Clinical all-round India brush aside Bangladesh to enter semi-finals
India-Bangladesh though is different, in the sense that there are no such tensions in the first place.
Edgbatson was blue and green, with a pinch of red thrown in. To the uninitiated, it would have seemed like an India-Pakistan re-match. But no, that electric buzz was missing. When the arch rivals clash, there is this uncomfortable energy in the air that things might go south any moment. It never does, because sport eases political tensions instead of fuelling them.
India-Bangladesh though is different, in the sense that there are no such tensions in the first place. Like all countries sharing an international border, they have issues to sort too. But tensions never step in – instead, there is a mutual admiration, a mark of respect at times, even if the two sets of fans hate losing this game. It is not an arch rivalry just yet. It is no less though, for it fuels passions similarly in the sub-continent and everywhere else in the world.
The other thing about India-Bangladesh, in comparison with India-Pakistan, is that it provides far better contests and entertainment over the recent years. Starting from India’s shock loss in 2007, to 2011 and 2015, the 2016 World T20, the 2018 Nidahas T20 Trophy in Sri Lanka, and in between, the 2017 Champions Trophy semi-final. This clash in the group stage of the 2019 Cricket World Cup can also be added to that ever-growing list.
From the outset though, it was a tough match for the Tigers. India were licking their wounds after defeat against England and needed to strike back. Perhaps they felt the need to do something different in response to that defeat on Sunday – captain Virat Kohli rang in the changes. Three pacers, Kedar Jadhav out, and the whole Indian ODI template had changed.
It was to curb the short-boundaries at this ground, which England had used to good effect. This was a missed point though. The English batting line-up, unlike any other, has perfected the art of targeting short boundaries and it was a key reason why India had lost on Sunday. There was no need to change things over for this opposition, and perhaps Indian wouldn’t have, if they had already qualified for the semi-finals. With one point needed, the Men in Blue were always going to play safe.
Was there any surprise when Kohli won the toss and batted first? No, for putting a score on the board is the minimum requisite. Rohit Sharma benefitted from the dropped catch and KL Rahul finally found his form. Things were clicking in the manner India wanted them to – it is the minimum requirement when you are playing international cricket to win.
Another day then and another hundred for Rohit Sharma – his celebration said a lot. On Sunday, he hadn’t even bothered taking off his helmet, for there was a chase to finish. On Tuesday, not only did he take it off, he twirled his bat in the air, playing with it in the manner he toys with bowling attacks. Four centuries in a World Cup, on the footsteps of the legendary Sachin Tendulkar, Rohit is in the richest form of his life. He has now scored 26.7 per cent of India’s runs in this tournament, which is both astonishing and worrying at the same time.
It is because that worry manifests itself every time the middle order is exposed. Kohli is batting differently to shield them, and it shows. What happens when he fails, like he did, and Hardik Pandya fails too, like he did? Rishabh Pant stood up, albeit taking the team only as far as the 45th over. His dismissal was the difference between India not getting 340-350 when they looked to do so at one point.
Pant showcased why he could be a long-term number four option, albeit briefly, but that is a different debate. This is because 315 is an iffy target, and Bangladesh had chased down the likes previously in the tournament. This is where two bowlers rose to round off a complete performance from the Men in Blue.
First up is Pandya, who has shone with the ball more than with the bat in this tournament. Yes, the cameos are expected from him but where he has really made a difference is with the ball. So much so, that Kedar Jadhav didn’t bowl more than two overs across India’s last four games. And it was because Pandya matured into this fifth bowler role, delivering ten overs at every possible juncture. So much so, the team management hasn’t felt the need to include Jadhav in their bowling plans, or in the playing eleven.
While Pandya make the five-bowler attack tick, it is Bumrah who provides the firepower. Years from now, when Bangladesh fans look back at the scorecard and say that they pushed their nemesis once again, Indian fans will remember Bumrah’s spell with pride. Four wickets, all of them in the death, he is a pace marvel who has perfected this art. Kohli had three pacers to play around with, and shuffled between attack/defence mode using Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Mohammed Shami. Bumrah, meanwhile, was always reserved for death mode.
Springing back from that defeat against England then, this was a clinical performance by team India. They were a better side than Bangladesh in every respect, as the Tigers failed to close down the gap to their bogey team once again and exited the tournament.