Men in Blue look to cement semis berth as Windies play for pride
It will be, by and large, a for-the-record match at Manchester today with India bidding to cement their semi-final positioning and the West Indies trying to take one back home.
The Caribbeans have already lost a lot in the tournament besides defeats to Australia, England, Bangladesh and New Zealand on a trot, not to mention one wasted game against South Africa as rain called day.
They have 3 point from six games and have lost the fire power of big-hitter Andre Russell who is out of the tournament with a knee injury which they fervently hoped would heal; their prime striker Chris Gayle has been comparatively windless, unable to kick up a storm with his run-getting abilities and their outage from the Cup despite a brilliant warm-up run (they defeated New Zealand) has dented their morale and the famous Caribbean magic they are traditionally rated for.
India is in red hot form and unbeaten, having won all their outings, four so far if you discount the washed away match against New Zealand. Directly contravening this, the Windies have lost all they have played for so far since after thrashing Pakistan in their tournament opener and would be meeting India to proverbially play for pride or whatever is left of it in this competition.
In another manner of speaking, self-belief will meet self-doubt but since it is cricket, gloriously uncertain underdogs can emerge triumphant, a feat one almost saw in the clash against Afghanistan where the famed Indian batting line-up was stymied and the bigger team won only on a late burst by its pacers feeding on Afghan inexperience.
West Indies would be looking at that closely to draw some strength for themselves. Also, Chris Gayle is known to tear into the scene when there is nothing much to play for, so this one could be the one for the road back home for him and consequently the Windies.
Over the ifs and buts, over all the speculation, fact is that India have so far played professionally sound, convincing cricket, hiding their middle order niggles and the impactful loss of Shikhar Dhawan, to injury on the arm of their bowlers.
Kohli’s team work chant has been at play even though the talk of a struggling Mahendra Singh Dhoni, more so after the Afghanistan match, has found momentum, what with the great Sachin Tendulkar talking about his disappointment with the Dhoni-Jadhav partnership against Afghanistan.
Dhoni, who is playing his last World Cup, has not been among the runs right from the start. Trying to pace up the scoreboard, he went in a flash against Pakistan and failed to energise against South Africa and Australia earlier in the tournament. Dhoni being crucial for middle order momentum tends to come under quick scrutiny. He did not take the optional nets at Manchester on Wednesday.
Like its middle order performance, it is also crucial for India to win against the West Indies this Friday, to not just put a seal on their semi-final qualification, but more importantly get the spot they want in the knockout match on the basis of run-rate and number of wins.
Among the unbeaten teams, India figures alongside New Zealand, vying for the top slot in the semi-finals where the No 1 team plays No 4.
Thursday, 27 June 2019 | PNS | Manchester
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