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Five things we noted on watching India vs West Indies

With the quarter finals approaching, there is no margin for error any longer. Soumya Bhattacharya on what India did right against the West Indies, and where it can get better.

columns Updated: Mar 25, 2011 16:54 IST

Five things we noted on watching India v West Indies

Virat Kohli must bat at the top of the order: Although the manner of his dismissal was annoying, Kohli showed that he deserves his place at the top of the order. He now has a hundred and a fifty batting at the top, and it would be silly to fiddle with his position.

India will be thrilled to see Yuvraj hitting such fine form: Yuvraj's century – the first after 37 matches and in nearly two years – was an atypical innings. It was not made incandescent with the kind of brutal savagery that we usually see when he is in form. Importantly, it was a fighting hundred, making use of his entry at No 4, and showed enormous gumption and resolve and determination to bat till the end. Yuvraj has been very handy with the ball and the way he took the pace off the ball and extracted turn and bounce on Sunday will make India very happy indeed. Yuvraj has three man of the match awards already in this tournament. Will this be his World Cup?

The Yusuf Pathan or Suresh Raina conundrum continues, as does the spectacular middle order collapse: With Virender Sehwag out, India could finally afford to play both Pathan and Raina. Neither clicked, which could be a big worry for India in the knockout stage. Their failure was one of the reasons for the by now familiar disaster that visited India in the dying overs (they lost seven wickets for 56 runs). Who would you choose if you could play either Pathan or Raina? I'd probably go for Pathan: he hasn't done much, but he is one of those players who can singlehandedly turn a match on its head. And, while we are at it, Dhoni's scores in the past five innings have been 22, 12 not out, 19 not out, 34 and 31. His last fifty came in August 2010; for the last hundred that he scored, you'd have to go back to January 2010. While he is quick to blame his middle order, the captain should realise that as a batsman, he hasn't exactly covered himself in glory.

R Ashwin deserves his place in the side, and let's applaud Zaheer: Finally, Ashwin got a game, and showed that he ought to have played before he did. He should now simply be an automatic choice. No praise can be too high for Zaheer Khan. He has been outstanding, especially with the old ball and in the closing overs. India will need both to do more of what they have done. Yuvraj has been picking up wickets. If Harbhajan can be a little more attacking, the bowling may not look as thin as it was initially feared.

There are no favourites from now on: Pakistan beat Australia to snap the champions' 34-match winning streak in the World Cup. That just shows how dominant Australia have been in recent tournaments. While in 2003 and 2007, it seemed largely a question of who would face Australia in the finals, it is much more open this time around. Australia are still ranked No 1, but no one would be shocked if they didn't defend the title. In that sense, this is the best time to play them. In another sense, a wounded Australia can be a dangerous proposition. Were we better off facing some other team in the quarters? Not really. You can insert a cigarette paper between the teams that have made it through. Pakistan? New Zealand? Sri Lanka? On India's day, India can beat any of them. On theirs, any of them can beat India. Much the same is true for Australia.

Soumya Bhattacharya is the Editor of Hindustan Times, Mumbai. He is the author of You Must Like Cricket? and All That You Can't Leave Behind --both memoirs on how cricket defines India -- and the novel, If I Could Tell You. His books have been nominated for national and international literary prizes. He can be reached on twitter at @soumya1910