India eye dominance with focus on bigger games

Guwahati: Ever since India opened their 2022 T20 World Cup campaign with a stunning last-ball four-wicket win over arch-rivals Pakistan in Sunday’s high-octane encounter at the MCG, social media timelines have been flooded with fans rejoicing the triumph as if India has already won the title.

And why not, after all the Indian team managed to avenge the humiliation of the last edition by snatching a victory from the clutches of a defeat in front of a vociferous 90,000 fans in Melbourne.

But there lies a bigger picture that the Indian team will need to focus on from hereon. If one turns back a page to the recently-held Asia Cup in the UAE, where hot favourites India failed to reach the final after suffering back-to-back defeats at the hands of Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Co-incidentally, India opened their campaign with a win over the men-in-green in the tournament.

And let’s not forget, India are yet to lay their hands on the coveted silverware for 15 years, since MS Dhoni’s men won the inaugural edition in 2007 in South Africa.

As the dust settles on Sunday’s euphoric win, Rohit Sharma and Co will look to continue with the momentum as they take on the Netherlands, amidst a ‘cold’ welcome in Sydney on Thursday.

Yes, India holds the upper hand in the tie, but one can’t discount the fact that the Dutch side has made it to the Super 12 stage of the tournament on merit, something which was acknowledged by India’s bowling coach Paras Mhambrey in Wednesday’s pre-match presser.

While the two teams have never faced each other in the shortest format, it will be prudent from an Indian perspective to jog back memories of the 2011 ICC World Cup match in Delhi, where the home side was rescued by Yuvraj Singh’s half century after the top order made a mess of a below-par chase of 190 in 50 overs.

Considering the negligible amount of cricket played between the two countries, the Indians will also be wary of the lesser-known opponents’ abilities to spring a surprise or two in the contest. Also for the Indians, the match will provide the right opportunity to rectify the errors made against Pakistan, especially the dropped catches, besides addressing their batting concerns, somewhat overshadowed by Virat Kohli’s masterclass in Melbourne.

Such was the impact of Kohli’s knock that the contributions of Hardik Pandya (3/30 & 40) and Arshdeep Singh (3/32) were almost overlooked. Mhambrey, however, did shower praises on the duo, saying, “Hardik is a very important player for us. He adds a lot of balance: he is both bowling and batting. Other than that, his attitude on the field is important. As you saw in the last match, he played a crucial inning. Yes, Virat (Kohli) finished it off, but to recognise the fact that the pressure will shift to the opposition if the game goes deep, you need experience. So much of Virat’s performance credit should be given to Hardik as well. Rest is not even a discussion. Every match is important.”

Mhambrey was quick to pick young Arshdeep’s ability to set up the match for India with the wickets of Babar Azam, and Mohammed Rizwan upfront, and later with the scalp of finisher Asif Ali.

“The composure he has shown, the clarity of thought process I think there will be ups and downs in his career but the way he has come back (after Asia Cup) the ability to handle pressure is phenomenal and I am not really surprised the way he has bowled in the first game (against Pakistan). We have a lot of confidence in him and he has a good future,” he said while referring to the online abuse the Mohali boy was subjected to after the dropped catch against Pakistan in the Asia Cup.

The bowling coach also credited the senior pros in Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Mohammed Shami for guiding Arshdeep, with their experience of playing in Australian conditions.

“Arshdeep is kind of a guy who likes to talk a lot. He had a chat with other senior players like Bhuvi and Shami as well because those guys have played out here (in Australia). It is kind of a learning that he has taken and tried to implement in his game. I’d like to give credit to him as well. To be able to go out there and execute and do it yourself the individual skills come in,” he said.

While the team preferred to skip the pre-match training session, scheduled at Blacktown, some 42 km away from Sydney on Wednesday, Rohit and the team management will be hoping to make the most of the opportunity on the batting paradise in Sydney.

Speaking of the Scott Edwards-led Netherlands, the team has a few key players in Bas de Leede, who offers all-round utility, Colin Ackermann, Paul van Meekeren and opener Vikramjit Singh. Irrespective of their performance, the match will offer a great learning curve for the Dutch side.

As the Sydney Cricket Ground prepares for Thursday’s doubleheader, with South Africa clashing against Bangladesh in the morning game, the predictions from the weathermen could dampen the mood as it appears that there is a 30 per cent chance of rain. 

Also read | Sehwag hits out at ICC for ‘cold’ welcome of Indian team in Sydney

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