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The India’s players celebrate with the trophy after winning the Asia Cup 2023 One-Day International final against Sri Lanka in Colombo on Sunday. Image Credit: AFP

Dubai: Success is all about winning key battles or key moments. Be it Twenty20, One-Day International or a Test, it’s very vital. In a Twenty20 game, two overs could change the course of a match, while a five to 10-over spell could reverse the result in ODIs. Tests can be won or lost with just one session going either way.

India’s success in the Asia Cup is down to the fact that Men in Blue were able to win key battles and that gives the fans the belief that the World Cup hosts will be able to repeat this feat in the showpiece at home, reprising their 2011 act.

The turnaround

An undercooked Indian team arrived in Sri Lanka after a lacklustre show in the West Indies, where they won the three-match ODI series 2-1 and lost the five-match Twenty20 series 3-2. The Caribbean Islanders have not even qualified for the ODI World Cup, but still India struggled against them, raising questions on the preparedness of Rohit Sharma’s team for the Asia Cup and then the World Cup.

All their doubts have been eased. The Indian team had been hampered by injuries to star players, but their return has given them the much-needed boost. The batting has strengthened thanks to the team management’s key decisions. They brought Shubman Gill back to the opening slot and pushed Ishan Kishan and K L Rahul down the order.

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From left: India's star performers Shubman Gill, Kuldeep Yadav and Mohammed Siraj have given the team the stability. Image Credit: AFP

India’s turnaround came in the abandoned opener against Pakistan, which brought back the belief that the team is capable of winning key battles. Down 66 for four, Kishan, who in his new role as a middle order batter, and Hardik Pandya stood up to a menacing Pakistan attack on a wicket, that had double pace and assisted the pacers, to give India a respectable score of 266 in 48.5 overs. That performance was the catalyst that the Indian team had been wanting for.

The return of Rahul, who missed the opener, also bolstered the batting with the top four playing in all three formats of the game, which means that they are technically sound batters. Led by Sharma, Gill, Virat Kohli and Rahul if one could stick on and play a long innings, then India could reach totals of 300 consistently. Three of the top six batsmen, Gill, Kohli and Rahul, have scored centuries in the Asia Cup while Rohit had a couple of half-centuries and Kishan and Pandya one each.

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India's Hardik Pandya and Ishan Kishan stiched together a big partnership against Pakistan. Image Credit: ANI

In the game against Bangladesh, Gill alone stood strong to bring India close to the target. The six-run loss might give Bangladesh fans the bragging rights ahead of the World Cup, but India were without five first-XI players. That shows the depth the country possess, which is due to the Indian Premier League (IPL), the world’s richest franchise league has given a rich pool of talents.

Dunith Wellalege, who led Sri Lanka in the Under-19 World Cup, is one of the main players for Sri Lanka, while none of the Indian players from the Under-19 World Cup-winning team is even playing regularly in the IPL. Such is the level of the league and the standard of the competition they face to gain a spot in the Indian team.

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Indian talisman Virat Kohli is in the right space after scoring a century against Pakistan in the Asia Cup. Image Credit: AFP

Even in the bowling department, India have a strong bench strength. Mohammed Shami, who was leading India’s attack until recently, has not been playing regularly during the Asia Cup campaign, which shows the bowling unit’s true potential. One could say that Shami was being protected from injuries ahead of the World Cup, still the Men in Blue boasted six fast bowlers in their 17-member team. Mohammed Siraj, who produced a dream six-wicket spell in the final against Sri Lanka on Sunday, Jasprit Bumrah and Kuldeep Yadav are set to lead India’s bowling attack and all are among the wickets.

Axar Patel's injury a concern

However, one area of concern is that India lack one more genuine all-rounder to compliment Pandya and Ravindra Jadeja. The untimely injury to Axar Patel has opened up the space for India to mull the option of bringing back Ravichandran Ashwin or Washington Sundar, who was rushed to Colombo for the final against Sri Lanka, where he didn’t get any chance to bat or bowl.

Sharma, after winning the Asia Cup for the eighth time, told reporters that veteran spinner Ashwin is very much in the running despite being left out from the provisional squad. He said Sundar’s selection was in no way further proof that Ashwin, who played the last of his 113 One-Day Internationals in January 2022, had slipped down the pecking order.

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Rahul's inclusion in the team was a subject of debate, but the stylish batter silenced his critics with a century in the first match on return to Indian team. Image Credit: AFP

“As a spinner all-rounder, Ashwin is in line. I have been talking to him on the phone,” said Rohit. “The injury happened to Axar at the last minute. Washington was available, so he had to come and perform the role for us.

“He (Washington) was cricket-fit because he was part of the Asian Games camp.

“I have been very clear with players about their roles. Everyone is in the loop.”

Three-match ODI against Australia

Teams can make changes to their squads until September 28.

India will be able to do a final check on their World Cup preparedness during the three-match ODI series against Australia, with the first match beginning in Mohali on Friday followed by Rajkot and Visakhapatnam on September 24 and 27 respectively. The Aussies are smarting from a series loss against South Africa and will be eager to make amends ahead of the showpiece, where they face India in their opening clash on October 8 in Chennai.

But for now, the Indian fans’ hopes have gone sky-high and with such huge experience behind their back the Men in Blue is unlikely to let their grip slip in the run-up to the World Cup.