Three weeks back, India arrived in Sri Lanka for the Asia Cup seeking answers for a multitude of riddles.
Now, Rohit Sharma's band has left these shores after building a perfect template for the World Cup challenge through middle-order clarity and an all-weather bowling attack.
India's middle-order uncertainty, perhaps, was the most talked about topic in the run-up to the Asia Cup in view of the World Cup next month. But the return of KL Rahul and the emergence of Ishan Kishan as a middle-order option have considerably eased their worry.
Rahul's outing, in particular, will please the team management to no end. He scored a hundred against Pakistan in a Super Four match, and, more importantly, kept wickets in all the matches he played.
He dived around to take catches off pacers and kept to left-arm wrist spinner Kuldeep Yadav quite exceptionally.
It was clear that Rahul is relishing the dual role and the clarity given to him by the team management.
"The team management has told me that this will be my role – batting in the middle-order and keeping wickets. So, during my time at the NCA, I have worked on keeping with the coaches there. I am confident that I can go out there and do the job," said Rahul.
India would have hoped for a similar return by Shreyas Iyer, but his fitness is still getting evaluated.
But that will not raise much alarm in the Indian camp, because, now, they have a reliable middle-order option in Kishan.
It was a forced gamble when he was asked to bat at No. 5 against Pakistan at Pallekele in a group match. Despite batting at that slot for the first time in his career, the Jharkhand player responded to the task in brilliant fashion.
The left-hander made a composed fifty in that match in the company of Hardik Pandya, rescuing India from a top-order slump.
The only point of concern for them could be the need to buckle up on gripping surfaces against spinners, a chink exposed by Lanka's Dunith Wellalage and the Bangladesh tweakers.
The effort of their bowlers provided a complete look to India's Asia Cup romp.
India have one of the better bowling units in contemporary cricket, though usually it does not get as much encomiums as their counterparts from Pakistan.
Barring a sloppy effort against Bangladesh, the Indian bowlers were ruthless especially in important matches against Pakistan and in the final against Sri Lanka.
Kuldeep donned the lead role against cross-border rivals, taking five for 25. The 28-year-old was on top of his game the whole tournament, and it came as no surprise to see him bagging the Player of the Series award.
Rohit acknowledged the growth of Kuldeep as India's premier spinner in the white ball formats.
"When we bring Kuldeep under pressure, he delivers. His confidence goes up every time he bowls. In fact, his confidence is going up steadily over the last two years or so. He can drag the team back into the match from any situation," said Rohit.
While Kuldeep's transformation has added another dimension to India's bowling, the pacers too have made a statement during the Asia Cup.
India were able to field Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Siraj and Hardik Pandya together for the first time in a year or so, and the result was stunning.
Bumrah, who was sidelined with a back injury, played in ODIs for the first time since July 2022, and dished out performances dipped in intensity with the new ball.
Siraj, who often stands in the shadow of Bumrah, showed his ruthless face while wrecking Sri Lanka in the summit clash with a spell of 6 for 21.
Hardik has taken big strides as the third seamer, even though that has made the management take the tough call of benching Mohammed Shami, primarily for batting depth.
"We have variety in the bowling attack. They bring in different skill sets and can deliver in any bowling conditions. So, when you get all these in one team, you feel confident as a captain," said Rohit.
That confidence has led India to the Asia Cup triumph, but the title win here does not guarantee a third trophy in the quadrennial extravaganza.
But they can enter the tournament with a settled squad and mind – the first pre-requisite for a winning unit.
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