Team India is all set to begin the quench of its 3rd WC title hunt today at Southampton when it will lock horn against a dejected yet a powerful squad on paper- South Africa.
Suffering back-to-back defeats against the hosts, England and Asian minnows Bangladesh- Proteas were struck with immediate brakes as 2 of its pacers- Dale Steyn and Lungi Ngidi seemed to be out of service owing to injury issues.
Though the former suffered a second shoulder injury in the tournament, the latter suffered a left hamstring injury during the outing against Bangladesh on Sunday. The opening batting sensation & senior African- Hashim Amla service was missing after the stroke maker from Durban, received a blow to head against the hosts in the opener.
With the competition moving fast and steady- the “chokers” need to eliminate all the previous results and start afresh against India, if it needs to get rid of the tag. The match will be played in Southampton for the first time since the start of the main competition. This will give the Proteas a new hope as the conditions would be foreign to both the nations.
On the other hand, India look ahead to continue its dominance through bat and ball in their first official encounter of their World Campaign and prove the worthiness of their “favourites” tag of the competition. The recent encounter against the Tigers helped Virat Kohli & Co to erase all the uncertainties and questions regarding the selection criteria and form of the 2 time World Champions. KL Rahul emerged out to be a strong middle-order option for India, assisting the experienced duo of Dhoni-Virat. India eliminated many concerns arising over the debatable No 4 spot in the squad, role of Mahi other than wicketkeeper as the experienced WC winning captain was seen enjoying the moment on the field with DK taking charge behind the stumps.
The spin duo of Kul-Cha proved to be a lethal option for India with ball in hand as they scalped a total of 6 wickets of the Bangladeshi batting line-up. Ravindra Jadeja, too proved his mettle between Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzi Chahal as the economical spell by the left-arm orthodox seemed to enjoy the limelight alongwith the regular twisters of the team.
The pace trio of Bumrah-Shami-Kumar, once again indicated that bowling partnerships is more than scalping wickets and completing the 10- over quota individually. Bumrah gave the essential breakthrough for the team by not letting the experienced Shakib to settle in the game, which India look ahead to capitalize in the competition ahead.
The right-arm-fast medium brings a unique quality of not letting the experienced batting CV of the opposition to prove a major threat on any given odd day. As the batting of the SA goes well into the deep with JP, coming in at No. 6 and standing the ability to strike above 150, the experience of Indian pacers will come into picture.
The top-order too will be expected to play a crucial role in today’s encounter against Virat Kohli’s men to get rid of their current situation in the competition and play for the fans of the African nation coming all the way to England to watch the team perform well – as the skipper Faf du Plessis was seen quoting in one of his post match interviews.
The opposite number & same role from India- Virat seemed to be confident of playing late in the tournament; understanding the overcast conditions and studying minute details of their opponents from their 2 outings. The Indian captain will hope to see an overturn in regular and experience opening duo of Shikhar-Rohit as they face the challenges of performing well especially after a dejected start against NZ and BAN where the scores of both read 2,2,1,19. Six summers ago, the duo made their maiden entry in another ICC tournament against SA where they shared 127-run opening partnership. A similar hunger & approach will be on the wishlist for the Indian openers today at Southampton.
The next stop for the Men in Blue in analyzing its internal strength will be the right and deliverable middle-order line-up. The musical chair scenario in India’s middle order has proved to be the only page unturned in setting up the world’s strongest team in the format. With 100’s scored by Lokesh Rahul and MS Dhoni at an strike rate above 100 in the previous international outing, the team management headed by coach Ravi Shastri will be hoping for the start of the thunderous storm ahead for Indian clouds in English weather.
The opposition teams, however aware of India’s major weakness lying in its middle-order consistency, will aim for a flook show of Indians against their Asian counterparts- Bangladesh. Perhaps, the Men in Blue will be eyeing for a strong contribution from its middle-order to help the team in commanding position.
With Hardik Pandya, Dinesh Karthik & Ravindra Jadeja capitalizing on the platform set by KL & MS playing at a strike rate above 100, the trio certainly aim to create a powerful impact in the middle; irrespective of their duration of stay.
The Played-Won-Loss for Indian cricket team in the history of the Cricket World Cup has been following:-
1992: 8-2-5 (1 N/R)
2011: 9-7-1 (1 tie)
The hot favourites for the 2019 edition look ahead to capitalize a perfect balance on the team’s strength, weather conditions and also analyze the weakness and opportunities in their opposition to do justice on the expectations of its fans across the globe.