If Pakistan is the most exciting team in ICC Champions Trophy due to their unpredictable batting, then India has to be the most boring. There is a sense of repetition about India’s batting performances in the tournament. Like a Bollywood “formula” movie, they know what works and they aren’t going to experiment much with it.
The Indian team has picked the safest script and repeat it every time they go out, they create a storyboard and alter it slightly depending on the conditions, they assign everyone a role that is well suited to their skills, and finally, they rehearse it to perfection. They may bomb at the box office on some occasions but that can happen to Salman Khan movies too.
Against Bangladesh, Indian batsmen were chasing 265, a target that can be deemed below par but still substantial, especially in a semi-final. The old adage for knockout games in ODI cricket always was to bat first and put the opposition under pressure with runs on the board. This Indian team has been busting that myth for a while now, first under iceman MS Dhoni and now under chase king Virat Kohli.
If you were to pick the top three for a World XI based on this tournament, then you may not think twice before selecting Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, and Kohli. In the end, the top three batsmen were all India needed to take them home in the semi-final.
Rohit and Dhawan started in their usual fashion. They aren't looking to take India off to a flier but they aren’t going to let anything loose go by either. Dhawan thrives on any width. He is proficient at finding gaps through the off side but he won’t mind going over the top of the infield as well.
Rohit has been a model of consistency since his comeback to the national team. He was already one of the most important members of the team but he has the potential to be among the top five batsmen in the world if he improves his consistency. Probably, time away from the game has given him the chance to refocus on achieving greater heights.
Rohit has the ability to time the ball through gaps and collect boundaries off good balls. Bangladesh, though, constantly erred in line and length and gave both Dhawan and Rohit easy opportunities, which the batsmen were happy to collect with all the grace in the world.
Unlike some other ODI teams like England, Indian batsmen don’t try to be over-aggressive early on in a limited-overs game; and unlike the English team, this makes them a force against all oppositions under all conditions.
Indian top-order batsmen aren’t just happy with a quickfire 40, they want to settle in and pile on a hundred and guide the team to victory. This approach, at times, sets them back in T20 games but is well suited for ODIs. If one of your top three goes on to score a hundred, then the team will always post a score in excess of 300. If a batsman is set at the crease, then he doesn't leave it to his teammates to do their bit, he stays there and finishes the job. This has been India’s guiding principle.
Rohit was joined by his captain after Dhawan probably got bored of the proceedings and gave Mashrafe Mortaza the charge only to be deceived by his off-cutter. Kohli looked in no mood to let go an opportunity to get a big score in great batting conditions against a bowling line-up that is already on the mat.
India’s other guiding principle is to build partnerships early on and not to lose two wickets in succession. Kohli took his time to settle in and ran singles before showing off his collection of exquisite drives to add to the exhibition that was already on at the other end with Rohit’s brilliant stroke play. It appeared as if the Indian batsmen were trying to outdo each other in being stylish in the middle. Perhaps this was some kind of a competition and the dressing room was keeping score.
After Rohit crossed his hundred and Kohli got his fifty, the run chase was reduced to a formality and a show of might. The Indian batsmen were hitting Bangladesh bowlers but were looking to send a message to Pakistan bowlers. The final looks like the real battle royale now with Pakistan bowling and Indian batting both peaking at the right time. Sunday couldn’t come sooner.