England to fight for survival, India for a seal on semis
When India meet England at Edgbaston today, there will be a strange, never-before confluence of support propelling the Men in Blue, oh, should we say the Men in Saffron this time! Besides of course the 1.4 billion Indians, the entire sub-continent will be cheering for Kohli and his men, including fractious neighbour Pakistan, Bangladesh and even the Sri Lankans.
That’s what permutations and last-ditch attempts to get into the knockouts do to you, if you have been unprofessional and doubtful starters. England’s loss means Pakistan, Lanka and Bangladesh get a chance to play and live another day in the tournament.
Also, the sun will be shining bright on Team India’s flamingo orange jersey in more ways than one. The temperature will be 21 degrees, warming up the cockles of Indian spinners and leaving the English in the middle of very un-English cricketing conditions, considering they will be fighting to stay in the tournament in a Cup considered their safest bet to lift the trophy; considering they are vulnerable to intelligent spin and considering the wicket might be quite a head turner for them in their pressure moment.
Adding to that, the chirp and the atmosphere outside of the middle has been and will continue to be electric, egging on the Indian team whatever colour intrudes on the blue on the field for the day. All this is talk of colour, of sub-continental support, of stand mechanics are welcome decoration, but only for the outdoors.
Inside the Indian dressing room, the task is cut out and Kohli says there is no room for complacency, stressing that every individual will be doing the job as assigned, nothing less, and definitely nothing more.
Steering pressure on a bad day is key to victories, he adds, and if you go by how the Indian campaign has panned out in the last five games, it’s been handled well. England skipper Eoin Morgan cannot agree more on the pressure point seeking some tips for his team in this segment.
The Indian wins have been clinical and measured to the point of becoming repetitive in style and structure. Steer away the first 10 overs, then try to build-up, keep reassessing the competitive score as per an evolving pitch condition and last, but not least, unleash the pacers and spinners on the opposition to take care of the rest.
They have so far staved off the first 10 overs without game-changing losses as they have the growing talk of a brittle middle, the slimness of Vijay Shankar’s contribution after his first match burst and the strange inertia that has gripped MS Dhoni in rotating the strike when there is need to.
Kohli, however, smiles away all the external concern saying the dressing room is supportive of not just Shankar who went down to a beauty against the West Indies, but also Dhoni who, he feels, has earned the carte blanche to build his innings as, how and when he likes. “He knows what he is doing and we are pretty supportive of him,” he stressed.
Build Dhoni did but only in the last over against the West Indies, giving India a winning total with 16 runs in six balls. Going into the business district of World Cup however, the middle needs to be sounder than it is or has been for a long time, especially when Shikhar Dhawan has fractured out of the tournament and KL Rahul though solid is no firing run-machine all bats loaded.
England, on the other hand, despite Root, Stokes, Morgan and Roy, have suddenly turned coy thanks to two defeats pushing them into a difficult survival drill, Ben Stokes “we will keep the trophy home” campaign notwithstanding. Their build-ups, especially against Afghanistan, have vanished from fable talk and left them to fend for themselves, that too with the onerous and pressure exploding task of facing the striding tournament favourites India. Roy’s fitness will take the final test on match morning and their lead paceman Joffrey Archer would not be in unless he is 100 per cent.
Hundred per cent, sadly for the hosts, is right now an Indian spice in the tournament, howsoever queasy their middle may turn out to be in the coming days.
Sunday, 30 June 2019 | PNS | Edgbaston (Birmingham)
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