enough to work on their shortcomings and focus on landing the ball in the right areas, the next time they take the field. There is reason to believe that India have found the right combination. Hardik Pandya and Ravindra Jadeja, who bat at no. 6 and no. 7 respectively, give them the luxury of deploying as many as six bowlers. This gave Rohit Sharma an extra bowling option when Pandya went for runs against Australia.
India will play their next game against a team that has also won its first two games in the competition. The encounter between the subcontinental rivals at Ahmedabad on 14 October should be a cracker.