Crushing, stomping and steamrolling: Ruthless India send ominous World Cup warning with another dominant thumping
With one dominant victory after another, India are hitting the strides. Oppositions, watch out
The truly great players and teams are truly ruthless. They send out statements of intent and purpose, they tell those that care to listen – and even those that do not – that they are a steamrolling force, a force of nature. They don’t do it through words, of course, instead letting their actions speak for themselves.
India haven’t installed themselves as favourites for this World Cup. But the fact that they are the No. 1-ranked ODI team in the world and that they are playing in their own backyard have, among other reasons, catapulted them to that status. It hasn’t hurt that they are coming off their first trophy triumph in five years, courtesy their pummeling of Sri Lanka in the Asia Cup final in Colombo last month.
On that occasion, with Mohammed Siraj running riot, India had shot Sri Lanka out for 50 in front of a shell-shocked, understandably pro-Sri Lankan crowd at the R Premadasa Stadium. On Wednesday night, at a rambunctious Arun Jaitley Stadium in the national capital, India threw down the World Cup gauntlet with a command all-round display, masterminded by two of their most accomplished stars.
It might be tempting to dismiss their eight-wicket rout of Afghanistan as only against Afghanistan, but that would be doing both sides a great disservice. Afghanistan are not cricketing powerhouses like England or India or Australia, but in a very short span of time, they have come to be recognised as genuine party-poopers with a fabulous spin attack and a batting line-up that is only gradually beginning to accept that runs can be made without looking for boundaries every ball.
Afghanistan chose to bat first, hoping to put runs on the board and use their assortment of spinners to pressurise India. If their plans didn't materialise in either discipline, put that down to the class of Jasprit Bumrah and the incandescence of Rohit Sharma.
On a wonderful batting deck where 350 was perhaps par, according to Afghan coach Jonathan Trott, Bumrah turned in an exceptional spell of fast bowling. With the new ball, then in the middle stages and finally at the death, he brought all his experience and craft into play, daring the batters to take chances. Against a Bumrah firing on all cylinders, that's not a wise option. His four for 39 would have been the talking point on another evening, such was the control he showcased and the pressure he put the batters under. But this wasn’t just another evening, was it?
Bumrah's excellence and the combined might of the Indian bowling with the exception of Siraj, who had a rare off-day, meant Afghanistan could manage only 272 for eight, respectable but not nearly enough for them to make a match of it. The general belief at the break was that India would win at a canter, perhaps with seven or eight overs to spare.
How wrong that turned out to be! India were home and dry in 35 overs, sparing a whopping 90 deliveries when Virat Kohli brought up the winning runs. But Kohli was merely feasting on the remains left behind by Rohit, who put the blazing lights at the venue in the shade with a jaw-dropping exhibition of power and timing.
There was no touch of arrogance about him, but Rohit dismantled Afghanistan’s best with a disdain that sits lightly on him. When in full flight, Rohit is a sight for the gods, cricketing and otherwise; his dismissiveness of the Afghanistan bowling showcased the character of a champion performer who has immense belief in his own ability and who, as captain, needed to make the running that he will expect of his colleagues in time to come, as the tournament goes deeper.
Every stroke that flowed from his willow thrust daggers deep into Afghan hearts. They knew they were on a hiding to nothing, and that there was nothing they could do to prevent it. They weren’t short on effort, but all of that came to a naught under Rohit’s sustained, ferocious assault. Good deliveries were dispatched with a twirl of the wrists or an extension of his arms, which his scimitar of a willow resembled. The not-so-good ones were dealt with even more unforgivingly, spectators running for cover as the ball sailed deep into the stands.
Sixty-three balls for his hundred, the fastest by an Indian in World Cup history. India aren’t here to mess around, Rohit seemed to say, his deeds teleporting the message effortlessly. Message received loud and clear, skipper.
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