More than a month since their first game against Australia at Chennai, the Men in Blue traversed the length and breadth of India to finally reach Bengaluru in time for Sunday’s World Cup clash against the Netherlands here at the M. Chinnaswamy Stadium.
Criss-crossing the country and adapting to different terrain ranging from the Himalayas to the coastal plains, Rohit Sharma’s men have remained the most consistent outfit so far in this premier championship.
India’s final league game during the Diwali weekend, will seamlessly blend into the imminent knockout semifinals before the summit clash at Ahmedabad on November 19. For now, the players are back at a venue, which is home to coach Rahul Dravid and his wards K.L. Rahul and Prasidh Krishna. Meanwhile, Virat Kohli has his Royal Challengers Bangalore connect and for the rest of the squad, this ground and the adjacent National Cricket Academy are familiar territory thanks to the regular preparatory camps that are held here.
The host is expected to add to the good cheer associated with Diwali festivities. So far the Indian team has dished out fireworks all through the tournament, with its batters and bowlers clicking in unison. Rohit’s electric starts have found middle-order vindication with Kohli being the prime mover. The fast bowling troika of Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Siraj and Mohammed Shami have been relentless, while spinners Kuldeep Yadav and Ravindra Jadeja have spun a tight web. Eight wins on the trot is a tribute to a playing eleven that has ticked most boxes.
To meet Kiwis in semis
Since the triumphant 2011 edition, India has always sailed into the last-four stage. The cup has proved elusive after M.S. Dhoni held it aloft on a feverish night at the Wankhede Stadium, but there is no mistaking India’s overall consistency. While a semifinal clash against New Zealand at Mumbai on Wednesday is set in stone, India would rather focus on getting past the Netherlands and ensuring that all its vital cogs are in order.
The ground, with its penchant for runs, should stay true while the lurking clouds are expected to steer clear. Saturday was all about blue skies, a bright sun and cool air, and this trend is expected to continue. Meanwhile, the Netherlands, despite toppling South Africa and Bangladesh, has largely played second fiddle to others.
Seamer Bas de Leede has grabbed 14 wickets, but his other comrades have largely been mute. Spinner Roelof van der Merwe, having played for RCB in the past, is clued into the conditions but more needs to be done by the troops under Scott Edwards, if the Netherlands hopes to embarrass a busy juggernaut like India.
The teams (from): India: Rohit Sharma (Capt.), K.L. Rahul (wk), Virat Kohli, Shubman Gill, Shreyas Iyer, Suryakumar Yadav, Ishan Kishan, Ravindra Jadeja, R. Ashwin, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami, Mohammed Siraj, Shardul Thakur, Kuldeep Yadav and Prasidh Krishna.
Netherlands: Scott Edwards (captain & wk), Vikramjit Singh, Teja Nidamanuru, Max O’Dowd, Sybrand Engelbrecht, Colin Ackermann, Bas de Leede, Saqib Zulfiqar, Wesley Barresi, Noah Croes, Roelof van der Merwe, Logan van Beek, Shariz Ahmad, Ryan Klein, Aryan Dutt and Paul van Meekeren.
Umpires: Michael Gough and Chris Gaffaney; Third umpire: Joel Wilson; Match referee: Richie Richardson.
Match starts at 2 p.m.