A third ICC World Cup semi-final appearance in a row beckons for India as the Men in Blue get ready to lock horns with New Zealand for a place in the final at Lord’s.
Virat Kohli and his men were expected to go deep in the World Cup and they have not let their fans down in that regard with a table-topping campaign that has seen them taste just the one defeat so far.
It hasn’t been entirely smooth sailing for the two-time champions with an injury to star opener Shikhar Dhawan ruling him out of the tournament and they were nearly given a scare by tournament minnows Afghanistan before ultimately prevailing in a tight contest.
Comprehensive victories over arch-rivals Pakistan, West Indies and Australia have been the high points of India’s campaign with a loss to hosts England being the only blot.
WHAT’S WORKING FOR THEM
India’s foundations have been built on a formidable bowling attack more than anything while Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli have carried the batting unit.
Jasprit Bumrah has lived up to his No1 billing in ODI cricket with the India pacer picking up 14 wickets while exhibiting some sensational bowling in the death overs. He has been ably supported by a resurgent Mohammed Shami who has picked up 14 wickets in just four games since coming in to replace the injured Bhuvneshwar Kumar.
All rounder Hardik Pandya has more then held his own as a third seam option while Yuzvendra Chahal’s leg-spin guile has also shone through in patches. More than anything, India’s bowling unit has been extremely economical with the likes of Bumrah, Bhuvneshwar and Kuldeep Yadav going at less than five runs an over.
Top order in fine nick
India have very much followed the template they made their own over the past few years with the top order doing the majority of the run-scoring. With Dhawan out injured, Rohit Sharma (544) and Kohli (408) have done the bulk of the scoring with the former having a sensational tournament with four tons to his name already.
Rahul has been an able replacement for the injured Dhawan as well since moving up the order and the right-hander has now registered one ton and two half-centuries in the tournament.
WHERE ARE THEY STILL SUSCEPTIBLE
Middle order woes remain
India can be thankful that Rohit and Kohli have been in top-form with the middle-order still looking like a big muddle at this stage of the tournament. The injury to Dhawan has opened up a can of worms with the No4 spot once again becoming a revolving door.
All-rounder Vijay Shankar was being backed for the role but a toe injury has ended his campaign as well with Rishabh Pant being flown in a replacement. While Pandya has played some entertaining cameos, the likes of Kedar Jadhav and veteran MS Dhoni have struggled to up the ante when required in the death overs.
Dhoni’s performance in the defeat to England invited plenty of criticism with the veteran’s lack of intent being questioned by pundits and fans alike. However, Dhoni’s waning hitting abilities are the least of India’s worries with the team yet to have a settled middle-order combination before the start of the knock-outs.
The dependence on Rohit and Kohli is too high at the moment for the team and they could be in real trouble if both the batsmen are dismissed cheaply.
Kuldeep’s lack of wickets
Another concern for India is the lack of wickets for Kuldeep with the young wrist-spinner having claimed just five scalps so far in an underwhelming campaign.
The youngster had an excellent time in the ODI series against New Zealand at the start of the year and Kohli will want to go in with a two-man spin attack in the semi-final. It remains to be seen whether the India skipper trusts Kuldeep to come good again or go with a more reliable and safer performer in Ravindra Jadeja.
While Kohli has uncharacteristically struggled to convert any of his five half-centuries so far into a ton, the same cannot be said for his deputy Rohit who has been having a magnificent tournament.
The right-hander has now become the first batsman in history to register five centuries in a single World Cup campaign and could very well surpass Sachin Tendulkar’s record tally of 673 runs in the 2003 edition if he keeps up his current form.
India would have struggled big time without Rohit’s runs at the top and he will be the prize wicket for opposition bowlers when the knock-outs begin.
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