In a World Cup that has been dubbed one of the most open in cricket’s history, team India have shown exemplary form whether with bat or ball. They have sealed themselves as the favourites of the top four that have made it to the semi finals. Team India looks most likely to lift the World Cup trophy in a week’s time.

Credit must be given in no short measure to team India that converted their promise from the Asia Cup into a dominant performance at the ongoing ICC Cricket World Cup 2023, sealing their berth in the semi finals. To have finished on the top of the table, with the result of their final match against the Netherlands the only match of relative inconsequence in this World Cup remaining says something of how strongly they have performed, as a unit.

If Rohit Sharma was flying the flag high, keeping up his prolific World Cup run scoring intact, Virat Kohli picked up the baton and how! Comparisons between this edition of the World Cup and the last time India lifted the ICC Cricket World Cup in 2011 have slowly begun to do the rounds.

Not lost on the cricket world was the fact that the 2011 was expected to be Sachin Tendulkar’s swansong with Kohli announced as his heir apparent. It must have been a bittersweet moment for the most prolific contemporary batsman in the current era for Virat Kohli to have equalled his hero and mentor for the most number of one day international centuries at 49.

Rohit Sharma, who missed selection for the 2011 World Cup, has had to marshall a team that has been relatively set in its ways, the bowlers picking up wickets consistently, and the top order batsmen doing their job with few hiccups. With his captaincy on the line and criticism being the bane of his captaincy thus far, this World Cup must have felt like a breath of fresh air for him, taking significant weight off his shoulders as both, batsman and captain which would explain the flow of runs.

Mohammad Shami, Siraj and Bumrah have kept the fast bowling interests high and India have not lacked in the spinner department with Kuldeep Yadav either. For India to have dominated the way they did even when they lost their premier all-rounder Hardik Pandya to injury says something.

To put things in perspective, of the four semi finalists, India have announced themselves as firm favourites and while the nightmares of previous World Cups might be on the back of their minds and the minds of their fans, India will feel fairly confident that they can overcome New Zealand who have been surprisingly dominant and classical in the way they have stayed true to their goals, even daring to pitch in a relative newcomer in Rachin Ravindra who has been in dominant form as an opener and even when their captaincy has juggled between Tom Latham and injury prone Kane Williamson.

Despite the fact that New Zealand had the better of India in the 2019 edition and were unfortunate to miss out on at least sharing the World Cup in that edition as England walked away with the trophy, it seems given how consistent India have been with bat and ball, even with Trent Boult enjoying his bowling and wrecking some havoc on the opposition, it would seem India would find it well within their range to counter anything the southern hemisphere nation has to put to them at the Wankhede Stadium on Wednesday in the first semi final.

As far as the second semi final goes, it has been a slow resurgence for Australia, sometimes even surprising their captain Pat Cummins at how Australia have managed to come together after a string of concerning ups and down. South Africa, on the other hand, find themselves once again battling demons on the field and off it, fighting not only history against their nemesis but also, against the fragility that they have shown in chasing in complete contrast to their astounding domination when they bat first.

Needless to say, South Africa will want to count on the coin toss to go their way at the Eden Gardens and banish the nightmares of the last time the two teams met in a cricket semi final which was in 1999 in England when the late Shane Warne held a stranglehold on them or in 2007 in the West Indies when apart from Justin Kemp, South Africa couldn’t hold a bat to save their life.

For history to be rewritten, their batting, including the robust batting of Quinton de Kock will once again need a support cast that includes Heinrich Klaasen, Rassie van der Dussen and even David Miller. If captain Temba Bavuma comes good with the bat, South Africa will hope to add cheers back home that are celebrating the rugby world cup victory.

But it is not an easy task, the mind games notwithstanding as Australia have shown that despite their topsy turvy history of late, there are not five time World Cup champions for nothing. Rising to the occasion, while their fans back home might even fancy a Trans Tasmanian contest a la 2015 at the Narendra Modi stadium in Ahmedabad, India and South Africa will hope to spoil the party.

Speaking of party spoilers, England and Pakistan will have to do some soul searching though for very different reasons, as will Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. The Netherlands will reflect on mixed fortunes and the only team walking away with almost a semi final in their pockets, impressing everyone with their very professional approach to the matches not overawed by the occasion or their opponents are Afghanistan.

One team besides defending champions, England, who have not only shocked predictions but also, deeply disappointed fans would be Pakistan.

Criticised earlier for calling out the Bollywood style fanfare and overwhelming home support for the Indian team in their epic battle against Pakistan, Mickey Arthur, the coach of the Pakistan cricket team, pulled no punches, reflecting on why Pakistan finished outside of the four semi finalists.

Arthur had this to say on Pakistan finishing in fifth place on the points table, “I don’t think we played our best game here. Inconsistency unfortunately doesn’t breed success. But that is not an excuse at all.”

While more could have been asked of the likes of captain Babar Azam and Mohammad Rizwan and consistency with the bat, deep seated form troubles across the line up have made the dependency of the absentee bowler Naseem Shah and the late attempt to bring back Fakhar Zaman, has felt like too much reliance on a few. The silence was more deafening from this very enigmatic but volatile team whose results have been under par to put it mildly.

A collective out of form is indeed a cause for grave concern and while criticism is being laid at the feet of Babar as leader of the team which was until recently the no.1 team in the world would only be akin to finding a scapegoat to alleviate this anguish.

While Indian fans had hoped for an India Pakistan final, at this point, team India seem to have a foot through the door to the final, with little care for who their opposition might be. On Diwali, India beat the Netherlands by 160 runs in Bengaluru.