The Juggernaut Rolls On
India's next game is on November 2
They have chased down targets of 260 and 270 with ridiculous ease with overs and wickets to spare. They have successfully defended a total of 229 winning by 100 runs. Two batsmen have got hundreds, the bowlers have notched up a five-wicket haul and two four-wicket hauls.
The fielding and catching has been admirable and Rohit Sharma’s captaincy inspired by leading on the biggest stage of all has been imaginative with uncannily right bowling changes and field placements.
The result of all this is that the Indian team has won six straight games comfortably topping the table in the ongoing World Cup. From just favourites at the start of the competition they are now the piping hot favourites.
And it is not that the competition is not hot. Befitting a tournament of this stature, South Africa, New Zealand and Australia in particular have played some very good cricket. But the fact is that India has been outstanding, so much that they have been able to ward off a major setback following the injury to Hardik Pandya.
The absence of the only all rounder in the side capable of dynamism with bat and ball has not affected the team balance at all and the Indian juggernaut has rolled on.
The cynics might argue about the dangers of peaking too soon and point out the example of New Zealand in 1992. They were simply brilliant, crushing all opposition while winning seven straight games before losing their last group game against Pakistan and then going down to the same opponents in the semifinal.
All that can be said is that, at the moment India are looking strong in all departments of the game and should easily top the points table. The knockout rounds are still some way off and there is no reason to believe that they cannot carry this remarkable run through that stage too.
As they take on Sri Lanka on November 2 India are one short of the seven successive wins they notched up in the 2015 World Cup. There India won all their group games and then the quarterfinal before going down to Australia in the penultimate round.
Their best record for successive victories is during the 2003 World Cup when they notched up eight in a row but that was after they lost to Australia in the group stage. Following that they were unbeaten till the title round when they went down to the same opponents.
India’s great showing has been the talk of the competition but there have been several other plus points as the league stage touches the two thirds mark. The tournament commenced with a lukewarm spectator response and reports of botched ticket sales.
But since then everything has settled, the entertainment value has been enhanced and the spectator response has been much more encouraging. Adding spice to the flavour have been the upset results with Afghanistan and the Netherlands at the centre of these.
The former has been the surprise package of the tournament with wins over three World Cup champions Pakistan, Sri Lanka and England while the latter too have done their bit for the underdog by getting the better of South Africa.
The other great surprise of course has been the eclipse of England, currently languishing at the bottom of the table. It has been a humiliating experience for the defending champions and how and why they could implode in this shocking manner has been the subject of much debate.
A genuine complaint was the absence of pulsating contests with several matches ending in lop-sided results. But even from this angle the World Cup has hotted up with South Africa and Pakistan involved in an engaging game at Chennai and Australia and New Zealand producing a high scoring thriller at Dharamsala. Both batsmen and bowlers have had their moments thanks overall to good sporting pitches.
So what’s there to look forward to as the league stage of competition enters its climactic stage? In the first place of course is the all-important question, can the Indians make it a perfect 9-0 record at the end of the prelims. Is there any team that can halt the Indian juggernaut? Can they be displaced from the top of the table?
At the moment it looks unlikely for their three remaining opponents are Sri Lanka, South Africa and the Netherlands. At this stage India, New Zealand, South Africa and Australia look the likely semi finalists. But will there be a twist in the tail with Afghanistan still not out of the race?
From the individual angle there are a number of records that a player can set, most number of runs, wickets and hundreds in the World Cup. But to be candid there is only one major record that will be the centre of attention and this involves Virat Kohli.
Will he get his 49th ODI hundred that will bring him level with Sachin Tendulkar? He has got a maximum number of five games still left in the competition to reach the all-important landmark?
After getting No 48 against Bangladesh he narrowly missed getting there, being out for 95 against New Zealand three days later. Much interest will of course centre on the fate of the teams but this is one individual record that will be followed with utmost interest.
Oh yes, viewed from an angle there is a lot to look forward to as the World Cup veers towards its final stages.