India’s triumph over Pakistan here at Old Trafford on Sunday blended the big moments with the small successes. Well-oiled teams get this symmetry right, the players are alive to the situation and every move advances the squad’s fortunes. “I cannot single-handedly chase a 300 plus score. Others chip in, partnerships happen and inside the dressing room, we recognise those contributions,” Virat Kohli recently said.
The Indian captain was pointing out how a winning performance is linked to multiple building blocks. Strong units have efficiency at their core and feature cricketers, who can chip in the crucial 30, prise out wickets and may be effect a run-out.
MATCH REPORT| India makes it 7-0 against Pakistan with clinical win
The West Indies in its pomp had Gus Logie and Larry Gomes in the ranks. They may have lived in the shadow of Clive Lloyd, Vivian Richards, Gordon Greenidge and Desmond Haynes but there is no denying the duo’s intrinsic merits.
Rohit Sharma’s splendid 140 was the cornerstone of India’s batting and his knock gained cumulative strength thanks to the supporting cast – K.L. Rahul (57) and Kohli (77). Towards the end, Hardik Pandya and Vijay Shankar too chipped in.
Horses for courses
Cut to the bowling, a damp landing area affects Bhuvneshwar Kumar’s final delivery stride, he bowls, twitches, gingerly feels his left leg and then returns to the dressing room. It is a blow to India but a nonchalant Shankar’s first ball is on the money. Straight, homing into Imam-ul-Haq’s pads and India gets its first break.
Kohli and company are thrilled and the Tamil Nadu all-rounder gets his hair ruffled. “I was so blank, because I wasn’t expecting it (to bowl) at that time. It was swinging a bit so I just thought I should hit the right areas. Getting a wicket off your first ball is always special,” Shankar recalled his special moment.
Kuldeep Yadav, who bagged two wickets subsequently, also praised Shankar: “He bowled really well and in these conditions, you need fast bowlers. When Bhuvi bhai got injured, we had five bowlers and we knew that if we kept picking up wickets, the pressure of losing Bhuvi would become less.”
Rahul, pitch-forked into the opener’s slot after a thumb injury laid low Shikhar Dhawan, grabbed the opportunity and looked the part. “Rohit and Shikhar have been number one and two and they have owned these positions. I had to wait for my chance and I am just happy that I got to bat in the top three. Mohammad Amir is a quality bowler and we had to focus from ball one. We got used to the wicket, gave the bowlers and the ball the respect that it demanded and we carried on,” Rahul said. “I give myself six out of 10 and hopefully I can get better,” he added.
Both Rahul and Shankar were not certainties for the World Cup but through their sheer weight of performances over the previous six months, they broke open the door. “Making a World Cup debut against Pakistan is something great for me. World Cups come once in four years, the whole world will be watching. I have always given importance to the right preparation. I work really hard and keep myself fit. I should keep improving my cricket,” Shankar said.
Kohli’s men have opted to rest for two days before gearing up for their Saturday’s joust against Afghanistan at Southampton’s Hampshire Bowl. And it helps to know that so far they have only lost to nature once – the rains at Nottingham’s Trent Bridge!