Despite being on the cusp of sealing a semifinal berth, the Indian team’s campaign in the T20 World Cup has been anything but straightforward. They have won three of their four matches so far, but could have easily lost two of them. On the other hand, they almost managed to defend a modest score against South Africa in Perth. It surely hasn’t been easy for Rohit Sharma & Co Down Under.
Their path so far has not been a dominant one, but full of close shaves. India’s last league game against Zimbabwe on Sunday provides them an opportunity to tick all the boxes ahead of a probable semifinal. A convincing win will add to the team’s confidence with the belief that all engines are working smoothly.
On Saturday, the Indian team had a light practice session at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. Medium pacers Mohammed Shami, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Arshdeep Singh decided to rest while the top-order batsman batted in the nets. Hardik Pandya and Virat Kohli kept punching strokes at each other while a few fans sang birthday songs for the former India captain, who turned 34 on Saturday.
— BCCI (@BCCI) November 4, 2022
If recent trends are anything to go by, the Indian team may not alter the playing XI too much. The think tank has backed players even in their low phases.
In the nets, Harshal Patel and Yuzuvendra Chahal had a long run with the bat and later with the ball. It will be interesting to see whether Patel and Chahal get a game on Sunday, especially the leg-spinner who has been warming the bench for the entire tournament. On a big ground such as the MCG, he could come handy.
Off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin believes it has been a unique World Cup for the Indian side so far. They have played most of their cricket in Australia in the summer, and this is the first time they have been in action in winter. Ashwin quipped how he thought his entire stock of sunscreen will be used, but it hasn’t been required.
“If you are playing a Test match, you can warm up through the day or get better, but playing T20 cricket in this weather, not to know what the surface will be like, how it will respond, what the weather is like, it’s been a new experience coming to Australia,” Ashwin says.
As far as their final league match is concerned, the Indian team is not likely to treat Zimbabwe as minnows. The African team upset Pakistan in an exciting contest in Perth and almost put it across Bangladesh in Brisbane. Sharma’s team needs a win to confirm a last-four berth, and would like to do a professional job.
“Good teams will be clinical and will pile on the pressure on such days, and it’s a must-win contest. We know that. Like in every other contest in this T20 World Cup, it’s a must-win encounter,” Ashwin said.
“So, we are looking forward to the game. Zimbabwe has played some wonderful cricket, so we can’t go in there and expect them to crumble. They bowled well and batted well, so we expect that.”
Focus on Sharma
Even though all looks well, the Indian team will hope their captain gets some big runs against Zimbabwe. Sharma scored 53 against the Netherlands, but his scores from the three other games read 4, 15 and 2. Sharma’s return to form will be a morale-booster, especially as India needs their top order in prime condition going into the knockout phase of the tournament.
Sharma hasn’t been struggling. He has been hitting the sweet spot in the nets, but somehow in the middle he has not been able to get the team off to a smooth start. The team management would have been highly relieved after Sharma’s opening partner KL Rahul hit a half-century against Bangladesh. With Kohli and Suryakumar Yadav looking in pristine touch and Pandya expected to raise his game in the crunch matches, the team has got a stable middle order.
As far as the bowling is concerned, Bhuvneshwar and Arshdeep have been a reliable new-ball pairing while Shami brings a potent threat as the first-change bowler. Pandya’s evolution as a bowler has added another dimension to the Indian attack.
The relentless schedule, constant travelling and adjusting to the various time zones often takes a toll on players as they hardly get time to unwind and recover.
The team management will be wary of this threat going into the business end of the tournament.
As far as the Zimbabweans are concerned, they are going into Sunday’s match with an open mind. Their skipper Craig Ervine said the team hasn’t even made any special plans to negate the threat that Kohli brings.
“I don’t think we have any plans against Virat. I think he’s just too good a player. But look, I think for a lot of the guys you can dissect so many different theories, and at the end of the day, if you come out and hit a good area, use your change-ups, all those sort of things, I don’t think that special plans really work for these guys because they’re so good at adapting to different conditions and different situations,” Ervine felt.
In addition to the 11 Indians on the field, the plucky Zimbabweans – who themselves harboured hopes of reaching the semifinals after defeating Pakistan – will also have to contend with the majority of the 100,000 spectators expected inside the huge MCG supporting the Indians.
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Publish date : 2022-11-05 14:34:40