India are in the quarter-finals of the Under-19 World Cup but their progress has not been smooth. After one hot and one cold performance in each of the warm-ups in Brisbane, their batsmen have been unable to find collective fluency in Townsville and had three underwhelming innings. They now face Pakistan, who topped Group B emphatically in Brisbane.
"There have been a few hiccups, but we've come good," said India's coach Bharat Arun after the victory against Papua New Guinea at Endeavour Park. "More or less as planned, but we'd rather face these hiccups early in the tournament than in crucial games in the future."
India's batsmen struggled against the pace and accuracy of West Indies' quicks in their first game, making 166 for 8 at Tony Ireland Stadium. A day later, they made a solid start against Zimbabwe but lost ground significantly before a last-over cameo lifted the score to 261. The most surprising performance, however, came against Endeavour Park, after India had won the toss.
"The idea of batting first [against PNG] was because we may get to face fresh wickets in future matches," said Arun. "Some of the batsmen, who haven't been in the runs, this was a wonderful opportunity for them to have a hit. But I guess this is something we did not make use of. So from the batting point of view it was quite disappointing."
India had only one partnership of more than 50 - between Vijay Zol and Smit Patel for the sixth wicket - and then lost five wickets for 24 runs to be dismissed for 204. They left 29 balls unused. The most striking sound on the day was the heightened whooping of 11 Papua New Guinea cricketers as wickets fell.
"The same problem, losing wickets at regular intervals, just as a partnership begins to blossom, we lose a wicket," Arun said when asked what the problem had been today. "Except for Smit and Zol, who put up a good partnership. But, if you look at it, a rather rash shot by Smit at that stage.
"In a way it's okay that they are not peaking too early. If they can realise the mistakes they've done today and in one or two other games, it's a good lesson for us."
India's captain Unmukt Chand said the batting would get stronger in the knockout stages because this team had taken time to adjust in previous tournaments as well but came good eventually. When India played the quadrangular series in Townsville earlier this year, they lost three league matches before winning the semi-final and the final.
India have a three-day break before the quarter-final and their coach said they would use the time to get some "positive practice". "It's too short a time to work on anything. Maybe just about the mind. Make them feel good about themselves."