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India undefeated, but need to up slog-overs scoring, not be complacent

WorldCup2015 Updated: Mar 20, 2015 01:16 IST
Nilankur Das
India vs Bangladesh


As a confident, unbeaten Indian team heads to Sydney for the semi-final to be played on March 26, captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni will be pleased that his team has looked the most balanced so far at the tournament.

India's opponent in the semi-final will be the winner of Friday's Australia versus Pakistan quarter-final at the Adelaide Oval.

The Indian team's performance at the World Cup has been in contrast to their showing in the Test series and ODI tri-series in Australia just before the showpiece event began last month.

The openers, Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma, have come good, while the middle order have taken turns to build partnerships. Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane and Suresh Raina all are averaging more than 30, having played matching-winning innings in at least one of India's seven consecutive victories at the tournament.

Although Dhoni has looked a pale shadow of himself with the bat, the captain has played a couple of gutsy innings - an unbeaten 45 and 85 against the West Indies and Zimbabwe, both in run chases.

The bowling unit, too, has delivered as India is the only team to have bowled out the opposition in all 7 matches at the tournament. Mohammad Shami with 17 wickets is the highest wicket-taker of the tournament and Umesh Yadav (14 wickets) and Mohit Sharma (11 wickets) are not far behind. The spinners, R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja, have not just picked up wickets, but also contained the opposition batsmen in the middle overs.

Fielding has always been this team's forte and except for the match against the West Indies, when they put down a couple of catches, the ground fielding has been among the best.

If India replicate most things they have done right till now on next Thursday at the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG), Dhoni feels it will keep them in good stead irrespective of who they play. "What's important for us is we have scored runs in all the games, whether we have batted first or chased, and still, we don't have our batsmen in the top five run scorers list for the World Cup. This means everybody has chipped in, which is a good position to be in, especially in the knockout stages. We'll have to keep repeating what we have been doing," said Dhoni on Thursday, after the win against Bangladesh.

The Men in Blue, however, will need to watch out for two things that may upset their chances. India lack the firepower that teams such as Australia, New Zealand and South Africa showcase at the beginning and towards the end of the innings. While the Indian openers have scored runs, they have not blazed away like a Brendon McCullum or a David Warner. On Thursday, Rohit, Raina and Jadeja helped India score 147 runs in the last 15 overs, but India have failed to score big in the slog overs in previous matches. The likes of Glenn Maxwell, James Faulkner, Corey Anderson and AB de Villiers have been consistently scoring at a strike rate of 100+ in the final overs.

Dhoni on Thursday reiterated the importance of keeping things simple and doing the basics right. "I think one of the most difficult things to do is to keep it simple. You start assessing everything it can actually kill you, especially in an environment like this where there's already so much pressure," he said.