Before their match a few weeks ago, Bangladesh’s Sri Lankan coach Chandika Hathurusingha made a statement that was never connected to the Indian cricket squad. “THIS INDIAN team is scary,” It was applicable to Australia a decade ago and to the West Indies in the 1970s and early 1980s, but not to India, especially during a World Cup. Hathurusingha was correct, but, intimidation is undoubtedly present in the Indian air throughout this competition.
There’s no mistaking that swagger. They can generate buzz without relying on marketing staff. Simply announcing, “Come watch India bowl,” will draw a large crowd of spectators. In the Asia Cup final, they had outscored Sri Lanka for fifty runs; on Thursday, they conceded just five extra runs.
This came after the house was destroyed by Indian batsmen. Shreyas Iyer (82), Shubman Gill (92), and Virat Kohli (88) all appeared headed for hundreds, but missed. However, it made no difference as India won by 302 runs, which is the fourth-largest margin of victory in ODI history. With seven wins out of seven, the Indian team secured a semi-final spot ahead of their opponents. It was another Indian victory.
It’s possible that some of the more seasoned Indian cricket fans won’t be ready for this whole new cricketing experience. In the stands, there were puzzled looks on people’s faces as they tried to process everything. Too wonderful to be true, it seemed.
Before the semi-finals, nerves may jangle, but even then, the worry is probably more about the law of averages catching up than a cricketing disaster.
Shami, who made history as India’s most successful bowler in the World Cup on Thursday, has elevated the status of pacers in the country and has had kids all across the country acting like tailors, talking incessantly about the shiny thread that holds the ball together. It was worth replaying Shami’s fourth wicket, which brought an end to Angelo Mathews’ lone stand of resistance for Sri Lanka. Rumbling the stumps, it was a full-blooded curving inswinger that whooshed past like a tsunami.
The Wankhede audience in Mumbai, along with Sachin Tendulkar, really gobbled it up. They had started the morning off by chanting, “Sacheen, Sacheen,” as he approached to present the sparkling trophy to them. The night would rise with jubilant shouts and full-voiced gasps as Indian bowlers blew the neighbours away.
The cameras briefly saw Tendulkar seated next to current top selector Ajit Agarkar, a former teammate, during the thrilling conclusion. With his fingers whirling the ball down forcefully, Tendulkar was imitating a lively delivery, similar to what kids do when they bowl imaginary balls in their daily lives. And when they saw the images on the large screen, the audience oohed and aahed.
Though Tendulkar had previously shared a dressing room with a bowling unit similar to this one, he had previously played alongside Kapil Dev and Manoj Prabhakar, Javagal Srinath and Anil Kumble, Zaheer Khan, and Ashish Nehra.
Harbhajan Singh has also shared changing rooms with Nehra, Zaheer, and Srinath; at close quarters, he has witnessed some real pace. However, Mohammed Shami, Mohammed Siraj, and Jasprit Bumrah have completely outclassed him. “This Indian pace bowling unit is unlike any I have ever seen.” They were all bowling at 140 kph. They swing, seam, and move quickly. It’s an opulence. India now produces more pacers than Pakistan did, he remarked.
Indians won’t have to deal with such demeaning misconceptions; in fact, their abilities are already being discussed and will be for some time to come. Proof enough was provided by Bumrah’s initial delivery. As usual, the front arm reached much further than the arms of other bowlers and bent inward, forcing the ball in the direction of Sri Lankan opener Pathum Nissanka.
It makes sense that the trajectory and angle caused Nissanka to brace himself for an approaching delivery. However, he failed to notice Bumrah’s devious finger play. Nissanka was left in an awkward tangle when it darted off. Squared up, opened up, the ball caught him in front and he was a quiet witness.
Siraj delivered a rip-roaring initial delivery. It was evident that the left-handed Dimuth Karunaratne was unprepared for the sorcery at first. The ball pinged his pads, freezing him like a frozen duck due to the whole length and late inward movement.
Siraj succinctly described the skill of his fast-bowling colleague: “Shami bhai ki baat mat karo…” How amazing is that? Unko neend se uthao toh bhi dalenge line or length… Talking about Shami bhai is not appropriate. Hum beat kar rahe hain aur woh aake punja nikal diye. He’s legendary. Even if you wake him from his slumber, he will continue to bowl with the ideal length and line. He took five wickets while we were still comfortably ahead of the batters).
Their performance was succinctly summarised by captain Rohit Sharma: “Back-to-back performances show what the seamers are capable of; they move the ball both ways.” They are extremely deadly when there is something from the pitch.
Capture the talent of the bowling team, add a dash of audacity to the batting, and market it as the Great Indian Swag—the largest box office success in the nation.