By beating New Zealand in all three ODIs, Team India snatched the top ranking from the Kiwis. (Photo: AP)
There is something distinctly menacing to the top form that Team India has picked up during the cricket season which is suggestive of the cloak of invincibility having been regained in home conditions. The return to winning form in a sort of way that brooks no challenge, save for being stretched occasionally by the runs the Opposition could also garner in what are batting-friendly conditions, augurs well in a year in which the ODI World Cup is to be played in India.
By beating New Zealand in all three ODIs, Team India snatched the top ranking from the Kiwis. Earlier, the Sri Lankans, doughty challengers in Asian conditions, were out to the sword. While not reading too much into home results that have inevitably been in favour of Team India, what was impressive was the magnitude and manner of some of the wins, clear cut as the hosts outperformed all comers in every department of the game.
Skipper Rohit Sharma not only scored his first ODI century in three years but also showed an inclination to step up the aggression from the start, something Team India had not done well enough in the Powerplays in the T-20 World Cup. His latest ODI opening partner, Shubman Gill, demonstrated that there is a place for elegance that is so very easy on the eye even in the helter-skelter world of limited-overs cricket.
The assertion by Virat Kohli that his hunger for centuries remains means the top order has regained its prowess. But, of greater cricketing significance, is the fact that India’s bowlers looked more formidable as an attacking force with the new balls leading to the team taking an early grip on games. The return of Kuldeep Yadav as a frontline spinner with the variations that can make a difference in the shorter formats and the progress Siraj has made also bode well, so too Shardul Thakur's claim to chipping in with bat and ball.
The team, on the premise that it can sustain current form into the World Cup, should start as one of the favourites. Of course, the question of whether they can break the jinx of knockout formats in which they have been found wanting in ICC events for a decade now remains. That is a big "ask", as the cricketing term goes, but we will know soon enough if Team India can get going when the going gets tough.