India posted a massive win over West Indies to inch closer to the semi-finals on Thursday. The 125-run win reflects Team India's temperament and attitude at cricket's biggest stage.
While the other favourites England have gone slightly off track, succumbing to pressure, Virat Kohli's side has shown exactly what it takes to win under crunch situations. Not that they were any under pressure while defending a target of 269, but there were some hiccups when 'Men in Blue' batted. Before this match, India showed nerves of steel with both bat and ball and crossed the winning mark against the spirited Afghans at Southampton.
While there were many positives for India from Thursday's win, the one threat that still looms large over head of team management is that of the middle-order's no show. Both the No 4 and 5 batsmen have failed to impress in the last two games now. Vijay Shankar got starts on both occasions, but ultimately failed to convert them into substantial scores. Kedar Jadhav displayed grit against Afghanistan at No 6, but lacked the bite on Thursday with the bat when he came ahead of Dhoni at No 5.
It is almost certain after Dhoni's innings at the Old Trafford that he is a slow-starter and needs a steady presence at the other end. Pandya managed to do exactly that, scoring at a better strike-rate and giving Dhoni the chance to settle down. Once he had the idea of what the par score would be on the track, Dhoni played accordingly.
What is not to be forgotten despite the wins in last two matches is that the opposition was slightly weaker and from hereon, the competition will only get stiffer. India cannot afford to go from 126/2 to 140/4 against better opponents in the future. Also, in the last two matches, the bowling has been of top quality. Imagine a day when the top-order crumbles and the bowlers also have a bad day in office, the middle-order's failures can pain Indian hearts. Kohli and Co need to find ways of coming out of these crunch moments against better bowling sides ahead in the tournament.
"Things hadn't gone our way with the bat in the last few games but we have found a way to win," said Kohli at the post-match presentation. The first part of his quote highlights his realisation of their shortcoming and that it needs sorting. With Rishabh Pant and Jadeja warming benches, his mind may begin to revolve around them as India heads to Birmingham to play England, where it may spin a lot, as witnessed in the Pakistan-New Zealand match a day before.
Jadeja could be a key bowler there and it could be just the right match for India to test the all-rounder's ability, less with the ball and more with the bat. Dhoni can bat at 4, Kedar at 5, Jadeja at 6, followed by Pandya. Even if the experiments fails, India have two matches to recover and gain two points to qualify for semis, against Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. For now, they need to add strength in the middle order, one way or the other.
But despite the few negatives, India must be happy to see their lower batting order performing with wicket-keeper-batsman Dhoni and Pandya putting on 70 runs for the sixth wicket to punish the otherwise-disciplined bowlers.
Pandya hit 46 off 38 balls while Dhoni remained unbeaten on 56, ending the innings with a big six. This was followed by a great bowling performance from Indian bowlers. Led by paceman Mohammed Shami, the Indian attack dismissed West Indies for 143 in 34.2 overs to end their hopes of progressing to the knockouts.
India have ticked almost all boxes in the tournament and if the No 4 and 5 start hitting runs, they may find the journey to the third title win even more easy.