Ben McDermott smashed a huge six against India in the final match of the T20 series. He scored a half-century but it wasn't enough…
Remember back to the 2003 World Cup when opponents facing Australia had to see off Glenn McGrath and Jason Gillespie in the opening spell and if they were still standing, they then had to face the thunderbolts of Brett Lee and the accuracy of Andy Bichel… and if that wasn’t enough they had to endure the left arm leggies of Brad Hogg and deceptive part-timers of Andrew Symonds!
Well, India’s bowling attack may not be quite as good – but it stacks up in intimidation. As does the batting lineup. When it came to the Aussies’ 2003 team, Matthew Hayden and Adam Gilchrist were a lot to deal with at the top, with Ricky Ponting in at No.3. If the top order didn’t click, you had the middle-order geniuses of Damien Martyn, Darren Lehmann, Michael Bevan and the power hitting of Symonds.
That was a team that gave the opponents nightmares but, at present, there is a similar team that’s giving nightmares to their WC opponents: India.
The World Cup isn’t over yet and India haven’t won anything yet, but the intimidation and intent of this team is very reminiscent of the 2003 Aussie team. You have the top order of Rohit Sharma, Shubman Gill and Virat Kohli, a fearsome top order with each batsman able to bat the whole 50 overs.
The middle order of Shreyas Iyer, KL Rahul and Hardik Pandya are pretty settled and play the spin and conditions very well. At No.7, you have Ravindra Jadeja – the rockstar as dubbed by the late great Shane Warne. The bowling contingent of Mohammed Shami, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Siraj and Kuldeep Yadav is the best attack going in the tournament. A fearsome team, isn’t it?
India have won seven out of seven matches comprehensively without any sweat. Aside from the first five overs of the second innings against Australia where they lost three wickets for very little and a brief period while chasing against New Zealand, India haven’t been tested. The 2003 Aussies breezed through their competition in a similar fashion 20 years ago.
What really makes this Indian team so dangerous at the moment is the fact that they have 11 match winners on the field with five different players having won the player of the match awards already. The team looks to be gelling, there is a genuine respect and happiness for each other and that results in a team spirit that could inspire them to WC greatness.
One thing we all witnessed with Australia in 2003 was the hunger to win the World Cup and the spirit of “whatever it takes” to win it. That’s the thing I notice in this Indian team, especially in their senior players. Not to forget, India have at least four-to-five players in their late 30s with this potentially being their last World Cup. The young players are hungrier as well to win for them. There is a nice mix up of experienced and young players. This eagerness and fighting spirit the Indian team possesses is unparalleled to any other team.
Not everything can be perfect. The Indian team has some weaknesses with the biggest being the batting depth. They tried to bolster that balance by putting in Shardul Thakur but that came at the expense of bowling. The top order does struggle with left-arm pace and if the opponents get two or even three of their top-order batsmen, they are prone to a collapse. The ultimate weakness: India still depends too much on Sharma and Kohli.
For now, having not had to face the red-hot Proteas yet, India have ticked all the boxes and are looking pretty strong for their third World Cup and their first ICC tournament win from 2013.
With the crowd support they have and the home conditions, it could be considered an upset if any other team wins instead of India.