There we have it – might be one World Cup too late, but we have 4 Asian teams in the Quarterfinals of the World Cup for the first time in the 40 year history of the game. Given the religious experience that the game of Cricket is in South Asia, this was only a matter of time. In the 2011 World Cup, Bangladesh had lost out on a quarterfinal spot due to their lower Net Run Rate. This time around, they were thrown the proverbial lemon in the form of a wash-out against Australia. Boy, did they make it count!
Their big brothers across the border did not need any such stroke of luck as they dominated their group in very atypical Asian cricket team style. Given the plot lines from the previous two World Cups in 2007 and 2011, this encounter between India and Bangladesh has a much needed edge to it. Add to it the performances that Bangladesh put in their last two league matches and you have the ingredients for what might be a closer-than-anticipated clash.
India have been very clinical in their approach in the group phase – very reminiscent of their run to the final in South Africa, 12 years ago. Even in their most dominant performance in a World Cup – 4 years ago, India were not consistently dominant in the league phase. Fast forward 4 years and in very MS Dhoni style, India seem to have put the lessons they learnt in the last ODI World Cup to good use. Their schedule required them to be at their best from the very first match and they turned up for their match against Pakistan at full intensity. Since that day, one month ago, they have been like a pit-bull with a bone and did not let the tempo drop.
Bangladesh on their part needed to win against one of the other Test nations in their group and the washout against Australia simplified matters by making their match against England a virtual knock-out. Bangladesh stepped it up when it mattered and knocked England out of the tournament and nearly engineered a victory against another traditional power house in our game – New Zealand. Despite the loss, Bangladesh’s performance in their last league match sent a strong message to the rest of the field that they did not get through to the knock out phase to make up the numbers.
India will need to re-ignite their drive after a few relatively less intensive battles against the less tougher teams and will have to be at their very best to move forward in the tournament. With Dhoni at the helm, one can be assured of the team turning up for the battle rearing to go. They will want Rohit Sharma to be tuned in and get some partnership up top – particularly if the team ends up chasing. Another point of contention, very surprisingly is Virat Kohli who has not been among runs since that composed century against arch-rivals Pakistan. His form will be very critical for India’s performance not just in the quarterfinal, but in their quest for the title.
Another area for improvement will be Ravindra Jadeja. In the last world cup, MSD made one of his awe-inspiring moves by bringing in Suresh Raina for an under performing Yousuf Pathan and Raina delivered in spades in both the quarter-final and the semi-final. Dhoni faces a similar call with Jadeja. His act of omission or comission on Jadeja’s position could well be the traditional MSD touch India needs to deliver the knock out punches, this time around.
Bangladesh will need to continue their gritty performance and ensure that they do the basics right. Get the partnerships going and be discipline with their bowling and field with inspiration. They could take a leaf out of the MS Dhoni book of wisdom and hang around with the opponent till the opponent starts feeling the pressure as well. Bangladesh have got bowlers in form and batsman among runs. The key, then, is to not get overwhelmed by the situation and focus on holding their end of the fight.
Both teams will like to bat first and put runs on the board so that they can work the scoreboard pressure to tie-down the team chasing down. Bangladesh have implemented this plan to the T in their last two matches and India did the very same in the 2 biggest matches of their group. I would think batting first is more critical to Bangladesh than India in this high-pressure match.
Prediction: Bangladesh have taken a big step getting to the quarterfinals, but big brother seems to have all bases covered to ensure they will not be blindsided like they were, 8 years ago. India for the win.
–Prakash Potukuchi [ aka Roger Laver is the founder of Sportz Cosmos. He tweets here.]