I wasn't at all surprised to see the clinical manner in which India disposed of Australia's challenge. Having been a part of the last few campaigns, I know just how much the team was disappointed after the last two World Cups.
Crashing out in the first round last time hurt as much as, if
not more, the defeat in the 2003 final to Australia. And it was apparent that India didn't want another heartbreak, and that too in front of their own fans.
Bowlers set it up
Yuvraj was the obvious hero, but I firmly believe it was the bowlers who set up the victory. When you are playing the quarterfinals of the World Cup, you expect a stiff fight, no matter if the opponents are Kenya or South Africa. This was Australia, unbeaten in the last two tournaments, and for the Indian bowling to restrict them to 260 was a fantastic effort.
Having bowled myself in the early stages of the innings, I know what it takes to bowl on unresponsive tracks against quality batsmen. That's why Ashwin deserves a lot of praise. He sat on the sidelines during the early part of the tournament, much like Suresh Raina. Both men came in the same match in Chennai, and both a huge impact immediately.
Harbhajan too had a very good game, except for the last over when he went for a few in the Powerplay, while Zaheer, as ever, was phenomenal. I have noticed Zaheer's development as an all-round bowler with great satisfaction and delight. When he is on song, he is virtually unplayable. He has been terrific throughout the World Cup, and Dhoni is fortunate that he has a bowler as versatile and accomplished as Zaheer.
Man of the moment
Yuvraj, of course, is the man who can do no wrong, be it with bat or ball. Once again, he bowled a dream spell, a tidy ten overs which also brought him two wickets. With Yuvraj bowling as well as he has, it's as if India have five full-time bowlers, which means Dhoni is less reliant on some of the more occasional part-timers like Raina, Sachin and Kohli.
His fifty was a measure of his maturity and his temperament. At a time when the team could have panicked , he took it upon himself to guide Raina through the early period, after which the duo batted with refreshing freedom. Cricket is all about playing as a unit. No one has done that better throughout the World Cup than Yuvraj.
India didn't have anyone batting through the innings, but all those crucial partnerships and contributions from Sachin, Gambhir and Kohli before the Yuvraj-Raina stand again reiterated the need to deliver as a group. As impressive as the bowling and the batting was India's fielding. This is the best India can do as a fielding unit, because we are not the most naturally athletic. The signs are very encouraging — all three departments are coming along nicely. Don’t they say something about peaking at the right time?! HAWKEYE