India is on top of Group B; it is knocking a few cottages down but it is huffing and puffing to do it. They say at Wimbledon that a few tough early rounds are good for you and if that is the case it must augur well for India. But to go the distance it must get a decent new ball attack going (and that need not necessarily mean two fast bowlers as we now know!) and fielders in the deep must be convinced that a run can be saved when the ball is hit in their direction.
But it is not all darkness and gloom. Indeed, in spite of centuries from Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag earlier in the tournament, the biggest plus has been the form of Yuvraj Singh. As you enter the knockouts, you need match-winners to be in good touch and Yuvraj is coming along quite well now, rising to the second spot behind Sehwag in the Indian team on the Castrol Index.
To be honest, I am more enthused by his batting than his bowling because that is his stronger arm – as is reflected by the Castrol Index where his Batting Momentum (64) is higher than his Bowling Efficiency (46) - and more likely to win games. anything more than four or five overs with the ball is a bonus and while these tracks, where the ball stops a bit, are good for him, it would be folly to tick him off in the ten overs box.
I wonder if Mahendra Singh Dhoni is now tempted to put Yuvraj back to his favourite number four slot or whether there is a comfort factor with him walking out at number five. It is good to have options like those for when Yuvraj is batting well from number four, you can even think of using Suresh Raina at number six. it may be hard on Virat Kohli but may not be such a bad idea.
I'm glad India played Ashish Nehra against the Netherlands. He needs to play because he is a wicket taker when he is fit and in rhythm. But I hope he was disappointed that he was taken off after just one over. Dhoni said the wicket had nothing for him and he would be more useful in the middle overs with an older ball. but against the Dutch, you should want to come charging in every time. South Africa will be a test for him, indeed it will be for the entire Indian attack. Two points there will be wonderful for morale and will send a huge message to the rest of the teams.
There are four key matches now in the tournament: Pakistan vs Australia and Sri Lanka vs New Zealand in Group A and India vs South africa and England vs West Indies in Group B. These games will determine who finishes where in the group.
Harsha Bhogle, is writing in his role as a Castrol Index spokesperson.