Bengaluru: Having swatted aside all comers with ease, a supremely dominant India will be keen to keep their foot firmly on the pedal against a lowly Netherlands as they look to wind up their World Cup league campaign on a high here on Sunday.
Right from their opening clash against five-time champions Australia in Chennai a little over a month ago to South Africa — the team that will finish second behind the Men in Blue in the points table — in Kolkata, India have bossed all opponents. They were the first team to qualify for the semifinals and have pretty much checked all the boxes.
Openers Rohit Sharma and Shubman Gill have often laid strong foundations, one drop Virat Kohli has looked his best, Shreyas Iyer and KL Rahul have added solidity to the middle-order while Suryakumar Yadav and Ravindra Jadeja have provided the fireworks whenever the lower middle-order has needed one.
Even on the bowling front, India have looked menacing. Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami and Mohammed Siraj, perhaps the most potent fast bowling combo in world cricket now, have left sides in complete wreck with their deadly cocktail of pace, swing and movement off the pitch. Spinners Kuldeep Yadav and Jadeja have impressively held their own too, offering no respite whatsoever to teams that have been suffocated by the overall brilliance of the Indian attack.
Simply put, India have checked all the boxes and checking off Netherlands, languishing at the bottom of the table, shouldn’t pose much of a problem.
And judging by their body language and coach Rahul Dravid’s pre-match press conference, there won’t be let up in intensity despite being confirmed the top spot in the table.
In fact, the full team barring Ishan Kishan sweated it out for three hours in an intense training session on Friday. They indulged in some fun games with plenty of bantering but when it came down to business, all of them were as focussed as if they were playing a heavyweight and not a lightweight. Given India’s bull-run and intensity, Netherlands need nothing less than a miracle if they wish to stop the juggernaut.
India could be forgiven if they tried out players like R Ashwin, Shardul Thakur and Ishan Kishan who have largely been warming the benches. Also may be give Prasidh Krishna, replacement for the injured Hardik Pandya, a game in case one of the lead pacers suffers an injury before the semifinal. But Dravid ruled out any such possibilities, all but assuring that India would feature the same playing XI on Sunday. What that means is India is offering no space for complacency and wants all of its players tuned-in ahead of the bigger battle in Mumbai. Expect plenty of fireworks to light up the Chinnaswamy!
Form guide (latest first): W, W, W, W, W
The Oranje stare at the near impossible task of defeating India, something which no team has come close to accomplishing it this World Cup. They pulled off a stunner in defeating South Africa but since then, owning to the limited talent they have in comparison to heavyweights like India, Australia or England, they have struggled to make an impact. Qualifying for the World Cup to battle with the big dogs itself was an achievement for them and now they’ll be hoping to go out swinging on Sunday.
Form guide (latest first): L, L, W, L, L
Players in spotlight
Chinnaswamy is the second home for Kohli, thanks to his long-standing association with Royal Challengers Bangalore, and the 35-year-old will be gunning to treat the fans with a special knock. Last year he missed out on a opportunity to play his 100th Test here but on Sunday Kohli could surpass the great Sachin Tendulkar if he ends up scoring a century which would be his 50th. Safe to say, that would be nothing less than poetic if it happens. Another player who would be gunning for a big knock is KL Rahul. Having bred at the same ground, Rahul knows the conditions like few others and he’ll be determined to make a statement.
If Netherlands wish to do something of note against India, then much will depend on how skipper Scott Edwards and pacer Bas de Leede perform. Edwards has led this semi-professional side with character, scoring 242 runs and a good strike rate of 90.29. He has been the rock in the middle-order and has often bailed his side with with counter-punching knocks. De Leede, on the other hand, has been their frontline seamer and he’s delivered brilliantly for them, scalping 14 wickets.
His economy is 7.80 but that’s largely because he’s gone in search of wickets. The duo will be looking to up the ante on Sunday.
One of the easiest things to predict in cricket is the Chinnaswamy Stadium pitch. Especially in limited-overs format, it’s been a batter’s ally and there won’t be any change come Sunday given that this is final game it’ll host this World Cup. Even during the ‘nets’ session, Indian batters were comfortably carting the ball into the stands and that may be the script on Sunday too. The weather for match day is a maximum of 28 degree celsius with very little chance of rain.
INDIA: Rohit Sharma (capt), Shubman Gill, Shreyas Iyer, Virat Kohli, KL Rahul, Suryakumar Yadav, Ishan Kishan, R Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Jasprit Bumrah, Kuldeep Yadav, Mohammed Shami, Mohammed Siraj, Prasidh Krishna, Shardul Thakur.
NETHERLANDS: Scott Edwards (capt), Wesley Barresi, Noah Croes, Max O’Dowd, Vikramjit Singh, Colin Ackerman, Bas de Leede, Sybrand Engelbrecht, Teja Nidamanuru, Saqib Zulfiqar, Roelof van der Merwe, Aryan Dutt, Shariz Ahmad, Logan van Beek, Paul van Meekeren.
(Published 11 November 2023, 15:00 IST)