Time for India to move on and focus on the semifinal

Yuvraj Singh’s calm when leading India’s successful chase – and I bet he reminded the competitive Australians of a certain Michael Bevan – was obviously a standout feature at Motera on Thursday. Yet, Yuvraj Singh will be the first to point out that there was more to India’s victory than just his performance alone.

For instance, Mahendra Dhoni’s captaincy – be it his decision (in conjuction with fellow selectors) to retain Suresh Raina in the XI ahead of Yusuf Pathan, consequent to Virender Sehwag’s return or the bowling changes that he rung in – was top notch. The team’s fielding – so often criticised – was rung above the usual.

Zaheer Khan’s response to his captain’s call for wickets or R Ashwin’s nerveless bowling in Powerplay, Sachin Tendulkar’s intensity at the start of the run-chase, Gautam Gambhir’s sheer will power to contribute to the team’s cause despite obvious sluggishness and Raina’s maturity during his match-winning stand with Yuvraj Singh are all more cases in point.

Yet, no team can be satisfied with the old philosophy that said ‘You are as good as your last performance.’ That has to be tweaked to the present times when a team is only as good as its preparation and its current performance.

Yes, it is time to move on – not just for the Indian team as it travels to Mohali but also for fans and critics. The nature of competition in the knockout stage is such that it severely punishes teams every time for playing below par. And the converse is not always true: sides are not often rewarded for raising the bar.

The biggest challenge for the Indian team, therefore, as it prepares to take on Pakistan in its next high-voltage game is to take its collective mind off that amazing effort against Australia and move on. If the squad lingers for long in the afterglow of a fine victory in Motera, its preparations for Mohali can be affected.

I remember how, in 1996, three days after an emotionally-charged game against Pakistan in Bangalore, India capitulated in the semifinal to Sri Lanka at the Eden Gardens in Calcutta. A lot of reasons have been attributed to that loss but I have always suspected that the team was not able to recoup its emotional energy quickly enough.

Yet, I also recall how in the span of three days India beat Australia 2-0 in the best-of-three finals of the Commonwealth Bank Series in 2008. It tells me that the modern Indian teams have evolved and can handle the task of recharging the emotional batteries quite well.