Most Indian fans, as well as the Men in Blue, would be feeling elated after their comprehensive win over Sri Lanka in the ICC 2019 Cricket World Cup. This win took them to the top of the points table and, combined with the loss of Australia to South Africa, ensured that they would play the fourth-placed New Zealand in the semi-final rather than hosts England.
This could prove to be very significant as the Kiwis have been suffering a loss of form of late and appear to be the weakest of the four teams in the semis. On the other hand, despite their three losses, England seem to be regaining the form they had coming into the World Cup and are the only team to have beaten India.
So, India should be thrilled to have beaten Sri Lanka with such ease in their last match of the league stage, right? Well, actually, no! This may sound completely bizarre but the victory that Virat Kohli's team registered in their match against Sri Lanka may end up proving highly counter-productive. Let's look at why.
Going into the match, India had certain issues which they needed to address. One of the biggest was sorting out their middle-order. Figuring out who will bat at no. 4 was a question that needed an answer. The form of MS Dhoni also required a lift. Overall, the excessive dependence that the Indian batting has shown on Kohli and Rohit Sharma was a cause of concern that had to be addressed.
However, the match against Sri Lanka, despite the victory, didn't produce the necessary answers to these issues. Once again Rohit scored a hundred and that, in a chase of 265, proved more than enough to put the game in India's bag. Yes, the century by KL Rahul was a big positive as India now have another in-form batsman in their top-order. But the vulnerability of the middle-order remains as it was.
Rishabh Pant's position at no. 4 is still under doubt after he didn't get too many runs in the match and Dhoni's problems against spinners still seem to be in place. Basically, the victory against Sri Lanka was another instance of the Indian top-order doing the job for the team and leaving the middle-order untested.
So, India will go into the semi-final against New Zealand still looking very top-heavy. If Trent Boult, Mark Henry or Tim Southee can remove the Indian top-order easily, as they are very capable of doing, this somewhat unstable middle-order may suddenly be faced with the sort of responsibility that they haven't carried in the entire tournament.
The likes of Rishabh Pant, Dinesh Karthik and MS Dhoni would then have to revive the innings from a poor start. This feat hasn't yet been performed by these batsman in this tournament. Also, the quality of Sri Lanka's bowling was very poor. Their key bowler Lasith Malinga, as always, looked completely ineffectual against Indian batting. Therefore, the Indian batting didn't get the kind of stern test they can expect in the semis or even the finals, if they reach it, from high-quality bowlers.
To put it in short, India got a victory that was too easy to properly test them and address those concerns with which they entered the game. This could prove bad for them in the end.