As India meet England in the second semifinal of the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup on Thursday, the Rohit Sharma-led team may have the edge having already played at the venue. England, who were in Group 1 and finished runner-up, played all their league matches in Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth, and Sydney.
India have already tasted the conditions in Adelaide last week when they defeated Bangladesh by five runs in the rain-interrupted match.
However, the Indian team knows that past records and performances will mean nothing and it is how they turn up and fare on that given day that will determine whether they enter the final or not.
India head coach Rahul Dravid clearly said after India’s last Group 2 Super 12 match at the MCG on Sunday night that the conditions may be different from what they were when they played Bangladesh on November 2.
“We’ll have to go there and see. I watched some of the games today (on Sunday) and I know the tracks were slow and they gripped and turned a bit. We might be playing on a completely new strip in Adelaide. The strip we played on against Bangladesh, to be honest, did not spin. It was a different kind of wicket. I can’t sit here now just after a game and predict what’s going to happen there. We’ll have a couple of days. We’ll go and have a look at that wicket and see what we think it might do. Of course, if it’s slow we’ll play according to those situations. If we think it might play differently, then we’ll have to put up a squad to match that,” Dravid said.
India’s premier off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin was upbeat about playing in the semifinal and also looked ahead to how it could be exactly a week later at the MCG.
Answering a question in the Mixed Zone after the 71-run win against Zimbabwe in which Ashwin took three for 22 in his four overs on how would it be exactly seven days hence at the same venue (MCG to host the final on November 13), the 36-year-old from Chennai said: “Same time, same venue if we come here it will be good. No doubt about it. A repeat of the first game (in terms of result and against Pakistan) will be very good for the fans. For me, this being my fifth ICC T20 World Cup (2012, 2014, 2016, 2021, 2022) and ninth ICC event (including the 50-over World Cup and the Champions Trophy), will be good to play the final at the MCG. It will be an amazing feeling.”
Ashwin, however, started preparing for the semifinal even against Zimbabwe, trying a few things at the MCG. He said: “Wickets are definitely not something that I always go by. It’s about what comes out of the hand. At the back of my head, I also wanted to think about the next game and what is lying ahead. It helps you get confidence going into the next game.”
India’s next match against England in the semifinal will be the first at the Adelaide Oval between the two teams in any format. And, England don’t have an encouraging record in white ball cricket at this ground, having lost 12 ODIs and won only four in 17 appearances. In the lone T20I at this venue in 2011, England edged past the hosts Australia by one wicket.
Ashwin, who has picked up six wickets in five matches and has an economy rate of 7.52 in this World Cup, said the conditions vary from place to place and also from day to night. “We need to understand we are playing in different conditions. In the last night game we played (vs Bangladesh), the ball slid on nicely for the team batting second. We can’t go with preconceived notions and the curators also know how to prepare the pitch for the semifinal. We have to play what’s in front of us and look forward to playing the semifinal,” Ashwin said.
While India have four wins from five matches – losing only to South Africa, who were eliminated by minnows Netherlands at the Adelaide Oval on Sunday – England finished runners-up in their group behind New Zealand. England have not really set the tournament afire, even losing to lowly Ireland. Their entry into the semifinal hinged on their last league match result. They beat Sri Lanka in their last league fixture to keep defending champions Australia out of the semifinal race.
While England won against Afghanistan, New Zealand and Sri Lanka, they suffered an upset against Ireland while their match against Australia was abandoned in Melbourne. Recalled into the T20 side earlier this year against Pakistan in September after a three-and-a-half-year hiatus, 33-year-old opening batsman Alex Hales has been their key batsmen with two fifties while it was all-rounder Ben Stokes who held England together in their must-win game against Sri Lanka with an unbeaten 42.
Captain Jos Buttler has not been in the form that he was in the IPL earlier this year, smashing century after century in India. However, it will be a different ball game when they take on India on Thursday for a berth in the Sunday’s final.
England’s T20 specialist leg-spinner Adil Rashid has been surprisingly not amongst wickets. His lone wicket in the tournament came against Sri Lanka, and he did not leak many runs against the Lankans, his one for 16 in Sydney fetching him the man of the match award.
Rashid, who is the joint highest wicket-taker for England in T20Is along with medium-pacer Chris Jordan (90), said England were looking forward to the semifinal. “Definitely very excited. We’ll definitely try our best to be on it, sticking to our strengths and sticking to our mindset and playing whatever’s in front of us that day. Whatever comes that day, I’m sure we’ll give it 100 percent.”
England have been well served by left-arm medium-pacer Sam Curran (10 wickets in the tournament including 5 for 10 against Ireland) and right-armer Mark Wood, who has bowled the fastest delivery in this World Cup – 154.64kmph against New Zealand – while also going past the 150kmph mark on five other occasions.
India know they are up against the fastest bowler in the world in Wood and are ready for it. While the individual forms of KL Rahul, who posted two back-to-back half-centuries, Virat Kohli and Suryakumar Yadav, who last week climbed up to world No. 1 rank amongst batters, are encouraging, the Indian team will do well with a good start from captain Rohit Sharma and his deputy Rahul, the two have not really got going together in this tournament, their starts yielding 7, 11, 23, 11 and 27 in the five innings so far.
Perhaps, their best together is reserved for the semifinal and the final.