Auckland: Mahendra Singh Dhoni would have boarded the team bus from the Novotel Hotel in Hamilton for the three-hour drive to the Heritage Hotel here, with a lot of satisfaction.
Ravichandran Ashwin celebrates a South African wicket in Melbourne last month. Pic/Getty Images
His Men in Blue have been so clinical this far in the league phase of the World Cup that their last group match, against Zimbabwe at Eden Park on Saturday, is inconsequential as the defending champions will remain on top of Pool 'B' irrespective of the result.
Batting has always been the Indian team's strength, but another significant reason for Dhoni's satisfaction will be the fact that the bowling, which was initially considered to be the weak link, is not just clicking but is also flexible enough to incorporate spot changes successfully.
Ireland openers William Porterfield and Paul Stirling went after the pace trio of Umesh Yadav, Mohammed Shami and Mohit Sharma in Hamilton on Tuesday forcing Dhoni to introduce spinners Ravindra Jadeja and Ravichandran Ashwin from the ninth over onwards.
The skipper appreciated his bowlers' response to his sudden change of plans. "I think it's very crucial (for the bowlers to respond to a change in plan). The bowlers offer a lot of flexibility. They understand the situation and don't question too much. It's not always that the bowler is not bowling well. It may also be about the conditions.
'Bowlers take it as a plan'
"For example, a certain bowler may do slightly more with the new ball. According to that, I have my bowling changes planned. And they take it in the right stride, and that I feel, is important, because at times, a bowler may feel he's about to get a wicket and may be disappointed (at being taken off). But what's really good is that our bowlers take it as a plan," explained Dhoni on Tuesday after India's eight-wicket win over Ireland at Seddon Park.
The skipper refused to take any credit for his plans succeeding either. "(As a captain) you may have a plan, but unless it's executed well, it cannot make you look like a good captain. You may have two slips, but if the bowler bowls on the pads, it doesn't look good.
That's where the remarkable difference has come from our bowlers. They're bowling according to plans and according to the field, which is a big change, and this is reflecting in our performance," added Dhoni, who also justified giving part-timer Suresh Raina a full quote of 10 overs for the first time in the tournament.
"I saw it was a slightly slower wicket, so I used an extra part-time spinner and Suresh got a proper bowling spell of 10 overs (1-40). So, it's not experimenting, but more about using the resources that we have." Hereon one wonders if Dhoni and the Indian fans will be satisfied with anything less than the World Cup.
Indian bowlers' average economy rate in five matches