Only two steps away from the ultimate glory, India cannot afford to put a foot wrong as they square off against a formidable England on a tricky Adelaide Oval track in the T20 World Cup 2022 semi-final on Thursday. (More Cricket News)
While India have had better performances in the group stage compared to England, a high stakes, 'winner takes it all' contest like this always starts on an even keel. England's premier all-rounder Ben Stokes has already admitted that they have not play their best cricket and the Indian team needs to ensure that a Jos Buttler and Stokes himself don't choose the semifinal to bring their A game to the fore.
History is also a bit against India when it comes to results at the business end of the ICC events.
Post 2013, Indian teams have struggled to cross the final two hurdles on multiple occasions -- 2014 T20 World Cup final, 2016 T20 World Cup semifinals, 2017 Champions Trophy final and 2019 ODI World Cup semifinal.
Even though Rohit Sharma played in all those games, he wasn't leading the side back then and hence doesn't carry any baggage of disappointment as he enters the most critical phase of his full time captaincy.
Rohit (89 runs in 5 games) would like to forget the physical pain of being hit in the forearm as he wouldn't shy away from playing one pull shot too many if a fit Mark Wood or his likely replacement Chris Jordan digs it short.
The India skipper needs an innings of substance in the competition and there couldn't be a bigger match than a semifinal to shut his detractors.
Virat Kohli would have a battle at hand against his old nemesis Adil Rashid, while Suryakumar Yadav's skills against Sam Curran's cutters will be an enticing match-up.
Stokes' all round abilities will find its match in Hardik Pandya, who has done his bit with the bat and ball in various games.
The intrigue of sub-plots embedded in the main narrative makes up for a heady build up as world No.1 India meets its ideal match in second-ranked England.
The fans across the globe want an India versus Pakistan final at the MCG on Sunday but skeptics would immediately point at history where both India and Pakistan lost their respective ODI semi-finals in the 1987 World Cup.
Pant or DK, Chahal or Axar?
The Indian team won four games in the Super 12 stage but what has looked a bit unsettling is not being able to get optimum performance from Dinesh Karthik and Rishabh Pant looking confused whether to attack or defend while batting at No. 5.
With shorter side boundaries and presence or Rashid, whose leg break would turn into a left hander, Pant looks a more plausible choice but whether Rahul Dravid's fascination for a designated finisher continues will be interesting to see.
Similarly Axar Patel (3 wickets at economy rate of 9.10) hasn't set the stage on fire but the Indian team management hasn't not shown enough courage to play Yuzvendra Chahal so far.
Chahal's presence will be important since the match will be played on one of the used tracks and spin will play an important role in the outcome of the game.
If Mark Wood, tournament's fastest bowler is ultimately ruled out due to back niggle, it would be welcome news for India as Jordan or Tymal Mills do not have the wherewithal to stop this line up.
But Stokes and Curran have been more than impressive for England with the ball and would prefer India batting first and chase down a total in the range of 150. Buttler, Alex Hales, Liam Livingstone can chase any total on a given day but on a bigger occasion but a small total will help in decreasing the scoreboard pressure.
The par score in Adelaide would be 170 and Rohit along with either Karthik or Pant will have to stand up and be counted as 'law of averages' could catch up with Suryakumar (225 runs) or Kohli (246 runs) sooner than later.
India: Rohit Sharma (captain), KL Rahul, Virat Kohli, Suryakumar Yadav, Dinesh Karthik (wk), Hardik Pandya, R Ashwin, Axar Patel, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Arshdeep Singh, Mohammed Shami, Deepak Hooda, Harshal Patel, Rishabh Pant (wk), Yuzvendra Chahal
England: Jos Buttler (captain, wk), Ben Stokes, Alex Hales, Harry Brook, Phil Salt, Dawid Malan, Sam Curran, Mark Wood, Moeen Ali, Adil Rashid, Tymal Mills, Chris Jordan, Liam Livingstone, Chris Woakes, David Willey.