Ten days into the World Cup, the Indian team has started to find the missing pieces of the jigsaw. All of a sudden, a team which looked completely out of sorts on Australian soil a month ago, has found some momentum, defeating Pakistan and South Africa comprehensively.
When the tournament kicked-off, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand were given the highest odds of lifting the trophy, given the set of match-winners they were coming into the World Cup with.
India, a good ODI side in 2014, was a team which looked too inexperienced to confront the mighty teams. What, then, turned the tables for India?
All in the mind
When a side plays in front of a jam-packed 60,000 crowd facing a tough opponent in a high-voltage contest such as the World Cup, the battles are won by the team more prepared to absorb the pressure.
At the MCG against South Africa and in Adelaide against Pakistan, India had the right attitude going into the games. The weak links - Shikhar Dhawan and R Ashwin emerged as the heroes. Virat Kohli, Suresh Raina found runs against Pakistan. Rohit Sharma scored a 150 in the warm-up game.
Mohd Shami and Mohit Sharma have found their rhythm too. Unlike Australia and New Zealand, India didn't peak coming into the extravaganza but are slowly finding answers to all the questions that encircled them in recent tours. More than the favourites, a team which brings momentum coming into the knock-outs is the one most likely to bag the trophy.
Let us have a look at the key components that can help ensure that India defends the trophy it won four years ago.
1. Inspired bowling
An inexperienced seem attack and an out-of-form spin department don't make good numbers. The Indian bowling attack has an air of vulnerability around it which the opposition is aware of. It is imperative for someone among the bowlers to play the role Zaheer Khan played in 2011 and give match-winning performances. India's batting has, so far, posted 300-plus scores and. sooner or later, it might not be able to hide a bad bowling performance. India desperately need to settle in with a bowling attack that can trouble batsmen, restrict runs and, most importantly, take the crucial wickets.
2. Lower-middle order batting
In both the games, the Indian lower middle order has collapsed and squandered an opportunity of adding another 20-30 runs on the board. In the games that go down to the wire, it might prove to be the difference. MS Dhoni, Ravindra Jadeja and R Ashwin need to find some form going into those slog overs. India could also experiment with Stuart Binny's medium pace in conditions that promise swing. This is an area where India might miss the services of Yuvraj Singh, who helped give the side the right balance with his clean hits and wicket-taking spin bowling.
3. Sustained belief
Keeping a side motivated to play the same level of cricket for two hectic months after a terrible season in Australia might be the biggest challenge of all. It will test the fitness - both physical and psychological - levels of players. If India can keep the proverbial Kiplingesque head when all others are losing theirs, then the World Cup won't be such a distant dream.
Let us hope that everything falls in place and 'We don't give it back'.
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