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India’s Road to Semi-final: Players Virat Kohli’s Team Needs to Watch Out For to Not Slip Up

During the next fortnight, India has three vital clashes coming up, including the mouth-watering India Pakistan derby, and the players need to be wary of these opponents.

Lakshya Bhardwaj |

Updated:June 11, 2019, 11:19 AM IST
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India's Jasprit Bumrah
India's Jasprit Bumrah (centre) celebrates a dismissal with teammates against Australia at the Oval. (Pic: AFP)

As Rolland Garros, one of the most exciting tennis tournaments in the world, came to a close, we as a cricket mad nation couldn’t care less. The World Cup fever is on! And as India is just getting warmed up with its first two victories, the first quarter of the tournament is already done with. Surprised? We don’t blame you. The feeling is mutual.

As the tournament enters the business stretch, each team is eyeing the playoff berth. With the tournament following a round-robin format, each team has a valid shot at making it to the last four. Not only are those wins important but the margin of victories could separate playing in the semi-finals or taking the next flight home.

Add England’s unpredictable weather to the plot and you’re set for a nerve-wracking month ahead. Tell Pakistan and South Africa about it. While Pakistan would be feeling robbed after their game against Sri Lanka was washed out; the Proteas are still wondering if they should be happy having got their first point on the board.

But hey, why worry about the neighbors when you have issues aplenty at home.

During the next fortnight, India has three vital clashes coming up, including the mouth-watering India Pakistan derby. Let’s focus on those key opposition players that the Men in Blue need to be wary of:

June 13: India v New Zealand

The Black Caps have been the perennial ‘dark horse’ of World Cup cricket. They have started off seamlessly in this edition as well. The most potent weapon in the Kiwi arsenal is the one and only ‘Trent Boult’. When on song, the 29-year old has a habit of running through the Indian line-up. Be it the 2019 ODI Series against India, where Boult was the highest wicket taker with 12 in five matches; or the recent World Cup warm-up match against India, where he was the standout with 4-33.

Add to this the well known weakness of both the Indian openers against left arm seamers. Boult’s strength, the swinging ball, has been the undoing for our openers. All-in-all, Boult has been a thorn in the side for Kohli & Co. for quite some time. Now might be the right time to change it.

What they said: Trent Boult believes ‘the glossier Kookaburra ball’ is offering more swing at World Cup 2019

June 16: India v Pakistan

Enough has been written about the importance and pressure attached to the clash of the Asian giants. The frailties of political relations between India and Pakistan add fuel to fire. In such a high pressure clash, only two sort of personalities come on top: the calm and the crazy.

Our picks for players to watch out for are Babar Azam and Mohammaz Amir and we don’t need much classification here. Though Amir has had a dry run of form lately, but against India, he usually turns up an inspired man. The final of the Champions trophy 2017 is still fresh in the memories of fans. What a wonderful spell of bowling that was. Or talk about the Asia Cup 2016, he does smell blood when he has the new ball in hand against India. Talking about the prodigy, Babar Azam has set the international stage on fire when it comes to white ball cricket. He averages over 50 in both T20s and ODIs. He lends stability to the otherwise vulnerable Pak batting line-up who could only count on Shoaib Malik in the past. So, Pakistan has some dangerous weapons in their armor. Watch out!

Hot News: Pak skipper Sarfaraz Ahmed tried to persuade the PCB to let them celebrate every Indian wicket in a particularly ‘different’ manner but was told to ‘focus on the cricket’ by Imran Khan and the board. Things heating up already!

June 22: India v Afghanistan

Afghanistan were billed to cause some major upsets this World Cup, but so far, they have flattered to deceive. The performances have been under-par to say the least. But that doesn’t take away the imminent threat they pose to any team. The key pick from Afghanistan is a no-brainer. Rashid Khan is one of the best in the business, and more importantly, knows enough about the Indian batsmen (thanks to the IPL).

He has one of the most well-disguised googly in world cricket and he rushes some of the best in the business with his quick turn. He can single handedly turn any match on its head. Plus he has Mohammad Nabi for support now who makes full use of the lack of turn. We all saw in the IPL what he can do.

Injury Updates: Rashid Khan got a blow to the head in the match against New Zealand while facing pacer Lockie Ferguson. Though he failed the first concussion test in the hospital, he should be well soon for the next game. Also, dashing keeper batsman Mohammad Shahzad claimed to be fully fit days after he was ruled out of the World Cup due to injuries. Recently, it had courted controversy by axing the Afghanistan Captain Asghar Afghan from the captaincy right before the World Cup. Must say, the Afghanistan Cricket Board (ACB) is not really enhancing its reputation amongst the players.

Though a lot (read ‘all’) depends on the weather and pitch on the day, but our picks from the Indian line-up are Bumrah, Kuldeep and the mighty Virat Kohli. The openers might get us off to wonderful starts or a different player might put his hand up in a match but we expect these 3 to deliver in the toughest of situations.

The author is a self-proclaimed cricket aficionado.

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