The front foot play gave it away.
It was not until the eighth over of the Indian innings, when Bangladesh captain Shakib Al Hasan sent down his left-arm spin, that the Indian batsmen were seen playing on the back foot in their Group 2 encounter on Wednesday at the Adelaide Oval. Till then, Rohit Sharma and KL Rahul, and then Rahul and Virat Kohli, had predominantly played on the front foot.
On the other hand, just a couple of days earlier in Perth, they were hopping and jumping against South Africa.
It showed how much of a difference the personality of the 22 yards in the middle of a cricket field, not to mention the raw speed of an attack, makes. Perth was a swipe right for bowlers, Adelaide for batsmen.
But it was still a pressure game against Bangladesh. Besides, the ball was moving and conditions were tricky. Kudos to India, therefore, for coming through. The rain helped, as it halted the momentum of a rampaging Litton Das, who had taken Bangladesh to 66 for none in seven overs.
It is not yet certain India will make the semis, but they are in position to get there. Currently, India tops Group 2 with six points from four games.
Among the positives of India’s performance on Wednesday was the intent of the Indian batsmen at the start of the innings. The runs took their time to come, but not because of any timidity from the Indian batsmen.
Rahul, who redeemed himself with a 50 and a brilliant direct run-out of Litton, picked one over leg for six in the second over.
Player of the Match Kohli (64 not out, 44 balls), whose 67-run partnership with Rahul was the foundation of the Indian innings, showed his intensity with his body language, gesticulating after almost every ball. Wednesday’s was not a sublime Kohli innings. There were a fair number of edges at the start, but he put the runs on the board and kept the energy of the innings up.
Suryakumar Yadav was shaping up well but his stay was cut short at 30. Still, it wouldn’t bother him much, as his form and confidence remain high.
Rahul was the obvious weak link all these days, but now he has found his touch and self-belief.
“It’s been a bit of a mixed time,” he admitted later. “I came into Australia with a few good knocks back home. Batted well in the warm-ups, but the first three games didn’t go my way. Was still confident, as a batter you know when you’re playing well. I was doing a lot of things right, I was seeing the ball well so wasn’t worried about missing out. You want to do well for the country, was excited about doing well and happy to have got a good inning under my belt.”
What is worrying, however, is that the Indian top-order is not firing collectively. One or two innings every game have carried India through in the World Cup so far. That has been the pattern.
The piercing gaze of scrutiny is now on Sharma. He has scored just 73 in four innings in Australia. Against Bangladesh, his dismissal was disappointing. Moments after being dropped at deep backward square-leg, he stepped away from the stumps and guided a straightforward catch to backward point, as if he was giving the opponents fielding practice.
Dinesh Karthik has yet to get going too. There is no doubting the difficulty of his task. As a finisher, he has to be switched on from the first ball that he faces. But he accepts the challenge of his role and often excels at it. In Australia, he has looked scrappy. He also seems out of luck. Against Bangladesh, he finally had some overs to play. But he got run-out after Kohli sent him back while trying to steal a single.
The bowlers have delivered for the most part, despite the absence of Jasprit Bumrah. Arshdeep Singh has been the pick with not just the most wickets for India so far (nine), but how difficult he can be to score off.
“It has to be the yorker,” Ravi Shastri said on air as Bangladesh looked for sixes in the last over. And Arshdeep landed them just right. His airplane celebration afterwards seemed apt, a metaphor for being in cruise control.
Spin is one department that can do with improvement, and one which Sunil Gavaskar attributed India’s loss to South Africa to. In that game, R Ashwin went for 43 from four overs.
India’s fielding was schoolboyish against South Africa, but they cleaned up their performance against Bangladesh. Rahul’s runout, and steely-nerved catches in the deep by Yadav and Deepak Hooda, swung the match in India’s favour.
Next up are Zimbabwe for India, and beyond them loom sterner tests.