On the back of fighting tons from Rohit Sharma and KL Rahul, India romped home to another convincing win to finish with 15 points in their kitty at the end of the group stages. Angelo Mathews century went in vain as Indian bowlers did well to keep others quiet and were well supported by the batsmen.
Jasprit Bumrah holds the key to India’s success
It’s a different thing to enter a grand stage like the World Cup as the best ODI bowler and it’s a totally different thing to sustain the pressure and live up to the expectations. Bumrah entered the World Cup as the best ODI bowler and has proved his mettle as the tournament progressed. His exploits with the new ball have been outstanding while one does not need to speak about his effectiveness with the old one. To add to his good fortunes, he has managed to chip wickets in the middle overs and turn the game on its head.
Bumrah may not be leading the wicket chart but has done his job quite brilliantly and will be the man to watch out for in the knock-out stages. Against Sri Lanka, he put them on the back foot from the outset with two early kills and did well to get rid of a well set Angelo Mathews just when he was about to explode. This is exactly the kind of form a team would want his strike bowler to be in during the business end of the tournament.
With his imminent pace peers having a hot and cold run with the ball, Bumrah’s success has provided the ultimate soothing. One can only imagine the kind of fear India’s pace attack will infuse if Mohammed Shami continues his current form without leaking too many runs and so did Bhuvneshwar Kumar.
No weak-link in India’s top-order
No words could have described the loss of Shikhar Dhawan at top of the order, he is widely reckoned to wreak havoc in big tournaments. After his departure, the onus of opening the batting came down on KL Rahul, who was doing well at 4. It wasn’t an equally effective replacement but nevertheless, a prolific one.
With Rohit Sharma being in the form of his life and a firing Virat Kohli at three, all Rahul had to do was stick to his guns and complement them, which he has done quite comfortably so far. They have milked runs consistently and have done extremely well in the last two games, which was needed before heading into the semi-finals. With Rahul finding his zone and zen as an opener, there is possibly no weak-link in India’s top-order. Against Sri Lanka, they had a modest challenge in gunning down a target of 265 and they did it with flair. The opening stand provided no room for error and added immense agony on Sri Lanka’s hot and cold bowling.
Rohit plundered another scintillating century to become the first man to have five centuries under his belt in a single World Cup. Rahul bid his time and crafted a beautiful innings to infuse immense self-belief ahead of the high-voltage semi-finals. Not to forget, this is the same Sri Lankan side who have an uncanny knack of creating upsets. They were the first team to beat India in the 2017 Champions Trophy and tightened the noose around England in this edition with a nerve-wracking win. With a fiery Lasith Malinga in the attack, one cannot write them off but Indian openers did more than expected to romp home with a confidence-boosting win.
India's selection conundrum
Unless Australia spring a surprise in their ongoing encounter against South Africa, India will indubitably finish the league stages as table-toppers. However, the surprising changes in the last two games before the semi-finals have raised quite a few eyebrows and must have raised a sense of insecurity among the players. They have rested Mohammed Shami, who has been a touch expensive but has picked wickets in heap, for this encounter and it will be interesting to see if he gets a nod in the semi-finals as Bhuvneshwar Kumar too conceded runs. Ravindra Jadeja played his first World Cup game this season at the expense of Yuzvendra Chahal while Kedar Jadhav has been warming the bench since the game against England, where he failed to fire in the death overs.
Dinesh Karthik is yet to face ample number of deliveries despite playing two games on a trot. There are quite a few questions that India will have to answer regarding their playing XI just before the semi-finals. If the rope back Shami, Chahal and Kedar the danger of their rhythm being disturbed will always exist whereas Jadeja and Karthik haven’t got too much of an exposure and lack match practice prior to the big encounter.
India cannot afford to step a foot wrong in the semi-final and one wouldn’t be wrong in saying that they have got themselves in a state of dilemma by making too many changes in the business end of the tournament. Well, the mystery will be unveiled soon and it will be interesting to see the combination.
Cricket FootBall Kabaddi