The key for India is Dravid getting back to his scoring ways and Pathan getting those early wickets with the new ball.
The tournament got underway last Saturday with the re-energized Sri Lanka posting a facile win against an enthusiastic Bangladesh who always show sparks of individual brilliance but collectively never seem to make any meaningful progress in their journey towards attaining any respectability in international cricket - they did no better in their next outing against the West Indies who had earlier 'Gayled' the eclectic collection of all club cricketers bunched up to form the Zimbabwe team, thereby reducing the first four matches of the qualifying round to damp squibs.
It is quite a paradox to see two of the best 'in form' teams - on current form and from recent past very successful ones at that - having to earn their status for the premier rounds but I am sure they are mighty delighted to have gotten some good match practice to strike a good rhythm for the upcoming 'Super 8' matches. The match on Saturday between WI & SL promises to be a cracker (remember WC 2003?) and should set the stage for the start of real excitement in this tournament. Both teams have a fairly symmetrical look to their composition and seem to suggest that they have just about the optimal batting balance of 'power play' openers, in-form intelligent farmers in the middle order, crafty accelerators in the late middle order - 3 key bugs that India is desperate to crack the code on and ensure it works first time right against England on the 15 th at Mumbai.
From what one has seen of Sri Lanka so far, it appears that they are amongst the top 3 favourites- they seem to have the same spark from the good old WC 1996 dream run they had, with youngters like Dilshan, Malinga and the new kid on the block Upul Tharanga nicely fitting in with veteran match winners like Jayasuriya, Vaas and Murali. They look like a complete one-day side rich with recent winning run and an ebullient skipper unleashing his enormous gift of timing like never before. West Indies on the other hand are heavily dependent on their batting prowess which has always come good in Indian conditions but one suspects they will be challenged on their limited bowling firepower that could possibly halt their progress in the group stages.
Focus back on India - Call it 'experimentation', call it ' horses for courses', or call it 'developing the squad for future' - it doesn't matter what they do with the batting order; its just plain simple -at the very least, one batsman in each of the 3 categories-power play, farming, late acceleration- needs to fire and all the needless debates on batting order can be trashed to the fireplace. Recent history suggests that whenever India win batting first its largely fashioned by Sachin and / or Sehwag and /or Pathan coming good while the chase is well served by the captain cool anchoring the show with the likes of Yuvraj, Dhoni and Kaif who probably might get edged out by Dinesh Mongia whose tidy left arm spin and recent good knock in the DLF semis against Aussies assures him a place in the playing eleven.
Regardless of the combination, the key for India is Dravid getting back to his scoring ways and Pathan getting those early wickets with the new ball - two attributes that hold a lot of significance to the team psyche for this tournament and beyond.
Can't wait till Sunday to see Sachin giving it back to the Mumbai crowd in more ways than one! It's the same England under the same Flintoff.just watch the fun this time around!