Birmingham: “The team played really well – in the last match – it was a complete performance and I really don’t see a need for any change,” those were the words of a confident captain who knows he has found his best combination. Virat Kohli squashed all doubts, if at all there were any, about what his playing XI will be against Bangladesh on Thursday.
India’s thumping win over South Africa and Ravichandran Ashwin’s performance in the match has added the missing piece in the jigsaw and Virat Kohli is eager to drive home the advantage. But the Indian captain sounded a cautious note on the eve of the semi-final, keeping in mind Bangladesh’s fearless brand of cricket and meteoric rise in one-day cricket in the past two years.
“We have been in such situations before and that will definitely help us, but there are no guarantees in sports. We have seen some upsets in the group stage as well and we are not taking anything for granted.
“They – Bangladesh – are already a consistent side and nobody is surprised anymore that they are doing well. The credit goes to their set-up and the players they have who are now taking responsibility. They are a dangerous side and they have taken great strides and we are not taking them lightly,” the Indian captain said about the Asian rivals.
After the shock defeat in the 2007 World Cup, India has managed to get the better of Bangladesh in ICC events since then. The Bangla Tigers though ran them close in the 2015 ICC World Cup and the 2016 WT20 and their victory over New Zealand in the group phase clearly shows they are a side ready to challenge the best, and Kohli acknowledged the reality.
“They were really impressive in the run chase against New Zealand. They showed a lot of composure during the chase and that is a sign of a team which has matured and now knows how to win matches,” Kohli said while describing Bangladesh’s success.
As far as preparations are concerned, the Indian team went through their drills in practice at the Colts Nets in Edgbaston under the watchful eyes of team coach Anil Kumble. The group looked in a comfortable space as all the first team players went about doing their business with thorough professionalism.
After the customary warm-up football game, the team spent a lot of time practicing fielding drills under the supervision of fielding coach R Sridhar. India’s fielding has improved with every match in this tournament and was the crucial factor in the virtual quarter-final against South Africa.
There were drills for taking high catches near the boundary, slip catching and also for perfecting the art of sending in a good throw from the deep to the wicket-keeper.
In the nets, most of India’s batsmen looked in good touch, middling all the deliveries and playing a fair amount of seam bowling, knowing that Bangladesh has a predominantly seam bowling attack.
India’s top order has performed well in the tournament, as a result of which the lower middle-order has remained untested mostly. But the Indian captain said it was not a matter of concern for the team as the likes of Kedar Jadhav and Hardik Pandya are waiting for a crisis situation to show their mettle.
“Everyone is batting well, everyone got a hit in the practice game and we know it for a fact that Kedar and Hardik are playing well at the moment. They are waiting for an opportunity to take the team through along with Jadeja and Ashwin if there is a requirement. They are waiting for a crisis situation so that they can play a match winning knock. That’s the energy they are creating,” Kohli said about the lower middle-order.
The Indian captain also brushed aside any talk about the contest being a ‘grudge match’ given that the Bangladesh media and fans still talk about the no ball decision that went against the Tigers at a crucial point in the 2015 World Cup quarter-final.
“Twenty-four months have passed since then and we have played them several times after that match. We are not going in there to prove a point to anyone,” Kohli said.
As far as the head to head between the teams is concerned, India have beaten Bangladesh 26 times in 33 matches, with the Bangla Tigers winning on 5 occasions while two matches were abandoned.
For Bangladesh, who have a turned corner in limited overs cricket due to a bunch of fearless youngsters and the coming of age of key players like skipper Mashrafe Mortaza, Shakib Al Hasan and Mushfiqur Rahim, it is the biggest opportunity of their cricketing history.
For India, it is a chance to set-up a mouthwatering summit clash with arch rivals Pakistan, who steamrolled hosts and favourites England to march into the final.