Virat Kohli, Shikhar Dhawan, Ajinkya Rahane, Suresh Raina—they have all stepped up admirably with the willow in the first two matches of this ICC Cricket World Cup 2015. While those performances are worthy of plenty of praise, it is something we have come to expect from this India side, after all their strength is their batting.
Therefore, what has been heartwarming to see in the first two matches of the World Cup has been the performance of the bowlers – India's supposed as-weak-as-they-come link.
Against Pakistan, the bowlers – pace and spin – were excellent, not giving too much away, and picking up wickets at regular intervals. The question, though, was always going to be" "Can India sustain that bowling performance against the mightier South Africa?"
Matches in the last 18 months or so have suggested consistency is not exactly the India bowlers' forte, so the signs were not the most positive, especially after India struggled again in the final overs, eventually finishing on 307, when they should have had at least 10-15 runs more.
The South Africa batsmen would have also gone in thinking "OK, big score, let's make sure we start on an aggressive note, put the bad balls away, because we know there will be plenty of them early on."
However, they were in for a surprise, as India bowled a heck of an opening ten overs. Mohammad Shami was at his outswinging, keeping the ball in the offside channel best, while Umesh Yadav, wayward in the first Powerplay against Pakistan, also stuck to his guns, with Mohit Sharma, yet again, proving to be India's silent bowling assassin.
Dhoni, who has berated the bowlers time and again in the past for not sticking to their plans, was grinning like a Cheshire cat (well, as much as Dhoni can grin) when talking about their performance against South Africa, particularly those crucial opening ten overs, ten overs which always set the tone for the rest of the innings.
"It was a fantastic performance," said Dhoni. "Maybe the wicket also helped us a bit, but still, hitting the right areas, the length, according to the wicket, how the wicket is behaving, is crucial, and I felt that was the main aspect where we were really good.
"They [the bowlers] quickly assessed what the right length to bowl was, and they didn't give too much. They never gave any extra width to the batsmen, and most of their batsmen love that extra width right from the top order. It was important that we didn't give them that width.
"Most important thing is you always have plans, but it's how we execute the plans. In the first 10 overs this was definitely one of our best performances in the recent past."
The job was not done after those ten overs, though, as there was still that massive mountain called AB De Villiers to conquer, and that is where the spin came in. Ravindra Jadeja, in particular, put the squeeze on the batsmen when needed, which in turn put the pressure on them to look for runs that weren't there, and the rest as they say is history.
Next up now for India is the UAE on Saturday, with three more matches to go after that – bowl like that more often than not, and top spot in Pool B will be surely theirs.