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Certainly not an ideal build-up for a team bidding to join West Indies and Australia as the third nation to successfully defend their World Cup title.

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But what India gained, and Shastri overlooked that point, is valuable knowledge of local conditions in the four months which made them the World Cup’s best prepared team outside the co-hosts.

Their pace bowlers, a revelation at the World Cup, figured out the right length they need to bowl to succeed and the batsmen went into the tournament knowing what kind of bounce to expect on surfaces vastly different from the ones back home.

Hardly a surprise that while three of their neighbours — Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh — crashed out in the quarter-finals, India remain the only team from the sub-continent to make the last four, and make it in style.

They have looked a completely transformed side under Mahendra Singh Dhoni as India became the first team to claim 70 wickets in seven matches and remained unbeaten going into Thursday’s semi-final against Australia.

“They’ve just played a lot more cricket here and getting used to the lengths you need to bowl,” Australia opener Aaron Finch said on Tuesday.

“It’s no rocket science, they’re bowling well, they’re batting well, they’re going to be tough to beat,” the right-hander said.

Dhoni too admitted the tri-series served an important purpose for his side.

“We wanted to give players more opportunities in the tri-series to some extent,” he said after the group stage victory against South Africa. “We pushed for the wins, but we were not able to get that.

“But at the same time we knew with the World Cup right at the corner, this tournament was much more important to us and we had to make sure people with niggles, they don’t come into the World Cup.”

(Additional reporting by Nick Mulvenney; Editing by Sudipto Ganguly)

 

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