In-form India skipper, who has upped his game several notches, will headline a strong Mumbai presence that includes batsmen Shreyas Iyer and Suryakumar Yadav against Sri Lanka at the Wankhede Stadium today
Rohit Sharma is all concentrattion during practice at the Wankhede yesterday. Pic/Satej Shinde
On the face of it, this is an unequal battle between former champions. At one end of the spectrum is the home side, unbeaten after six games and with a foot-and-a-half in the semi-finals. At the other is an embattled outfit riddled with injuries and occupying the seventh slot, its chances of advancing beyond the first phase hanging by the most tenuous of threads. But games of cricket aren’t played on paper. On the brink of elimination, Sri Lanka are guaranteed to come hard at Rohit Sharma’s unit, who are riding the crest of a wave despite temporarily losing their talismanic all-rounder, Hardik Pandya, to injury.
That the two teams contested the 2011 World Cup final at the same Wankhede Stadium offers an intriguing subplot, even if no member of this Sri Lankan 15 was a part of that match which went the way of Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s intrepid band.
All the six venues where
India have flexed their muscles thus far have understandably been draped in a sea of blue, fans turning up in their thousands, sporting the jerseys primarily of either Rohit or his predecessor, Virat Kohli. Much of the same can be expected on Thursday, especially given that Rohit is a hometown hero who headlines a strong Mumbai presence in the Indian squad.
After kicking off the World Cup with a duck against Australia in Chennai, Rohit has upped his game several notches, taking the fight to the opposition in the Powerplay with devastating effect. True surfaces allowed him to bat with freedom and purpose, but in Lucknow on Sunday against England, the skipper showcased another side to his batting. Faced with a more challenging surface and a very disciplined bowling attack, Rohit ratcheted down a gear or two without losing impact or substance, the glue that held the Indian innings together.
Steady knock against NZ
His 87, off 101 deliveries, was largely responsible for India’s tally of 229 for nine, expertly defended by the bowling group with Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami leading the charge. Rohit has already termed his homecoming a special occasion, and if he can turn on the magic in front of his adoring legion, Sri Lanka could be on a hiding to nothing.
In Rohit is an example Shreyas Iyer could look to emulate. Also a local lad, Iyer has flattered to deceive, fatally sucked into the pull more than once in this competition. With Suryakumar Yadav, another Mumbai batsman, grabbing his chances owing to Pandya’s unavailability, Iyer will be under some pressure to retain his spot. Perhaps, a return to the ground he knows like the back of his hand will bring the best out of him.
After an iffy start, Sri Lanka sprang to life with back-to-back wins over Netherlands and England, but defeat to Afghanistan on Monday has severely dented their chances. They have the quality, but do they have the belief?