When the World Cup started not many would have given the Indian team much chance of succeeding. After all, the team had been in Australia for three months before the tournament began and not won a single game. It performed creditably in the test series to avoid a whitewash and then did not reach the finals of the tri-series, which took place immediately afterwards. Their first win came against Afghanistan in a preparatory game for the World Cup. However, what followed next must have taken the breath away of even the most ardent supporter of this team! The way India has played has been matched only by New Zealand, which is in the other group. The team is looking like a well-oiled machine that is completely different from the hapless unit a few days back.
How India Reached the Quarterfinals?
Statistically speaking, India has won every single game that it has played in the tournament. However, what will be of greater consequence for the common lovers of the game in India is the manner in which each of these victories has been achieved. The first game against Pakistan was a crucial encounter, one where victory would have meant India maintained its proud record against its traditional cricketing rivals in the World Cups. A win would have been the perfect start and in the end that is what happened. Virat Kohli once again scored runs that mattered and was helped manfully by Shikhar Dhawan, who seemed to rediscover his moxie. What would have pleased Indian fans more was the way in which the bowlers – especially the formerly profligate, yet promising, quick bowlers – bowled to their field and defended a rather attainable total.
South Africa was one of the pre-tournament favourites, ones against whom India had never won a World Cup game before the 2015 edition. Batting first India was able to blunt the twin threat of Messrs Steyn and Morkel and post a good total yet again courtesy Dhawan and Rahane. The bowlers also performed creditably with Mohit Sharma leading the pack. All this meant India won their first ever game against the Proteas, something that would have done wonders for their confidence.
West Indies at Perth was a tough opponent given the team’s unpredictability and the pace and bouncy conditions. However, after winning the toss Indian fast bowlers – led by Shami – bowled with sufficient intensity and verve to restrict the Caribbeans to an eminently gettable total and won the match, thanks to some good batting at the death by MS Dhoni. It had rather peaceful outings against Ireland and UAE and from the looks of it, there should not be too much problem in winning the game against Zimbabwe as well.
What Might Happen in the Quarters?
In the quarterfinal, India will probably play against Bangladesh at Melbourne or against Sri Lanka at Sydney for a chance to make it to the semifinal. Many would expect it to be a rather easy outing. However, such a thought would be far removed from actuality because of several factors. To start with, Bangladesh has performed creditably in the group stage to defeat England and come up to the quarters. So it would be unwise to take them lightly. It has a youthful team that is capable of performing in pressure games.
Players such as Taskin Ahmed, Mashrafe Mortaza, Shakib Al Hasan, Tamim Iqbal and Mushfiqur Rahim have good records against India and they will be looking to go all out and perform well once again. As far as Sri Lanka is concerned, its batting is working really well – Sangakkara has rattled off a hat-trick of centuries and Dilshan and Matthews are in decent form as well. Its bowling is however a weak link with the absence of the experienced Dhammika Prasad being felt by the management.
The wickets at Sydney and Melbourne are primarily batting-friendly and so there will be no terror for batsmen from either side. One also needs to keep in mind the factor of law of averages – India has not lost a game yet and sometimes these factors go against you as some complacency creeps in and you don’t perform to your best. For the sake of Indian cricket, one hopes that the team’s winning streak continues and it goes on to win the World Cup.
In spite of its failings and abysmal overseas test record, the present Indian team has an unfathomable capacity to perform well at ICC events. It won the last Champions Trophy played in England, reached the finals of the latest World T20 staged in Bangladesh and is now performing creditably in the ongoing World Cup. The fans may not understand why this happens but they will sure not mind as long as this glorious trend continues.