Indian batting delights in Asia Cup
MS Dhoni has apparently been somewhat biased in evaluating the performance of his batsmen and bowlers. He has zealously defended his bowlers' generally listless show, putting it down to the unresponsive wicket they have had to deal with. The skipper, on the other hand, hasn't looked too willing in appreciating the exploits of his batsmen, who have been in terrific touch right through the tournament. Every time a batsman came up with a superb knock, the skipper promptly attributed it to the as-good-as-it-ever-gets batting conditions. And, in all fairness, he did the same with his own batting efforts as well.
Agreed, the wicket has been a batting paradise, and a few of the attacks have been pretty ordinary in the tournament. Yet, the Indian batting has been too good and dominating to be dismissed just because of these reasons. More than setting up huge totals and chasing them down, what demands a special notice is the ridiculous ease and comfort with which they amassed runs or shot down big scores.
The highlight of the Indian batting has been its consistency. Right from the first match against Hong Kong where the batsmen smashed 374, they have consistently put up 300-plus totals or have chased it down. The openers have given solid starts without fail, and the middle order has rarely faltered in making use of it. "I am really impressed with this young Indian batting line-up. They are very positive and aggressive, traits their skipper exemplifies so well," says former Pakistan cricketer Wasim Bari.
Flexibility has been another impressive feature of the Indian batting. Except for the openers, there wasn't a fixed slot for any other batsman. The next four slots were rotated really well between Raina, Yuvraj, Dhoni and Rohit Sharma as per the need of the situation and form of the individual, denying opposition a chance to come out with set strategy. "It's indeed a huge advantage to have this sort of flexibility in the team, for there are many bowlers who aren't as good with left-handers as they are against right-handers. So with batsmen able and willing to switch order, one can easily take advantage of that," said Dhoni. India benefited from this flexibility on Thursday when Dhoni walked in ahead of Yuvraj to deny Muralitharan a chance to bowl at two lefthanders in tandem. Earlier, Raina rushed up the order to take Sharma's place at number 3, where the former looked a bit out of sorts.
The openers have been simply superb. Not only have Sehwag and Gambhir put up good runs, they have done it briskly, allowing the middle order breathing space to get itself in and pace the innings without being too much bothered about the run rate. "Gambhir and Sehwag have been fantastic and given us amazing starts, making the job lot easier for the middle order. With such starts, even the biggest scores look within reach," said Dhoni. Gambhir has been in the form of his life after the T20 World Cup, but what augurs well for Indian cricket is the return of Sehwag's form. The dashing opener has finally sorted out his inconsistency in the shorter version, and there couldn't be better news for Indian cricket than an in-form Sehwag.
Suresh Raina has to be the find of the tournament for India. The left-hander, currently topping the run-getters' chart with two centuries and two half-centuries in five games, has been at his fluent best. The youngster has also shown the ability to handle pressure and give up flair for grind when required, as evident in the last match against Sri Lanka when he struck a patient but significant half century. "He is really talented, oozing with confidence, is playing a lot straighter and should go a long way from here," said Dhoni.
All said and done, the Indian batting has been fantastic, especially when it didn't have the big three in the line-up. So has the Indian batting learnt to live without the idols they have grown up watching?