June 15, 2017
And so we have it. Three Asian cricket teams – the winner of Sri Lanka and Pakistan will face England in the final four – are guaranteed to reach the semifinals of a major ICC ODI tournament. India demolished no. 1 ranked South Africa in a virtual quarterfinal and knockout match of Group B on Sunday by 8 wickets. This sealed their fifth consecutive semifinal spot in an ICC World tournament since 2011. Bangladesh defeated New Zealand on Friday to pull off one of the greatest comebacks in an ODI match. They chased down 266 after being 33-4 in 12 overs at one stage. This is the second consecutive ODI tournament, including the 2015 World Cup, in which former minnows Bangladesh have reached the knockout stages. Interestingly, they were eventually knocked out by India in the quarterfinals of that tournament.
Overall head-to-head record: India 26, Bangladesh 5
ICC tournament record: India 4, Bangladesh 1
Captain: Virat Kohli
Played 3, Won 2, Lost 1
After a major blip against Sri Lanka, India came storming back at The Oval, destroying South Africa clinically after playing an extra spinner (Ravichandran Ashwin replaced Umesh Yadav). It certainly doesn’t make sense dropping your most in-form bowler on the basis of one bad game against an unpredictable Lankan side. Both way, it worked out fine for the team and they have been rewarded with arguably the easier of the semifinal fixtures.
Shikhar Dhawan, whose inclusion had been criticized after the injury to regular opener KL Rahul, has turned back time to 2013. For the third consecutive World ODI tournament in a row (2013 CT, 2015 World Cup and now this one), Dhawan has sped out of the blocks when it has counted the most. With two fifties and one hundred in three games, he averages 90 in the Champions Trophy, and has easily been the brightest spot for the team so far. Virat Kohli has struggled in the initial parts of each of his three innings, but has managed to cut loose with a six in two of them (against Pakistan and South Africa). He managed to score two fifties despite being far away from his best. Rohit Sharma played a daft shot against Morne Morkel in the last game, but has looked good otherwise, scoring two fifties too. He kept the team stable at the start of the innings despite a slow scoring rate. The batting has fired in all three innings, as it was expected to. Ravindra Jadeja’s comeback (1-39) after a disastrous spell against Sri Lanka signified that he is up for the challenge, too.
India’s bowling is arguably the best and most balanced in this tournament – something we don’t get to say often about most Indian teams over the years. Each of the bowlers look to be in great touch. But all of them found a way to tank collectively in the second game against Lanka, failing to defend 320 by a long margin. They can’t afford another day like that, especially against teams like England in the Final. But Bangladesh are no pushovers, and are far from the team that were destroyed by India in the warm-ups early on. The partnership between Mahmudullah and Shakib Al Hasan was a classic against a hapless New Zealand side. Choosing both Ravichandran Ashwin and Jadeja isn’t a bad ploy, but it can’t come at the cost of Yadav. Perhaps the extra batsman (Kedar Jadhav) could be done away with – but Kohli will not want to disturb a winning combination, instead of going with the horses-for-courses strategy at Birmingham.
Captain: Mushfiqur Rahim
Played 3, Won 1, Lost 1, NR 1
The team got a lucky break against Australia in their second game after they lost to England, when the match was called off due to rain with just four overs to go to hit the 20-over mark. They were all set to lose that one. But they’ve hit back sensationally against the Kiwis, and profited from a bit of luck again, after they needed England to beat Australia in the final game. That happened, and now they find themselves against ‘big bullies’ India. The 1-run loss from the 2016 World T20 and the ‘Rohit Sharma no-ball’ from the 2015 World Cup will still rankle them.
The rise of all-rounder Mosaddek Hossain against New Zealand seems to have helped the balance of a team in which the reliance is always heavily on the top order. Tamim Iqbal has looked in fine touch, with a century and a fifty, while all-rounder Shakib has performed when it counted the most. He ended up as Man of the Match for his century and economical bowling against New Zealand. The bowling attack of veteran Mashrafe Mortaza, youngsters Taskin Ahmed and Mustafizur Rahman, as well as spinners Rubel Hussain and Shakib form for perhaps the best attack in Bangladesh’s small history of cricket. If they can’t win matches with this line-up, they can’t win with anything else.
Opener Soumya Sarkar has failed to fire this tournament, and the batting is prone to early collapses, with the middle order usually having to lift most of the weight. He could just fire against India, given his record against them. They don’t have the firepower to end an innings with a flourish, which is why they will do better to chase a total instead of setting one against India. Their fielding hasn’t been as bad as Pakistan’s or even India’s, but it has to come together against the Indian batsmen.
Prediction: India should defeat Bangladesh, but it won’t be as easy as it once was.