At the outset, I would like to applaud Zaheer Khan. He has been quite sensational not just during the World Cup, but also for the last two-three years, and, it seems, he has benefited hugely from the county experience in 2007.
His control has been superb. I can say with conviction that I have not seen an Indian bowler show as much control as Zaheer has. He can swing the ball both ways, and has taken up the challenge of marshalling the Indian bowling attack. He has led from the front, and I have watched with pleasure how he has developed into a very good leader.I only hope he remains fit for the duration of India’s campaign, because the team knows just how much value Zaheer brings with him. He is also a wonderful example for other bowlers.
Consistency the key
Zaheer's sense of commitment is exemplary. Every time he has been called in to bowl, he has given it his 100 per cent. His consistency stems from his commitment, and, as someone who has always believed in himself and his abilities, I am very pleased with the way he has emerged as a match-winner.
As we look ahead to the quarterfinals, the next big question is whether India will revert to three seamers against Australia, or stick with two spinners. I am of the opinion that if the Motera surface is flat, we must play an additional seamer, which will bring Ashish Nehra back into the fold.
That might appear a little harsh on Ashwin, who bowled superbly against the West Indies. It was good to see him bowl without nerves, but when India play just the one specialist spinner, it will be impossible to look beyond Harbhajan.
Bhajji way ahead
In terms of depth and experience, Harbhajan is way ahead right now. It's fine to come in as a youngster trying to state your case, but the real test lies in having to meet expectations and fulfilling responsibilities. That can test anyone.
For now, Zaheer and Harbhajan are the two strike bowlers in the Indian side, and once you wear that tag, things are not easy.
India have the edge
The quarterfinal clash against Australia promises to be a heady one. Given what Australia were and what India have been for the last couple of years, I feel India clearly have the edge. I have no qualms about admitting that in the 2003 final, we were overawed by the occasion, while Australia had a core group that was playing its third final as a unit.
The equation has changed now, and the balance is in India’s favour.
Batting is okay
I have noticed with increasing consternation how everyone has written off India's batting, but it's not true that we have collapsed. We have four different centurions so far, and have made 270 every time we have batted first.
At the same time, India must fine-tune their approach in the last eight overs. The top-four batsmen have time to play themselves in and accelerate, while the likes of Pathan and Dhoni are expected to go hammer and tongs from the moment they come in.
Ideally, one of the settled batsmen must bat through the innings so that towards the last eight overs, we never have two new batsmen together in the middle.