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That winning feeling for India | Cricket

How do you improve a masterpiece? Virat Kohli channeling all his intentions and skills into an authoritative innings for the ages seemed like a Sunday. But that’s also an individualistic perspective on the game that tends to neglect the contribution of the other players, to the extent of forgetting. The whole point is to be a better version of yourself than the previous game. In that respect, India still has a few chinks to iron, more in batting than in bowling. Playing cross-batted shots in seam conditions is a worrying sign. Equally disheartening is the inability to work out a singles chase when there is no need for big hits.

Can India be better than against Pakistan in the MCG on Sunday night? It was not a comprehensive performance by any stretch of the imagination, and probably raised more questions than answers. Why is KL Rahul so nervous in the first few balls? Was it necessary to send Axar Patel out for Hardik Pandya? The batting order has no sense of chronology and the randomness is often reflected in the shots and the firings. There is also an acute need for game awareness from some batters. It’s a difficult balance to achieve because you don’t want to be too conservative or liberal. But it has to happen anyway.

However, the greatest relief and satisfaction is that India has started with a victory. It’s a points game. Winning all matches and top of the table should be the priority. India needed to get off the ground and they did, only more dramatically than anyone could have imagined. A win against Pakistan is always uplifting. But then there are wins like this where they seemed to be going nowhere until it all came together in the last over, of the last ball. From here, the road to the semi-finals looks relatively smooth. The Netherlands (against which India is up against), South Africa, Bangladesh and Zimbabwe are all teams India has beaten, often expanded. But India cannot afford to take their foot off the pedal.

India’s captain, Rohit Sharma, knows what it feels like to hold out to the last. In the 2021 T20 World Cup, India put it on in their last three group stage matches against Afghanistan, Scotland and Namibia, but were unable to make up for lost ground in defeats to Pakistan and New Zealand. “If you lose the first game like the table is set, I don’t think you can lose too many games. You don’t get that pillow here,” Sharma said at the post-match press conference. “All games are important. And for us it was important to win the first game.”

A winning start always sets the tone for a campaign. England is a great example of a team that fed on the energy of wrecking South Africa in their 2019 World Cup opener, beating them completely in all aspects of the game. Last year, Pakistan also had a hot streak after beating India in the opener, until they found their match against Australia in the semi-finals. And since getting to the last four is the first goal, India must make good use of this momentum. “You definitely get a lot of confidence because they’re both good teams,” said Sharma. “And since it’s the first game, you get a little relief. Then you can play your own game. If you look at the last World Cup, Pakistan beat us. They lost in the semi-finals, but they looked good. You could tell the boys were confident.”

With the rain already forcing the South Africa-Zimbabwe match in Hobart to be canceled, the World Cup group stage could be approaching if the elements continue to intervene. From that context, India needs as many wins as possible. The complicated question is whether and how India can get better purely because they are trying to play a new style of cricket, something that has prompted some cricketers to undergo a complete makeover. However, nothing works better than winning. And Sharma believes Sunday’s win reinforces the belief that this team can win in any situation.

“Today, after this win, I think our confidence will get a huge boost from the kind of situation we saved,” he said. “We know that we can win in any situation. It was important that we won these kinds of games because if you do that in a World Cup, all 11 guys gain confidence. If you take the circumstances into account, you count these victories .”


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