World Cup 2019: India's semis headaches
Things in Virat Kohli's mind as 1983 redux beckons
Should they continue with just five bowlers, how will Hardik Pandya's bouncers work against Kiwi batsmen who are good with horizontal-bat shots, can an untested middle-order deliver if the need arises, should the spin-twins be separated to allow both Mohammed Shami and Bhuvneshwar Kumar to play? These are the questions that will be on top of India's mind ahead of Tuesday's clash.
India did what they had to at Headingley by demolishing Sri Lanka on the back of a record breaking fifth century by the run hungry Rohit Sharma. He was assisted in putting Sri Lanka away by KL Rahul, who finally turned his potential into a potent score with a century that helped take India within touching distance of a middling target. Things were falling into place nicely for India with the knockout section looming.
However, they were about to get even better, as across the Pennines at Old Trafford, South Africa finally awoke from their slumber to defeat arch-rivals Australia. This meant India had leapfrogged Australia to the top of the table and would take on New Zealand, a far more palatable semi-final opponent than
Bumrah on fire
In Rohit's relaxed mood India could have tackled a far more difficult target with ease but the fact that they didn't have to, had a lot to do with the irrepressible Jasprit Bumrah. He began in ominous fashion with two maidens — the second of which contained a wicket — and finished his opening spell with 2-14.
It was just as well he was in such a miserly mood as Bhuvneshwar Kumar was unusually profligate as he could find neither consistent line nor length. This is a selection headache India have for the knockout stage — Bhuvneshwar is the better finisher but Mohammed Shami is more of a wicket taker, especially in the early and middle overs.
The ideal situation will be to play both but that will mean leaving out one of the spinners, a choice India doesn't relish. Adding to this confusion, Ravindra Jadeja bowled well in his first outing and his fielding and batting add much to the Indian line-up.
Pandya needs to be cautious
India's choices will probably come down to the conditions provided at Old Trafford for the first semi-final on Tuesday. The other hot topic of conversation at the selection table before that match will be whether or not to rely on just five bowlers.
Hardik Pandya's bowling has been pretty good so far but he's tended to fall in love with the short delivery, both slow and fast. It's a tactic that has been prevalent at this World Cup but Pandya will need to be a bit more selective as he faces players who are adept at playing the horizontal bat shots.
India have built steadily towards the knockout stages without the middle-order really being tested. This would perhaps be more of a concern if Virat Kohli had been scoring heavily but the skipper is still yet to score a century and the likelihood of this sequence continuing is not high. Nevertheless, if Rohit and Rahul keep denying him opportunities to post a three-figure score I doubt there'll be any complaints.
Chance for revenge
India's only hiccup so far has been a loss to England at Edgbaston and they've now avoided a recurrence of that meeting by finishing on top of the table. India's aim now will be to ensure they have a chance for revenge at Lord's on July 14, thereby providing an opportunity to repeat their historic 1983 victory.
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