The juggernaut continues to roll on at the ICC Men's Cricket World Cup 2023, as the Men in Blue extended their winning streak to 6 matches against beleaguered defending champions England in front of a packed stadium in Lucknow this past Sunday.
On a day when the Ekana Stadium bled blue thanks to the Bharat Army and 50,000-plus passionate fans, the Rohit Sharma-led unit did not exactly paint the town red, however indeed, they displayed how far ahead they were from the rest of the teams in this competition.
Elite teams are defined by their ability to soak up the pressure when they are backed against a wall, only to hit back with disdain once they have endured the tough period.
This is exactly what has been the defining theme of Team India's World Cup 2023 campaign so far. Yes, you can look at the win margin in the end, and say that it has been a total domination from a home team, which looks driven, focused, and united as ever.
And, indeed, it's not an entirely wrong opinion to be honest. The gulf between India and the opposition has been stark in a lot of instances, but, the standout feature has been the former's ability to find a way to bounce back when put under pressure.
And, this has been a theme in nearly every game that India has played so far. Early collapse while chasing? No issues, we have us covered with Virat Rahul and KL Rahul. Losing a bowler due to injury midway through the innings? The rest of the attack rallies around to limit the damage.
Arch-rival Pakistan moving all nicely going on a flat deck while bowling first? Steps up Jasprit Bumrah and Kuldeep Yadav to trigger a collapse. An off-day as a catching unit? Mohammed Shami goes bang bang to restrict the eventual target.
Need to counter the threat of Matt Henry and Trent Boult in the powerplay? The captain takes the onus upon himself to launch a stunning counterattack. Late middle-order collapse while chasing against New Zealand? In comes the Chase Monster to ice yet another run-chase.
But, this facet of India's display and the possible downside of it was truly laid bare on Sunday against England as the hosts were stretched to their limits, only to come out on top in the end.
Positives From India's stunning win over England
This time, India batted first and ground their way to 229-9 in 50 overs on what was a two-paced wicket.
Skipper Rohit Sharma continued with his imperious form as he addressed the early collapse with immense skill and remarkable maturity before a momentary lapse in concentration left him 13 short of a well-deserved 8th WC hundred.
Rohit has played plenty of eye-catching knocks in this World Cup, but this knock would have given him plenty of satisfaction given the match situation and conditions.
Perhaps the biggest positive out of India's lackluster batting display was the way Suryakumar Yadav adjusted himself to the conditions and carved out a valuable knock of 49 runs in just 47 deliveries, the only batsman from either side to score at a 100+ strike rate.
However, Surya would be gutted that he threw it away with 3 overs still left. Not only did he squander a golden opportunity to score his maiden WC half-century, but he also exposed India's long tail.
India was 208/8 in 46.2 overs at the time. But, again, the tenacity of this team shone through as Jasprit Bumrah (16) and Kuldeep Yadav (9) put a price on their wicket and added another 21 runs to the total.
It did not matter in the end, of course, as the bowling attack went on to unlock beast mode to unleash a cinematic display where it felt that they had the ball on a string, and the opposition batsmen were dancing to whatever tune they chose to play; a display so hostile and yet so breathtakingly beautiful that every moment felt like an event.
In the end, the total of 229 proved to be more than enough, signifying that the Indian team is a well-oiled machinery where every department is equally good to step up in case others fail.
Learnings from India's juggernaut galvanizer in Lucknow as Mumbai beckons
The eventual comprehensive victory against England, however, should not mask some of the loopholes that were exposed in Lucknow as the Men in Blue head to the iconic Wankhede Stadium to play the 2011 co-finalists Sri Lanka on November 02.
Two things were clearly visible in Lucknow
1) Shubman Gill, Shreyas Iyer and Mohammed Siraj need to step-up.
Both Gill and Shreyas have been guilty of squandering their starts, and with the tournament now approaching the business end, it is high time they get a big score under their belt.
There isn't any alarming issue with Gill as the nature of his dismissals is not repetitive. But, the same can't be said about Shreyas.
Iyer's issues against the short ball are well-documented, but his past two dismissals indicate that he is perhaps fighting a mental battle now.
Shreyas looked in very good touch against New Zealand before falling to the short delivery, but the same can't be said about his short stay against England as he tried to take on a short of a good length delivery for a non-existent pull shot that left him and the team in tatters.
With Surya playing really well, and Hardik Pandya set to return, time is running out for the talented middle-order batsman.
With regards to Mohammed Siraj, the right-arm seamer has chipped in with valuable wickets, but hasn't provided the necessary control as a premium pacer. With the unstoppable Shami making himself undroppable, Siraj may well have to sit out when Hardik returns unless the management decides to play with three specialist pacers.
2) Indian batsmen need to draw a line between positive stroke play and recklessness.
Another aspect that was on full display in Lucknow was that the Indian batsmen failed to draw a line between caution and aggression and threw their wicket away against the run of play.
While Gill got a good delivery from Chris Woakes, the likes of Virat, Shreyas and even KL, who was batting beautifully, played reckless shots.
Even Rohit and Surya threw their wicket away against the run of play to expose India's tail. While this did not prove costly in Lucknow thanks to the hostile bowling display, it could very easily come back to bite the home team in a knockout match.
Rohit acknowledged in the post-match presser that his team left a few runs out there, and one can expect him and other batsmen to address this issue moving forward.
Coming next is a tryst with 2011 WC co-finalists Sri Lanka at the Wankhede Stadium, where the batting-unit will look to compensate for the runs that they left on the field in Lucknow. Also, with India likely to play their semi-final in Mumbai, this game will give them a fair idea of what they could expect in two weeks time.
Featured Image Credit: BCCI