India captain Virat Kohli congratulating Bhuvneshwar Kumar as Sri Lanka's Kumar Sangakkara looks on. (AFP Photo)
From losing two matches in a row to now becoming favourites to win the tri-nation series, India have turned their fortunes around in the Caribbean like the champions are known to do.
The reigning World Cup and Champions Trophy winners beat Sri Lanka in the last league game of the Celkon Mobile Cup on Tuesday to elbow hosts West Indies out of the race to the final, where India will once again meet Sri Lanka, who went through with a better NRR (net run rate) after the world champions topped the table with another bonus-point win.
After two contrasting defeats - by 1 wicket to West Indies and by 161 runs against Sri Lanka - India had their backs to the wall, MS Dhoni out nursing a hamstring injury and stand-in skipper Virat Kohli under pressure to deliver.
Kohli responded in style with a hundred against West Indies after openers Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan's 123-run stand ensured there were no early hiccups in the must-win encounter. The batting effort was backed up by fast bowlers Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Umesh Yadav and Ishant Sharma who shared eight wickets between them to get India a bonus point with a 102-run (D/L) win.
But the Indians had to beat the Lankans next to ensure a crack at the trophy, and with a bit of help from rain, India managed to accomplish a turnaround that looked a long shot away after two back-to-back defeats. The bowlers once again rose to the occasion, led by the swinger Bhuvneshwar who took life out of the Sri Lankan top order with a six-over spell of 4 for 8 in an 81-run (D/L) victory.
Batsmen got their act together
The most heartening aspect of this turnaround has been the way team got its act together and responded in a positive manner. Dhawan and Rohit realised the importance of a good start, especially with no Dhoni in the middle order. Rohit's approach has especially been refreshing, with the Mumbai batsman unwilling to give his wicket away easily. It's a welcome change that has been expected of Rohit considering his talent, which has never been under question.
Captain Kohli on the move
Kohli was subject to criticism after the huge loss against Sri Lanka, but it was nice to see him channel his aggression en route a century against West Indies. Runs with the bat rubbed onto his captaincy that looked much more decisive and authoritative.
Bowlers lifted the spirits
The bowlers, especially Bhuvneshwar, have responded in style. The way Sri Lankans mauled the Indian bowlers on their way to scoring 348 for 1 in Game 3, it appeared the mental scars won't heal in time for a final push. But led by Bhuvneshwar, the bowling unit got things in order to script the team's revival. After leaking runs against the Lankans, Bhuvneshwar, Ishant and Yadav conceded less than five runs an over in their respective spells while sharing eight wickets against the Windies.
That must have lifted Indian spirits and made a comeback possible.
Dhoni could be back for the final
Kohli surprised everybody at the toss on Tuesday by announcing that Dhoni could be back for the final. Until then, MSD was understood to be ruled out for the rest of the tournament. But he came out playing football ahead of the match and then Kohli made the jaw-dropping announcement. That explains the decision to have Dhoni stay back with the team and now go for the kill in the final on Sunday.