Cricket World Cup 2011: India's Cup Chances Remain Strong
I guess with hundreds of millions of thirsty readers, increasingly excited by a progressing World Cup, the demand for analysis and dissection is massive.
So we have had, not surprisingly, overly dramatic conclusions of India's chances in the tournament, following its failure to fully defend 338 against England in Bangalore the other night.
First, it's been widely known that India has one of the weaker bowling lineups of the top teams. If it required this result to make you aware of this fact, then you've had your head buried in sand for some time now.
India's bowling lineup is much weaker than Australia's, Pakistan's, Sri Lanka's and South Africa's. It is probably slightly weaker than England's and slightly stronger than West Indies' and New Zealand's.
These are "on paper" facts. One needs to just look at statistics.
So, does this mean that India cannot win the World Cup with its current stock of bowlers? No, it does not.
The team has done exceedingly well with just this stock for a few years now, winning matches and tournaments all over the world, consistently ranking in the top two to three teams in one-day cricket.
Still, past performance is no guarantee of future returns. The World Cup is a pressure cauldron, especially for the most beloved team in the world. Billions expect it to win and other teams are gunning for it.
Let's look at the match for a second.
It was an improbable, but not impossible, chase. Many larger targets have been hunted down, even 434 against Australia. The pitch was as flat as a road, a batting beauty.
One batsman played an innings for the ages; another received a reprieve on a technicality. Otherwise, no other English batsman really did anything of note.
These aren't excuses, just facts. No doubt, 338 should still have been defended; there's no excuse for not doing so. But it's just one match.
The tournament has been redesigned to ensure that India (and Pakistan) make the quarters, and it still should.
In one sense, then, perhaps it's a blessing in disguise for India that it received this wake-up call now rather than in a more high-stakes situation. This may energise the bowling and fielding units. An extra five percent on both fronts may just be enough.
Indeed, if the intensity levels evident in the last eight overs were shown through 50 overs, India would likely have won with some comfort.
For now, let's all get some perspective.
What did this result do? It highlighted some serious holes in India's strategic approach and resources, but not anything we weren't aware of already.
What did it not do? It did not signal the death-knell for India's chances. Indeed, it remains one of the stronger contenders, though not the favourite.
(My personal view is that India's chances will be higher if it plays a 6-5 composition, but that's a topic for another post.)
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