Sunday, May 28, 2023

ICC T20 World Cup 2022: Better-Tested India Have The Edge

ICC T20 World Cup 2022: Better-Tested India Have The Edge

With key players in form and the comfort they feel at the Adelaide Oval, India go into the semis against England as favourites.

With Indian batters and bowlers both on song, they will be the favourites against England.
With Indian batters and bowlers both on song, they will be the favourites against England. AP

The semifinal. 

It is the penultimate step. That in-between space where you are still far from the cigar, but you have it within your sights. The semifinal is when that first, ticklish thought of victory teases sportspersons.

Teams are trained to take it one match at a time, especially as they approach the finish. It is equally true, however, that as India take on England in the T20 World Cup semis in Adelaide on Thursday, at the back of their minds they would know that the dream is within reach. 

Rohit Sharma’s pre-game statements on Wednesday communicated the sense of having crossed a barrier. 

“We do understand when you play this kind of tournament, you have to break it into parts,” he said. “We've done one part of it really well. There are two more parts to go. But tomorrow is going to be one part of it where we have to play well to get the result."

Sharma also clarified that he was fit to play after getting smacked on his right forearm by a throwdown on Tuesday. 

With Pakistan winning the first semifinal, the pressure has increased on India to reach the final. It has turned the game against England into a precursor to the main act, and not an event in itself. 

Ben Stokes played it diplomatically when asked about the public’s desire for an India-Pakistan final. "Great news for you guys if it's an India vs Pakistan final. Look, I don't know, we are just here to hopefully win on Thursday," he said. 

India go in with some advantages, especially if England’s 150kmph pace ace Mark Wood and lefty batsman Dawid Malan do not recover from injuries. 

Unlike their opponents, India have played before at the Adelaide Oval in this tournament. The ground is a unique challenge due to its tight, seemingly botoxed square boundaries and long straight fence. 

India also have a better record in the tournament. They have triumphed in four out of five, while England have won three out of five. Besides, their game against

Australia was washed out without a ball being bowled, denying them crucial game time. 

Besides, Alex Hales and Jos Buttler have done a bulk of England’s scoring. The two top the England batting table with 125 and 119 runs, respectively. The next best is Malan with just 56 runs in three innings. That betrays heavy reliance on Hales and Buttler. 

No other batsman has scored a 50 for England. 

In the bowling department, though, England have been impressive. Sam Curran, Wood and Chris Woakes can be difficult to handle for the most formidable of batsmen. Stokes and Adil Rashid have played a competent supporting role, bowling nearly full quotas and maintaining a frugal economy rate.  

All said, India seem better prepared and better tested. It’s not that the Indian batting has delivered as a unit. Most of the runs have come from Virat Kohli and Suryakumar Yadav, and to some extent KL Rahul. But Hardik Pandya played a vital knock of 40 against Pakistan. Even the under-fire Rohit has a 50 to his name in the tournament. 

As a result, there is a feeling that someone or the other will get the job done for India. Dinesh Karthik or Rishabh Pant cannot be discounted. They might not have done much yet, but both have the ability to impact the scoreboard. 

Besides, the Adelaide pitch, not as bouncy as other strips in Australia, and which aids movement and spin, is expected to suit India better. There is also the fact that

Kohli loves the ground. Vocal Indian supporters will be another factor in India’s favour.

The Indian bowling attack too has done well. The tall and lefty Arshdeep Singh, whose wherewithal includes yorkers and swing, has been the best of the lot with 10 wickets. Bhuvaneshwar Kumar, savaged by fans before the World Cup for his lack of pace and potency, has been excellent in terms of economy rate. He also has a hold on Jos Buttler, having dismissed him five times in T20is. Likewise for R Ashwin over Moeen Ali. 

History has many sequels. Many winters ago, at the 1987 World Cup, it was the same two sides - India and England – that contested a semifinal. The other semis was between Australia and Pakistan. The final was to be played at the Eden Gardens.

Even then, the public mood was what it is now. England and Australia were seen as mere formalities to be taken care of. But the exact opposite happened. Both India and Pakistan lost in the semis. 

These are different times. Rohit Sharma and Team know that England will come at them hard. And they will be ready. 


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