Cricket World Cup 2023 | The Men in Blue’s current run is another pointer to home comforts

Stalwarts: Rohit and Virat have offered a united front and the team has leapfrogged from this positive springboard.

Stalwarts: Rohit and Virat have offered a united front and the team has leapfrogged from this positive springboard.
| Photo Credit: K.R. DEEPAK

World Cups were presumed to be the graveyard of hosts. The hype and fan indulgence, bordering on extreme passions, tended to deflate even the most hardened teams. Right from 1975 to 2007, cricket’s premier championship always honoured the tourist while the home unit tended to its wounds. A partial exception was Sri Lanka, a co-host for the 1996 edition, but it won the title at Lahore!

But this trope changed when M.S. Dhoni, molten lava in his eyes and steel in his limbs, hoisted a winning six. That 2011 April night at Mumbai’s Wankhede Stadium proved that a host can win the cup that matters in the willow game. Subsequently, Australia in 2015 and England in 2019 have all shown that it is easy to excel in your own backyard.

The Men in Blue’s current run in the latest World Cup is another pointer to home comforts, form streaks and the energy imbibed from packed stands. India’s 100-run victory over England at Lucknow’s Ekana Stadium on Sunday extended its winning run to six consecutive games, while other league battles in Mumbai, Kolkata and Bengaluru await.

Six triumphs may seem like a walk in the park but India has coped with diverse challenges while always finishing on top. Australia briefly tested the host in Chennai, New Zealand was a doughty opposition at Dharamshala and England on Sunday, with its bowling and fielding, never allowed the Indian batters to flower even while Rohit Sharma, with his intrinsic ease and style, seemed to saunter on a different planet.

The backdrop, however, was never easy. Three key stars — Jasprit Bumrah, K.L. Rahul and Hardik Pandya — gradually stepped into the squad over the last few months after battling injuries. There were fitness concerns about all three but it is remarkable to see the manner in which they integrated within the playing eleven even if Hardik is temporarily out with an ankle injury. Post-injury comebacks could be like walking on egg shells and it is evident in the way England’s Ben Stokes has performed so far.

On the performance front, four players have been remarkably consistent: Rohit, Virat Kohli, Bumrah and Ravindra Jadeja. Even if Kohli was out for a duck against the defending champion, the energy levels he bequeaths to the team is top of the charts. The other players had their moments like Kuldeep Yadav keeping it tight and luring England batters to their doom. Importantly, the team has always found the answers whenever pushed to a corner. That Shubman Gill was missed in the first two games and Hardik was absent in the last two games, have all been coped with.

The return of Mohammed Shami has added potency to an attack that has largely held firm against rival batters. Hardik’s balancing skills are obviously missed but both Shami and Suryakumar Yadav, the combined insurance cover for the allrounder, have yielded more than adequate results. Equally heartening is the bond that Rohit and Kohli exhibited through this campaign. Captaincy can drag in the claws of bristling egos, but the predecessor and his successor have offered a united front and the team has leapfrogged from this positive springboard.

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