World T20 2014: India waltz into the Semis

In all likelihood, India could be playing South Africa in the semi-finals of the 2014 World T20. These are two teams that have the most gifted individual players, but have constantly underperformed in this format.

Apart from the 2007 inaugural World T20, this is the first time India has made it past the group stages. In 2012, India won 3 out of their 4 games, but lost the 1 game to Australia so badly (by 9 wickets) that they were knocked out on NRR. The Indian team has just returned the favour, knocking an already knocked-out Australia from the 2014 World T20, thrashing them by more than 70 runs.

This is Australia’s third largest T20 loss ever, and their third consecutive loss in this World Cup. They have failed to beat Pakistan, West Indies and now India. Their capitulation against the Indian spinners was brutally bad, with no planning or match-awareness, catapulting India to the top of their group—the ONLY unbeaten team in this tournament so far. It would be tragic if their one bad bowling performance came in the knockouts, but the Indian fan has learned to be positive and confident after this baffling and bizarrely efficient team performance.

India have now won 6 T20 games on the trot—their longest ever T20 winning streak, and have also usurped the no. 1 position in the format (which is a bit of a joke, to be honest, but it’s T20s). A win here would make most fans forget their disastrous Away Test form, but the smarter ones will remember that these are two completely different formats, and a lot is left to be desired in the longer formats.

 

India, under MS Dhoni, since 2007 have made a habit out of performing (and eventually winning) all the ICC World Tournaments (World T20, World Cup and Champions Trophy). The funny part is that they peak only in these tournaments—they wake up (in stark contrast to South Africa) while performing rubbish in between these events, losing most bilateral series and overseas tournaments.

If they win here again, it would be nothing less than a minor miracle, considering their form entering this tournament. But this against-all-odds streak has been very similar to their entrance in last year’s Champion’s Trophy where Dhawan burst onto the scene and propelled the World Champions to an unbeaten tournament win. One must remember though that this is being played in Bangladesh, in spin-friendly conditions, where only sub continental teams are expected to go through. By that logic, Pakistan should defeat the West Indians and make it through, but Narine and Badree—the new spin twins—could have something to say about that. It will all come down to which team’s spinners perform better on the day, and so far, India’s spin triplets have outperformed every other team in their group. It was Mishra that won the first two MoM awards, and it’s Ashwin that has won the next two—surely a first in Indian cricket, where no batsman has figured in the honors for the entire stage.

 

 

There have been weak links, but even Yuvraj has roared back to form at the perfect time. Only Dhawan must be wondering if he is safe in this winning side. It would be a gamble to stick with Rahane for a crucial game, but Dhoni’s captaincy in the shortest format has always been unparalleled. He makes his decisions and backs his players, and you wonder where this mind wanders when in whites abroad.

Prediction:
India could go all the way. They haven’t been tested yet, but pulled themselves out of a hole against Australia while batting first. They could very well face either Pakistan or West Indies in the final—in what will be a fascinating rematch of the world’s strongest T20 sides.

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