India now have Plan B and C. In their opening match against Pakistan in Adelaide, when Umesh Yadav was being targeted by Ahmed Shahzad, Mahendra Singh Dhoni quickly took him out of the attack and introduced Mohit Sharma. A similar thing happened against Ireland where even introducing Mohit in place of Yadav did not work. This time Dhoni introduced spin and instead of R Ashwin, he brought in Ravindra Jadeja.
According to Dhoni, the wicket at Seddon Park was one of the slowest in these parts and India bowled 30 overs of spin, 20 of them in the span of an hour. Before Ireland knew, they had lost the initiative. The surprise element there was Suresh Raina. He returned figures of 10-0-40-1; and between Jadeja and Rohit Sharma, Dhoni completed another 10 overs.
With this, Dhoni now has 30 overs each of spin and pace bowling at his disposal, and they have been tested in these conditions. Dhoni said he would be the happiest if his original plan works, but with the option of using part-time bowlers, who have risen to the occasion, he is in a position to try out something different if his main bowlers come under attack.
After playing Zimbabwe here on Saturday — the match is inconsequential — India are likely to play Bangladesh in the quarterfinal in Melbourne provided the Group A surprise package do not beat New Zealand in their last group match and finish third ahead of Sri Lanka. The Melbourne wicket, on which India humbled South Africa, had something in it for the spinners and the long boundaries gave them the added advantage.
“Suresh has proved that he can be a proper bowler whenever he’s got a bit of assistance,” Dhoni said after the match. “It was very good for the team. He also got a game, and a proper spell of 10 overs. It was not experimenting. It was more about using the resources we have.”
Former skipper Sourav Ganguly felt the confidence gained by the winning streak has also helped lift the performance in every match. “It was about playing Australia in Australia day in and day out,” he said. “But now that they are playing other teams, their minds are also working better.”
There is a probability that India might face Australia in the semifinals in Sydney. New Zealand showed that Australia can be vulnerable once their batsmen are frustrated. Dhoni’s boys have done it against South Africa with the MCG crowd strongly behind them. The SCG will also have a strong India voice from the stands and fans expecting such a face-off have already made plans.
Things can be very different from what the hosts faced in the tri-series.