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India vs Sri Lanka | Support Acts Make Telling Contributions in India's Smooth Progress

Beyond the headline makers, the supporting acts have played key roles too, often slipping under the radar but doing just about enough to allow the main guys to do their thing.

Karthik Lakshmanan |July 5, 2019, 11:14 AM IST
India vs Sri Lanka | Support Acts Make Telling Contributions in India's Smooth Progress

Leeds: Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami with the ball, Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli with the bat. These are the four men from India in the lists of top 10 wicket-takers and run-scorers in the World Cup 2019. The drivers powering India's smooth journey to the semifinals.

But beyond the headline makers, the supporting acts have played key roles too, often slipping under the radar but doing just about enough to allow the main guys to do their thing.

KL Rahul

Image: Twitter Image: Twitter

Shikhar Dhawan's injury was a big blow for India, leaving them with a huge hole at the top. Dhawan was one of India's big hopes, especially in ICC tournaments. Even more so given India's unstable middle order; they needed good starts to compensate for the middle order woes.

Rohit has no doubt stepped up, scoring four centuries in the tournament. But Rahul has played a decent supporting hand too; apart from the 0 against England, he has scored at least 30 in each game he has opened, with two half-centuries. Rahul has been involved in two century opening stands already - 136 against Pakistan and 190 against Bangladesh. In two of the three other matches, it was Rohit who fell early. The big knock is yet to come, but Rahul has not done a bad job either. He has three matches to go from supporting actor to main role.

Hardik Pandya

India celebrate a wicket. (Image: ICC) Image: ICC

The advantage of being an all-rounder is that you can score a duck with the bat and still come back with the ball to produce a match-winning performance. That's what Pandya did in the game against Bangladesh. He got the crucial breakthroughs when the team needed - Sowmya Sarkar, Liton Das, and the biggest of them all Shakib Al Hasan. His 3-60 was the perfect supporting role before Bumrah applied the finishing touches in style.

Pandya has played that role with the ball a few times in the tournament, gradually becoming a bankable bowler. The story is the same with the bat too - his quick cameos against Australia, Pakistan and West Indies were the difference between par and winning totals. His strike rate of 138.52 is the highest among Indian batsmen - Pandya's small knocks are the much needed boost the otherwise struggling middle order needs.

Yuzvendra Chahal & Kuldeep Yadav

chahal kuldeep Source: AP Photo

Kohli called the two wrist spinners as one of the biggest differences between the Indian squad for the World Cup and the one that came to England for the Champions Trophy two years back. The duo, Kohli said, made the team even stronger.

It took only one match to show why; Chahal and Kuldeep got five wickets between them in India's tournament opener against South Africa, conceding only 97 runs in their 20 overs combined. Chahal got four of them, but Kuldeep was economical too.

That has been the theme of the duo through the tournament - Chahal has 11 wickets from 7 games while Kuldeep has only five. But Kuldeep has an economy of 4.89, as opposed to Chahal's 5.92. Kuldeep is the supporting role to Chahal, and the duo is in turn the supporting role to the pacers.

The timing of their wickets have played big roles too. Chahal dismissed David Warner after a strong start by the openers at The Oval. In the game against Afghanistan, he got Asghar Afghan and Rashid Khan at crucial times. Kuldeep's wicket of Babar Azam against Pakistan changed the game around; Pakistan were cruising before Kuldeep's magic delivery triggered a collapse.

Bhuvneshwar Kumar

Image: AFP Image: AFP

Bowling coach Bharat Arun called Bhuvneshwar their first choice pacer. Kohli said Bhuvneshwar is a definite starter in white-ball cricket. Bhuvneshwar should perhaps be one of the leaders of the bowling pack, but he hasn't yet done that. Shami's performances have even put a question mark over Bhuvneshwar's place in the XI.

Bhuvneshwar has six wickets from four matches (he bowled only 2.4 overs against Pakistan), and is yet to get a wicket in his first spell. Bumrah and Shami have 14 wickets each, with Shami getting them in only four matches compared to Bumrah's seven. What Bhuvneshwar has done, though, is to keep things tight when the wickets haven't come as his economy of 4.83 shows. His best performance came against Australia, where he picked 3 for 50; the wickets of Steve Smith and Marcus Stoinis in the same over derailed Australia's chase.

What Bhuvneshwar needs though is wickets in the first spells. When India played all three pacers against Bangladesh, it was Bhuvneshwar who got the new ball although Shami had struck in the first spells of each of the previous games. Bhuvneshwar didn't strike against Bangladesh too, and it required Shami to give the breakthrough once again.

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2 New Zealand 2829 109
3 South Africa 2917 108
4 England 4366 104
5 Australia 3270 99
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2 India 7071 122
3 New Zealand 4837 112
4 Australia 5543 111
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2 England 4253 266
3 South Africa 4720 262
4 India 8620 261
5 Australia 5471 261
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