Coming into the 2015 Cricket World Cup, there were certain favourites. Favourites that were mercilessly beating other teams that got in their way, and thus earning these enviable tags.
India was not such a team, defending champions sure, but in the two months they had been in Australia prior to the tournament, they had barely won a game of Sudoku, let alone a cricket match. In fact, they were losing in the nets too…
That all changed at the start of the tournament though, as a team with a great amount of balance and poise absolutely dismantled South Africa, and against the lesser teams have looked as solid as MS Dhoni’s bank balance.
So can we call them favourites all of a sudden? Sure, why not!
Looking at the other title contenders, especially after the New Zealand vs Australia match, you will see they are essentially rather flawed:
Who is really leading these blokes? Who is really going to pose a threat in the spin department? Is Mitchell Johnson really that dependable alongside Starc? Glenn Maxwell? When will Clarke break down?
What will they be like when they play at an actual cricket ground in Australia? Can the team keep up with Brendon McCullum? Can Brendan McCullum keep up with himself? What if Vettori loses his spectacles? What if there is no swing on offer?
When will Dale Steyn properly show up? Will they ever find a no.7 that can contribute? Is there a 5th bowler? Can Tahir continue to do it himself? Can they afford to keep De Kock or must AB take the gloves? Will AB be able to keep and score big pressure runs?
Can we draw anything into the thrashing of piss poor England? Does this aging unit have the stamina? Do they have a bowling attack that can really threaten a big team?
All valid questions really, and all more valid when you consider what India possess right now as a unit.
- Players for any situation
Sure, India also has their flaws, but it is a team of varied expertise that can click in all manner of situations. The systematic deconstruction of South Africa showed this, from solid batting up front, to strangling the run chase by taking pace off the ball, they were in control from start to finish.
- Quality BMT batting order
Virat Kohli is not as good as AB de Villiers, but he is a major stage player. The bigger the occasion, the bigger he becomes, and the same can be said for others in that top order. Perhaps this is something the IPL has instilled in them, perhaps it’s the Sachin legacy in play. Whatever the case, the top 5 are pretty seasoned with 598 ODI caps between them and 19,338 runs combined, and post that there is Dhoni and Jadeja, a legit top 7 with the bat, and Ashwin at no.8.
- MS Dhoni’s last dance
When you look at Australia, New Zealand and South Africa as contenders, it’s all a little too frenetic isn’t it? MS Dhoni is the antithesis of this, and it is exactly what you want from a captain in such a tournament. We all know India has the talent to win this, but do they have the composure? With Dhoni, they do.
Imran Tahir is showing how essential spin is if you have any intentions of beating teams with the ball. Sure, Aussie wickets are pace friendly most of the time, but you have to do a lot in 50 overs to get the better of a team. Quality spin builds pressure and takes wickets in this format of the game, it does so in T20 cricket too, and India are the masters of varying their attack. Jadeja, Ashwin with a touch of Raina if needed. Good luck chasing down 300 against them.
- Timed their run
They say you learn a lot from defeat, India learned a shit load then prior to this tournament. Australia, New Zealand and South Africa to a lesser extent have been flat out winning for a while now, and must be feeling a touch stretched. Staying at the top of your game is the toughest thing in sport, how long can anyone really keep that going?
- Underdog/defending champs
No matter what India do in this tournament, they are underdogs behind the host teams. Sounds like a cliché, but this means something in high pressure environments, but as much as they are underdogs, they are also defending champions. Again, a cliché, but an attribute that really means something here when it comes to the crunch.
Sure, there are some question marks around their seamers, as if they get it wrong there, it could go quite quickly wrong. But no cracks shown just yet, and even if they do, we have covered how terrifically versatile this team is in pressure situations.
Right, now that I have sufficiently jinxed them, let’s all prepare for an incredible World Cup triumph for South Africa!