Sharper India back on track

Dravid: Kohli was the difference the two teams (2:55)

Rahul Dravid, Mahela Jayawardene, and Ian Chappell break down India's six wicket win over Pakistan in Kolkata (2:55)

Nothing sharpens the mind like a loss. If that loss means you can't afford another mistake or you're out of the tournament, that increases the focus. If the next match is against arch-rivals, the focus narrows even further.

The Indian team's minds were suitably sharpened for the crucial battle with Pakistan at Eden Gardens.

It also added to the drama that New Zealand's perfect start to the tournament - two consecutive wins - meant that Group Two had virtually turned into a three-way dogfight between India, Pakistan and Australia for one spot.

India's urgency was apparent right from the start when they chose to bowl first and put their faith in spin, while Pakistan opted for more pace. When R Ashwin immediately spun the ball prodigiously, it was obvious India had made the right choice.

As well as being a match between contrasting teams, it was also one featuring two captains of vastly different styles. MS Dhoni is cool, totally unruffled, and relies on the minimum of movement to notify his fielders. Shahid Afridi, on the other hand, is Mr Perpetual Motion, constantly waving his arms to adjust the field and having incessant conversations with his bowlers.

The pitch displayed all the signs of producing a low-scoring affair, which suited the Indian captain, as he's more likely to remain calm under the pressure of a tight finish.

"India's urgency was apparent right from the start when they chose to bowl first and put their faith in spin, while Pakistan opted for more pace"

I'm not one who believes T20 surfaces should totally favour the batsmen. The occasional helpful pitch for bowlers tests the full range of the players' skill and cricketing nous. On consecutive nights we've witnessed two thrilling matches; one a high-scoring nail-biter and the other a low-scoring arm-wrestle.

Another animated Pakistan captain, Javed Miandad, revelled in low-scoring affairs. He was successful by attacking the opposition in order to take wickets whereas Afridi failed to opt for a slightly more aggressive approach after Mohammad Sami had threatened to split the Indian innings wide open with some lively pace bowling.

Afridi was more reactive than proactive at a crucial time when both Virat Kohli and Yuvraj Singh were rebuilding the innings. Where India's batting crumbled like a badly baked apple pie against New Zealand, both Kohli and Yuvraj ensured that moderate targets of around 120 didn't become India's kryptonite.

Kohli has rightly earned a glowing reputation as a finisher; this innings added a little more lustre, and doing it against Pakistan will only make him more of an Indian favourite. This knock was reminiscent of his second-innings Test hundred in Adelaide. Like in Adelaide, he looked as though he was playing on a different pitch to the other batsmen and was rarely troubled. His ability to score all round the wicket is a great attribute on pitches helpful to bowlers, and his competitiveness drives him on in tense situations. For a player who can be extremely feisty in the field, he remains remarkably calm with a bat in his hand in tense finishes.

India's cricket looked more like that of a tournament favourite rather than the stumbling also-rans who were defeated by New Zealand. The brilliant diving catch of Hardik Pandya not only got the team off to a great start, it was also a classic example of the dramatic recent improvement in India's fielding.

With minds sharpened and confidence restored, India are now right back in the competition. A good, solid win over Bangladesh in Bangalore will do much for their all-important net run rate, and then comes the crucial battle with Australia.

The match against Australia could well be a virtual quarter-final. Once again they'll need to have their minds sharpened. Perhaps if they treat that game as though they're playing Pakistan, they'll be in the right frame of mind for yet another crucial contest.