What is common between the 2011 and 2015 ODI World Cups, as between the 2014 and 2016 World T20s, as well as the 2013 and 2016 Champions Trophy?
India have made the semi-finals in each of these ICC tournaments. As such, in this decade, only the 2012 World T20 stands out as a blot, in what is otherwise a very consistent run for the Men in Blue.
“You have to play good cricket to reach the semi-finals on such a big stage, and even better cricket to keep doing it again and again. As a group we are very happy with our performances, and this has always been a good side in limited-overs’ cricket.
“We have a lot of different players who can win games single-handedly for us, and the upcoming players also have similar mind-set. So the transition is the shorter formats is never troublesome. For all of us, senior or younger players, it is all about an opportunity to go and perform, and win games for the country,” said Virat Kohli, ahead of the clash with Bangladesh here in Birmingham on Thursday.
The word consistency sits well with Indian cricket. Whichever way you look at this behemoth, and whether you like the BCCI or not, this team’s success matters to this sport.
A good performance from the Indians means that any ICC tournament would be deemed successful, thus reaping benefits for the governing body and everyone associated with it, ranging from associate nations to sponsors and broadcasters.
Back in India, a good performance also ensures peace of mind. The country is at boiling point in terms of political discourse, but what keeps everyone sane perhaps, is when the cricket team doesn’t return home after the group stage. The planet keeps spinning round as long as there is no repeat of the disappointment in the 2007 ODI World Cup, a tournament that changed Indian cricket’s outlook.
It isn’t easy to forget who caused that heartbreak. But it has also been a decade since then, and Bangladesh have grown in stature, from an also-ran causing a shock upset to a serious contender now in 2017.
Yes, to those thinking that India will easily brush aside their sub-continental neighbours, only need to look at the scorecard from the first semi-final between England and Pakistan. Kohli, despite his confident persona, didn’t need to do so though.
“They have cricketers who are skilled and committed to play for Bangladesh, and they are now in the top-eight sides in the world. They play with a lot of passion, and they are really keen to win a lot of games at this level, and that shows in their attitude. Their win against New Zealand showed a lot of composure and patience, and that they can apply themselves, which is the sign of a side that is mature now,” added Kohli.
It is no meagre praise, but these are also words that will test Bangladesh’s resolve on Thursday. Their last two meetings against India – in the 2015 World Cup and the 2016 World T20 – come to mind. At Melbourne, the difference was a no-ball call.
At Bangalore, it was about holding nerves, and nobody can beat MS Dhoni in that aspect. They have beaten their ‘big brother’ neighbours since, winning 2-1 at home in the ODI series immediately after that last World Cup. The stakes, though, are always higher in an ICC tournament.
“It has been 24 months since that ODI World Cup. We have played three ODIs and another three T20Is against India since then. We have obviously forgotten what has happened in the past, and this is a new match. All our thinking and concentration is on this game,” said Bangladesh captain Mashrafe Mortaza.
A few minutes prior, Kohli had voiced the same words when asked about their previous meetings in ICC tournaments. Here is the difference though. For India, this is just another in a long line of must-win moments that they have encountered in the past ten days or so.
First it was Pakistan, a game hyped up for obvious reasons, and then it was South Africa, hyped up for reasons made by the Indian team against Sri Lanka themselves. This semi-final is as intense as those two matches, not less, and certainly not more.
The key to this match-up is in how Bangladesh approach it. For too long, they have been the neighbourly upstarts – always seeking ways to knock over the applecart and trip the elderly brother.
Almost as if they have been chasing the ghost of 2007 themselves, trying to replicate that triumph when opportunity arose. It is one thing to draw inspiration and run your opponent hard, it is totally another to fall short in a despairing manner.
In both 2015 and 2016, the Tigers were guilty of the latter. It is time for them to live up to their growing stature, and for once, play as the deserving semi-finalists in an ICC tournament.