BENGALURU: Inconsequential. Dead rubber. This is how India’s Sunday fixture against the Netherlands will be bandied about. In the context of the competition, the last league match has little in terms of consequence. But it’s still a World Cup match with plenty to gain for both teams.
Rohit Sharma and Co. – the table toppers – have been on a rampage, ticking the boxes and playing a brand of cricket which has shown scant regard for failure. In the run-up to the tournament there were questions surrounding the middle-order and the lack of game time for key players returning from injuries. All that has been put to rest with eight wins on the trot.
There is no mistaking the intensity of the Indians. This match at the M Chinnaswamy stadium should serve to sync all departments ahead of the hosts’ semifinal clash against New Zealand in Mumbai on Wednesday. They’ve had six days of rest ahead of their last league engagement with training being optional. But the players have been sweating it out in batches over the past three days. Among the constants have been the likes of Rohit, Ishan Kishan and Gill.
A school of thought suggests that India should rest their key players. One, to give them rest and two, to give a few on the bench like R Ashwin, Ishan and Shardul Thakur opportunities. But the man who takes the call was non-committal.
“We’ve had six days off, so we’re pretty well rested and the guys are in good shape. That’s all I’ll say without giving away the level,” stated head coach Rahul Dravid on the eve of the match.
Irrespective of India’s team composition, what’s certain is some Deepavali fireworks. The compact arena has been a batter’s paradise in the four matches here so far. New Zealand recorded the highest score of 401 in a rain-marred lost cause and four centuries across three teams have been scored. The match will be played on pitch 7, which was used for the opener here between Australia and Pakistan on October 20. That match yielded 672 runs, including two centuries from Australia’s David Warner and Mitchell Marsh.
Going by India’s form, it will be interesting to see if Rohit Sharma and his red-hot lineup of batters can recreate the magic the skipper created at the venue on Deepavali night, a decade ago. Against Australia, Rohit’s extraordinary show of 209 runs bathed the stadium in a hue impossible to fathom, let alone emulate.
And by the same token, the Netherlands’ lack of experience will be exploited to the hilt by an Indian bowling attack which has been demolishing rival lineups for fun. Netherlands, an ICC associate country which failed to qualify for the 2015 and 2019 editions, are not here to merely make up numbers, though. They may be at the bottom of the pile but have punched above their weight.
They are the only team, other than India, to put it across South Africa and they dealt a knockout blow to Bangladesh with an 87-run victory. Skipper Scott Edwards has led from the front. The wicketkeeper bat has been an inspiration for his team along with the seasoned Sybrand Engelbrecht, their leading run getter (307).
Bowlers like Bas de Leede (14 wkts), Logan van Beek (12) and young spinner Aryan Dutt (10) have been among wickets. The Dutch World Cup journey began in the city with training stints, and it culminates at a venue which is a dream destination for many.
But it’s unlikely this motley crew of Dutchmen will stop the Indian juggernaut from rolling into the semis with an unblemished record in the league phase.