Indian cricket team ticks off all the boxes as Men in Blue juggernaut rolls into semis
India’s progress to the 2023 Cricket World Cup semi-finals and top spot in the group table was already guaranteed, but nine wins out of nine matches has a nice ring to it. The Men in Blue stormed into the semi-finals as the only unbeaten side in the tournament after beating the Netherlands on Diwali Sunday and with more wins than in any of the previous editions. They won the World Cup in 1983 and 2011, but never won nine matches in a single World Cup.
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Just as they ticked off the box of winning all the group games, they also posted their first 400+ score in the 2023 World Cup. There had been 11 350+ teams totals in the tournament but India only had one to their name. Now they have two and are among the only three sides to breach the 400-run mark.
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In the larger scheme of things, these stats may not matter the most, but the value of these achievements cannot be underestimated. Eight wins and one defeat would have been enough, but nine victories out of nine matches give you a different sort of confidence. India have made 400 or more seven times in ODI cricket, but doing it for the first time in the 2023 World Cup will make them believe more that they can do it again in the semi-final or dare I say, the final.
“It’s important, the results do matter to keep the dressing room environment lively,” captain Rohit Sharma said in the post-match presentation ceremony explaining the impact of the unbeaten run.
The manner in which India got to 410/4 batting first at the M Chinnaswamy was also a microcosm of what has helped the Men in Blue put in such an impressive streak. The top five Indian batters scored 50+ plus runs with two of them smashing hundreds. It was a complete team effort as has been the case so often for the Indian cricket team in this World Cup and was also the first instance of five or more batters scoring fifty-plus scores in an innings in an ODI World Cup match.
Iyer and Rahul show
Rohit, Shubman Gill and Virat Kohli looked fluid, but it was Shreyas Iyer and KL Rahul who scored the centuries.
After struggling for big scores for a while, Iyer has now hit the top gear, just ahead of the knockouts. After struggling against short balls and falling prey to them against New Zealand and England, Iyer, in the Netherlands match, showed how good a student of the game he is.
With a minor tweak in his technique of getting the bat behind him instead of keeping it vertically up, he gave a harsh treatment to the short balls and lit up the Chinnaswamy. Iyer’s 128 not out off 94 balls is the first hundred by an India No. 4 batter in ODI World Cups since Yuvraj Singh’s 113 against West Indies in 2011.
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The Mumbai batter has so far scored 421 runs in nine matches at an average of 70.17 and a strike rate of 106.58. A far cry from the mess the team endured with the No. 4 spot in the 2019 World Cup.
Then there’s the small matter of KL Rahul scoring India’s fastest ODI World Cup century, in just 62 balls. He ended on 102 not out off 64 balls and once again underlined his role of being an enforcer and a finisher. It was this knock that propelled India past 400.
Part-timers roll their arms
The Netherlands would be proud to score 250 in reply even if they lost by 160 runs. The Indian bowling had been on a rampage in this World Cup, bowling out teams for as low as 55, but on Sunday, they weren’t at their best.
It’s understandable. India have a big game coming up against their nemesis New Zealand in the semi-final. You can’t begrudge the Indian pacers trying to save some energy for the knockouts and it also gave Men in Blue to try out their part-timers.
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Kohli, Gill, Suryakumar Yadav and Rohit combined for a total of 7.5 overs against the Netherlands in which Virat and the India skipper also picked up a wicket each.
Their unexpected bowling made for some laughs, but the much-needed match practice can prove to be extremely crucial in the semi-final as India have settled for just five bowling options since Hardik Pandya got injured.
The toughest test begins now for Team India. It will take just one loss to get eliminated and how many you won in the group stage wouldn’t matter. But it’s the form and preparation that separates the best from the rest and in those departments, there’s no match for Rohit Sharma and Co.
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