Win over South Africa proves India among top World Cup contenders

  • Ian Chappell, Hindustan Times
  • Updated: Feb 23, 2015 17:15 IST

India is really on the move now; they played brilliant all-round cricket to annihilate South Africa and prove that the win over Pakistan wasn’t just an emotion charged performance.

Meeting Pakistan in the first round was just the right tonic for India and it’s as if MS Dhoni was just lying in wait for the beginning of the World Cup. Suddenly his captaincy is vibrant and the team has picked up on his mood.

It hasn’t hurt that Shikhar Dhawan has re-discovered his best form, as he played a blinder to set the foundation for an Indian victory. However, the biggest revelation has been the form of Mohit Sharma.

The lively seamer was an afterthought, being called in as a replacement for his namesake Ishant but his performance has been eye opening. Where the Indian pace bowlers were profligate and inconsistent during the Test and tri-series, his presence has added some consistency and fire to the pace attack. And to cap off a memorable night he produced a laser like throw from the outfield to catch A B de Villiers short of his ground and change the whole complexion of the contest.

Video:Fans ecstatic as India breaks World Cup jinx against South Africa

It was expected South Africa would easily out-field their opponents and when de Villiers produced two direct hit run outs it looked like that would be the case. However, India then concocted two run outs of their own just to let the opponents know they were not a team to take liberties against.

While the victory over Pakistan was convincing and much-needed, it was also expected; India’s supremacy over South Africa was unexpected. It over-turned a trend of losses against the Proteas in World Cup contests and more importantly, it re-established India as a team to be respected at the World Cup.

India has firmly placed its name in the top four as far as favourites are concerned, along with Australia, New Zealand and South Africa and it’s also given its title defence some teeth.

India’s batting was always likely to be its strength and this was confirmed when they set a daunting target in excess of three hundred thanks to Dhawan and the ebullient Ajinkya Rahane. Whereas Dhawan struggled in the Test series, Rahane confirmed his potential in that series and he’s continued to enhance his reputation with some scintillating ODI innings.

However, it’s the emergence of the bowling attack that must be the most pleasing to India. Suddenly the faster bowlers are providing early breakthroughs and they’re consistently asking questions of the batsmen and R Ashwin is following up with the ideal combination of flight and spin.

The rewards for this spirited victory over South Africa go way beyond a simple morale boost. It could also net them top spot in Group B and that would probably mean a quarterfinal against England, provided Eoin Morgan’s men make it that far.

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