Indian team members celebrate their team's win over Sri Lanka by 41 runs in the Asia Cup cricket match between Sri Lanka and India in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Tuesday, Sept. 12, 2023. AP/PTI
Sailing clear with two contrasting wins that were as different as chalk and cheese, Team India not only booked a place in the Asia Cup cricket final but also injected itself with a huge dose of confidence ahead of the coming ODI World Cup.
If the batters made merry in the TDI (Two-Day International) against Pakistan in matching India’s highest ever total against Pakistan, the bowlers were made to battle for victory the next day against a gallant Sri Lankan team for whom Dunith Wellalage had a dream match as a young all-rounder with a five-wicket haul and a defiant unbeaten knock that posed a huge threat to India’s modest total.
Team India, which had lost just two wickets to Pakistan’s pace bowlers, strangely allowed Sri Lankan spinners to dominate them while losing all 10 wickets. It is fair to say that the batting and bowling line-ups were tested in the two games and Team India can declare themselves satisfied, regardless of what the final on Sunday may lay in store.
Significantly, a total change of attitude shaped India’s approach against Pakistan. The team had to thank Shubman Gill for going after the Pakistan quicks, who have troubled India in the last couple of years, with positive strokes to show the way before K.L. Rahul repaid the faith that the team had placed in supporting him through a long rough patch during which he appeared to toil under the illusion that the weight of the world was upon him.
In stringing a splendid comeback century in association with Virat Kohli, who batted as if it was just another day at the office in making his hundred and passing 13,000 ODI runs in the process, Rahul showed why he is so rated by his team, coach and selectors who kept picking him irrespective of his form or fitness. His return to form is a good augury, especially as he seems to be enjoying himself in the middle now.
The bowlers in the spotlight as Team India stretched to gain form ahead of the World Cup were Jasprit Bumrah, who looked in a different league when bowling with the new white ball and Kuldeep Yadav, who was befuddling batters by turning the ball both ways. And he is doing so from a straight runup in a remodelled action. He shone in both matches to make the wins possible. The in-form batters and bowlers may be harbingers of a good tilt at the World Cup title.