“Uh, where am I? I have come on to the road, got to go to the nets,” R Ashwin turns back confused. After being assured that he is on the right path, and the nets area does have access from the public road, he returns. Coming from India, or even from Australia with its huge stadiums and regimentation in general, New Zealand leg of India’s campaign should be a touch amusing, and probably even offer some release. (Full Coverage| Venues | Fixtures)
Barring Eden Park stadium in Auckland, every other venue here takes one back to simpler times of playing cricket in open parks. A few people saunter in to watch games — Hamilton, the venue of India and Ireland game, has a capacity of 6,000, and there is a general relaxed air about the grounds here.
The Indians too have arrived at the small town of Hamilton more relaxed than they have ever been since they left India in early December. Who would have thought, especially after the hounding Down Under in Tests and in the tri-series, that they can somehow find their way into this state of mind. Unlike, Pakistan, India aren’t a team who recover well mid-tour. They either dance or sink. They have been waltzing in this World Cup so far, and one wonders whether deep inside they too are surprised.
The admission isn’t going to come from their director Ravi Shastri, though. Does the man ever admit self-doubt and stray away from the bombastic? Perfect man to head a sports team, probably. There he was walking here and there at Seddon Park in Hamilton, chatting to the press, often laughing, and generally in a buoyant mood. So were the rest of the team.
A GOOD RUN
Virat Kohli, who bats as well as he mouths off expletives, was sprinting with Shikhar Dhawan, and accusing him of starting a touch earlier after coming a close second. All in all, they looked a cheerful squad who are enjoying their good run.
Perhaps, the other teams too have been caught a touch surprised by India’s turnaround. India’s pace attack that couldn’t land two deliveries on the same spot for three months is now zipping it this way and that.
Mohit Sharma, who wasn’t part of the disaster, has been their most in-control bowler, rarely straying and even taking wickets with his bouncers. He smiles when asked about it and was endearingly honest about the effects of that delivery. “Aisa nahi hai ki it always works. I have been hit for fours and sixes also off my bouncers, but that’s how it goes. Nobody expects my bouncer to come so fast (but it does) because it skids as well. That’s a plus for me because my bouncer skids a lot, which catches the batsmen off guard and as a result there will either be a top edge or they will get beaten.”
As his coach Ashwini Kumar said, “He has a small frame but his strong shoulders ensure he can do what tall bowlers manage naturally. And batsmen don’t realise it. By the time teams realise it, the World Cup will be over.”
Unlike few of his team-mates, Mohit also spoke about the areas of concern for this Indian line-up. “We haven’t had to bowl in the slog overs and so we haven’t been tested on that front.”
As captain, MS Dhoni likes to keep things simple: control is what he does best, but he has been let down by his bowlers in Australia before the World Cup. Mohit Sharma has been such a breath of fresh air in that regard. He doesn’t do anything extravagant: just runs in and hits the deck on a length around the off stump. Again and again. His role is all about maintaining pressure after Mohammed Shami and Umesh Yadav set up the batsmen with the new ball.
“They have been bowling really well and have been able to exert a lot of pressure up front. My job is to maintain that pressure, so that Ashwin and Jadeja are benefitted from it later. So it helps me a lot that the batsmen are under pressure and my job then will be to bowl to my strengths; that I have been doing for the last 10 years. I just have to maintain my line and length and bowl according to the wicket.”
Ireland are a professional team, who take great pride in their performances and out to prove a point to the world that they belong at this level. It’s unlikely that India will take Ireland too lightly but if they do, they might be in for some surprise.
What Ireland need to do to advance
Ireland have six points from four games, the same as South Africa and Pakistan, but have a game in hand. In order to progress to the quarterfinals — which means finish in the top-4 in Group B — they have to get at least one point from their game against India or the one against Pakistan. Which means they have to win at least one of the two games or at least one of them have to end in a tie if not abandoned because of poor weather or any other reason.